If you choose to study abroad, you will most likely find that your school semester won’t start when you arrive. There might be one to three weeks of something entirely unlike a real school schedule, packed with tours and orientations, and lots of encouraged socializing. I have pretty bad social skills, so I wanted to get into the creative work straight away, but ultimately I’m glad it works this way. This week marked the end of my intensive language course and general how-to-not-die-in-this-strange-land-with-different-electrical-outlets period, during which I learned that being an immigrant is actually pretty hard.
I, and even my hard-partying big city classmates, have been falling asleep by 9 PM some nights, and this exhaustion has lasted weeks. It’s hard to quantify why. Jet lag is an obvious factor, but that only lasts a few days. The best way I can describe it is a general weirdness confronting you all the time. Culture shock is a popular term used by Wofford Study abroad, but that seems like the wrong name to me. I wasn’t SHOCKED by Prague, but everything is slightly harder on my brain and body than what I’m used to in the U.S.
The bizarre socialist architecture to my left is just two blocks from my apartment, I’ve been using it as a landmark while I learn the layout of this whole city (It has giant baby statues on it, really https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C5%BDi%C5%BEkov_Television_Tower). Every time I need to do anything, it takes research, planning, and an expedition (walking, walking, and more walking. Wearing cute shoes is a rare privilege.) Let’s say I need a sweater. Where is a place with prices I can afford? Will they speak English? How do I say “I want a sweater” and “Could I get that in a bag” in Czech if they don’t? Which tram goes there? How long will the trip take? Should I bring a bottle of water just in case because THERE ARE NO WATER FOUNTAINS IN THIS ENTIRE COUNTRY AND RESTAURANTS CHARGE YOU TWO DOLLARS FOR WATER, A BASIC HUMAN RIGHT? These are challenges we all face, but thankfully, I have been blessed with an amazing group of people to face these challenges with.
FAMU International Film Studies is 17 people this semester, all living in the same building. If you can do a small program, I highly recommend it. That tight bonding is the same reason I like Wofford, I don’t feel lost in a sea of people. Every day, I have someone to talk about who shares something close to my perspective. The point of studying abroad is to appreciate other cultures, which is happening, but it’s also given me a new appreciation of my own. I’m pretty cynical about American identity and politics, but being in a new place makes me really appreciate my fellow Americhankas.
Hello. My name is Mae, and the place I’m located in is Prague. I came here to study filmmaking at a school called FAMU, which loosely translates to “University for Film and TV Arts”. And you’re either here because you’re either interested in coming to Prague or studying film. Or you might just be interested in me personally, that would be a pleasant surprise. I’ll be attempting to write posts catered to each of these interests, usually with pictures, because I like taking those. First, a few quick introductions to where I am and what I’m doing.
Prague is the capital of the Czech Republic, which I have determined to be the hipster capital of central Europe – nobody knows anything about it! I couldn’t have pointed it out on a map before I came here. Lots of people still think it’s called Czechoslovakia, which hasn’t been true for 25 years. And without using Wikipedia, name a famous Czech. If you did, welcome to the 1%.
After you’ve found Prague on the map, it’s a great place to live. Not too expensive, wonderfully convenient public transport system, and plenty of beautiful locations not marred by Eiffel-Tower-sized tourist mobs. A number of great historical period films, like Amadeus, were shot here, because the beautiful old buildings didn’t get bombed quite as badly as some other European cities during the second World War. Speaking of Amadeus, why did I come to this particular country? The Czechs have a proud history of filmmaking, and you may already know the work of the most famous Czech filmmaker – if not his nationality. Milos Forman became world famous for directing One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Hair, and Amadeus. And he went to FAMU. The school that I’m going to right now. Coincidence? Maybe.
The film program here for international students is fantastic! This is especially nice because I was short on other options. When I asked my trusted Wofford Study Abroad advisor, Kyle, what film studies programs Wofford had connections to, he told me we had exactly one. But that’s all we need! FAMU strives to keep my artsy bohemian ego in check by constantly challenging me. My main project is to produce one original short film, and they demand that I put exhaustive effort into every part of it. And I that’s why I highly recommend this place to the film students among you – if you want to be complimented on your work, stay home. If you want to be driven to outdo yourself every day because no one in the school has time to waste on your mediocrity – come here. All my classmates and professors are talented filmmakers working their butts off to make something worth watching, and I’m all about that. This program just happens to also be in an awesome city, too. Based on these first two weeks, I highly recommend it.