Lately, I have been unable to pull away from my collection of short stories by Franz Kafka. Born in Prague, Kafka is one of the most famous authors to come from the Czech Republic (and for very good reason). After reading one of his most successful stories, The Hunger Artist, last semester in an English class, I fell in love with the dream-like, yet somehow normal, nature of his writings. His work is so unique that it has developed its own adjective, “Kafkaesque.” This refers to the surreal distortion and sense of impending danger present in his writing, but the term can also be applied to things outside of the pages of Kafka’s stories. For instance, I have noticed many aspects of Prague that tie neatly into the idea of the Kafkaesque, especially with the city’s sculptures.
Having only lived in Atlanta, Georgia and Memphis, Tennessee before now, I have grown very accustomed to the sweltering summers and mild winters that the South has to offer. Therefore, I was very afraid for my wellbeing when I decided to spend a semester in the Czech Republic. I know absolutely nothing about functioning in cold weather conditions, and I was nervous to have to adjust my mentality, diet, and dress for cold weather. Truth be told, I never even owned a heavy coat before I decided to study in Prague because the weather in the South has never demanded it. So one can imagine the impending doom I felt as I prepared to migrate to a much colder climate.
Last weekend, I was able to travel to Berlin through my program. The trip was such a breath of fresh air, as the program coordinators transported us to the city on a charter bus and arranged for us to stay in a hotel for the weekend. This meant that we each got private bathrooms, room keys, and a full breakfast every morning of our stay- luxuries that I had not thought possible since being here. After weeks of traveling via anxiety-filled train rides only to arrive at hostels housing bunk beds that swayed in the breeze from an open window (true story), this trip seemed like a dream.
This Wednesday my roommates and I all experienced our first classless morning. The previous two weekdays we had each spent about 10 hours in school, so we all took advantage of the opportunity to relax.
Last weekend, a few new friends and I ventured to Budapest for a four-day getaway. Though I was determined to stay in Prague and get to know the city a little longer before traveling, I was swayed by the fact that classes had not yet started and it would be the ideal time to go somewhere and not have to worry about school. Really it seemed like the practical thing to do, right?
My first week in Prague has been a whirlwind of meeting new people and sporadically exploring the city with them. Amongst the best of my new friends are my incredible roommates, Taryn and Alex, with whom I have been spending most of my time. They are both quite adventurous and always down to try new things. So when our friend Magda, a Czech native that we met through the University of Economics in Prague, invited us to go to a park with her to watch the Czech vs. USA Olympic hockey game, we jumped at the opportunity. Though I know absolutely nothing about hockey, I was excited by the simple prospect of seeing a crowd of Czech people root for their home team. Yet, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the event offered much more than a simple viewing party.
This Valentine’s Day I was awakened at the ungodly hour of 7 a.m. not by a romantic breakfast in bed prepared for me by the boyfriend (that I do not have), but by my alarm clock and the promise of spending the entire day wandering through airports. Deprived of even the chance to celebrate Galentine’s day with my girlfriends, it is safe to say that I was not feeling the love this February 14th. Instead, I felt an overwhelming combination of nervousness and excitement because I was finally leaving for Prague.
I have always been a very quick learner. As a child, the transition from riding a bike with training wheels to riding one without them was almost non-existent for me. And in middle school I grew tired of knitting shortly after learning how when I proceeded to make potholders and oven mitts for every single member of my family. Perhaps my quickest accomplishment was achieved when I travelled to Costa Rica with my Spanish class in high school and had my first surfing lesson. It took me only two tries to fully stand up on the surf board and ride a wave into shore, blowing away both my instructor and myself.
The Holidays have come and gone. The temporary job that I took as a Sales Rep to earn some extra travel money has ended. All that’s left to do is attempt to condense all of the things that I feel I might possibly need during the next six months in a compact and efficient way. I have about two weeks to carry-out this task, and it is beginning to seem as though I will need every second that I have.
I can’t say if being abroad “changes you,” at least in the way everyone says it does. I still talk like me, look like me. My clothing choices are still what my girlfriend would call “distinctly fourth grade-esque.” As far as I can see (and believe me, I’ve looked) I’m pretty much still myself. If anything’s changed, it’s my priorities, what matters most. Not so much in the profound “I’ve-seen-how-hot-dogs-are-made-and-now-I’m-a-vegetarian” sense; I’ve seen how they’re made and I still love cookouts. No, it has to do more with the little things, the everyday and the trivial having evolved to be of grand importance.