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2 posts from October 2013

10/01/2013

Clocks and Cobblestones

Written by Katherine Shield (Tufts University)

The last thing on my list of expectations for Prague was to get homesick. I expected to get stressed, to be confused, to feel frustrated. But I did not expect to get homesick. I spent three months in Australia and never felt homesick. I’m a Junior in college – I didn’t get homesick freshman or sophomore year. I didn’t get homesick when I went to Costa Rica; the last time I felt homesick was my very first day of the second trip I took to Japan. I was 16 years old and completely alone.

So last Tuesday, when Anna went to bed and turned on BBC, the sudden wave of homesickness completely shocked me. I was feeling frustrated with the difficulties of communicating in Czech, I was stressed about my weekend trip to Oktoberfest, I was overwhelmed by the sudden onset of homework in my normal classes. But I expected all of that. The longing for NPR, for the San Mateo Farmer’s Market, for the bento box store on the corner. That all surprised me. But there isn’t much to do about homesickness, except to accept it and move on. So that’s what I tried to do.

I decided to embrace my feelings of cizinec (foreigner) status, and played tourist on Friday. I took pictures of Prague castle, of the famous clocks (orlej) around town and the cobblestones covering the sidewalks.

One of the first things I noticed when I got to Prague was the cobblestone roads, and the cobblestone patterns. Everyone talks about the cobblestones. About how hard they are to walk on (Don’t bring heels!, they say), about how annoying they are, about how they ruin your shoes. But for me, honestly, they are beautiful. I love the fact that different streets have different patterns, and that there are new patterns on every corner. I love that sometimes there is a loose cobblestone in the middle of the sidewalk. (Although I’m sure I won’t love that so much when I trip and sprain an ankle on one….) I loved it so much when I got here that I took pictures of the ground, and my fellow students became convinced I was crazy.



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Prague has three internationally famous clocks – the most famous of which is the Astronomical Clock in Old Town Square. Prague’s Astronomical Clock is the oldest of its kind still functioning. The other famous clocks are the one in the Jewish Quarter, which runs counterclockwise, and one on St. Wenceslas Cathedral in Prasky Hrad, which actually has two faces – one for minutes and another for hours.

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And then I spent the weekend at Oktoberfest, which was actually perfect timing. I was feeling like I didn’t belong in Prague, so I left for the weekend. I got to spend the weekend with friends from America, kinda. Regardless, we spoke English all weekend, and we wandered around Munich, and we visited the biggest carnival/beer drinking festival/wedding celebration I’ve ever seen. It was a wonderful whirlwind of tourism, and then I took the 6 hour train back to Prague.

And this post comes full circle.

On the train ride home, the first 3 hours is in Germany. All the announcements are in German, all the people getting on and off are speaking German to each other. I sat in a corner and worked on my Czech politics/Czech and Jewish history homework assignments and tried to ignore the fact that I had no idea what was happening around me. When we got halfway through the journey, however, and crossed into the Czech Republic, all of a sudden the announcements were in Czech first (then English and German, which the Germans were not kind enough to provide). And I understood the essentials of the Czech announcements! I knew, before hearing the English announcement, the name of the next stop, and what time the train would be arriving. When we arrived in the main station in Prague, I understood that this was the last stop. And I felt like I was coming home.

I didn’t feel lost or confused any more, and I knew exactly how to get back to my bed, my house, my family. I realized, as I sat on the train from Munich to Prague, that returning to Prague now felt like returning home.

And when I woke up this morning to the sounds of Emma and Jachym playing, I couldn’t help but smile. I was home.

Fall 2013, Issue I

Newsletter banner
New CIEE Study Center in Prague

You heard right, CIEE Study Center in Prague has moved! As much as we loved our old study center, it seemed time to move on to bigger and better things. Our new abode is located right around the corner from our former study center, and thus, we are still located on the beautiful and historic grounds of Vyšehrad. In fact, we even have some better views of the cathedral and cemetery!  Formerly a seat of the Catholic Church’s provost in Prague, our study center has an impressive layout and enough space for everyone to stretch their academic minds.  The opening party and ribbon cutting was held on 21 August. Everyone from CIEE ‘s Regional Director of Operations: Northern Europe, Caroline Mass to the dean of Charles University’s Faculty of Arts,  Michal Stehlík had a moving speech and wished us well. We are happy to be settling in and truly grateful that CIEE Prague students have such an amazing space to call their academic home.

New scThis is the new Prague study center! But how did it look before we moved in?

Before scBefore…

 After scAnd after (our opening party)

Ribbon cuttingRibbon cutting

Flat buddy training

The start of Fall 2013 brought with it a record number of students, but also CIEE buddies! An integral part of our Buddy Program is buddy training, which takes place always before the start of each semester. This is a chance for buddies not only to get to know each other and CIEE staff, but also to learn the ins and outs of American (and Czech) culture. In addition to cultural training, buddies are also informed of the practicalities of every day shared living with CIEE students, first aid, and culture shock.

  F13 flat buddies

Fall 2013 buddy crew!

Student Arrival

Students are now settled in with the first week of classes in full swing. But before their classes started, they had to survive orientation week. Orientation is an intense period of practical and educational sessions led by CIEE staff. It includes, but is not limited to: navigating Prague like a native, volunteering and extracurricular activities, scavenger hunts around the city, academics, and current events. It’s a tiring, yet indispensible aspect of the Prague study abroad experience. In fact, by the time midterms roll around, students usually tell us how thankful they were for the intense orientation period and how it helped them to become self-sufficient. Another important part of orientation is the two week intensive Czech course. We now here a lot of “dobrý den“ around the study center from polite students.

  Orientation walkOrientation walk

Extracurricular Events

We pride ourselves on the rich extracurricular program that we have at CIEE Prague. With the help of CIEE staff and buddies, we do our best to offer students the chance to make the best of their semester and to integrate themselves into Czech culture. This semester students are extremely active and involved! Below are some highlights (so far):

Interest Group Activities (organized by CIEE buddies):

Harvest Feast with buddy Magda -

“It was a wonderful sunny Sunday, which we spent outside the Prague. Harvest feast was fun. We also were hiking a bit (just few kilometers from village to village to get to the bus in direction to Prague). I had fun and other participants looked also satisfied, Czech countryside was a new experience for them.” - Magda

  Harvest feastHarvest feast

Ice Hockey Match with buddy Radek-

“We went to see a game of the second best hockey league in the world (KHL). The Czech team Lev Praha unfortunately lost, but it was a very exciting game until the very end and we got to see the goalkeeper of the Russian national team.” - Radek

Hockey1Hockey match

CIEE organized events:

Bowling & Pool Night –

A night of bowling and pool makes up the first informal all program get together of the semester. All CIEE program students are invited along with buddies, CIEE professors, CIEE staff, and even families from our Czech Family Program.

Bowling tournament winnersWinners of the bowling tournament

Tandems –

The Tandem Program embraces language exchange between our students and locals. It is immensely popular this semester with nearly half of all students interested in meeting with a tandem partner throughout the semester. How do they get connected to this tandem partner though? Tandem “speed dating” that’s how! During the tandem gathering, locals and CIEE students sit on opposite sides of the table and have four minutes to talk to each person. After that they are paired up based on their preferences. Everyone loves it!

IMG_3667Tandem Gathering

Student Blogs

Don’t forget to take a look at our Central European Studies and Communication, New Media + Journalism student blogs!