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.