Courtney Weisman — Prague, Czech Republic:
The main reason I wanted to study abroad was the have the opportunity to travel as much as possible while still being semi-productive. Before studying abroad, the only other country I had been to was Mexico and it just didn’t seem like much of an adventure. That’s all I really wanted- an adventure. Luckily, being gone a year wouldn’t hold me back from gradating on time, would cost less in tuition that staying, and I was able to earn a minor in European Studies. It was a choice that not many of my college friends made but I try to picture my life, had I not chosen to do so, and I simply can’t.
Why did you choose Prague to study abroad?
When thinking about studying abroad in High School, the plan was always to go to either India or Ireland. They were both the two places that I had always wanted to go above all the others. However, when actually applying, it was a different story. Studying in Ireland would cost about 3 times what I was already paying and if I studied in India, traveling to other counties would be much more costly and time consuming. Then I saw Prague. Charles University is one of the oldest and most prestigious universities in Central Europe, Prague is an unbelievably affordable city, and it is placed in the very heart of Europe. Not many people know much about the Czech Republic and many still call it Czechoslovakia so it was a bit a challenge to try and defend my choice but I felt such a connection when I studied here that it made me decide to move back on a more permanent scale.
Once I graduated college with a degree in Psychology, I applied for jobs everywhere. It’s a tough market in California and when I got disheartened by the lack of responses, a friend told me about how she moved to Prague to teach English. I saw this as my perfect opportunity to move back to the city I loved and have a job. It really was a win win.
While I have always been a strong willed and independent person, studying abroad made me realize that it was ok to embrace the more trying aspects of your personality. In California, I subconsciously always felt the need to be smiling. If you weren’t smiling, it means that something must be wrong and that just isn’t the case in Prague. Here you say what you’re feeling. Studying abroad has made me a more open person and much more confident in myself and my ability to pack up and do what makes me happy.
Over the past three years, there are so many memorable stories that pop into my head but I would have to say that my trip to Istanbul would be the most memorable. I realize that this story doesn’t have anything to do with Prague but the stars aligned for this trip. Three friends and I were just sitting around in Prague one night and someone said “let’s go to Istanbul” and we all instantly agreed. We found a tine, one room hostel to share that was over an old shisha lounge/ bar and coming from Prague, where people don’t often take time to chit chat, everyone on in Istanbul stopped us to ask how we were doing and if we were enjoying the city. I only spent a week there but it truly was a week that I will never forget.
What advice would you tell someone who is thinking about studying abroad?
I’ve made it my unofficial job to pester everyone I know to study abroad. The story usually stays the same with everyone saying “I really want to but…”. It’s either too expensive, they don’t want their graduation to be delayed, or they don’t want to leave loved ones. My advice to everyone who wants to study abroad is that it is so incredibly easy! There are so many financial aid options and scholarships available- plus- tuition is often cheaper in other countries. To the more punctual people- many study abroad options allow you to continue your major and/or minor at the school of your choice. If not, take it as a way to earn a minor and complete your general education studies. As the last reason, leaving your loved ones is never easy. It’s still one of the hardest things I face while living abroad. Simply put, I miss my family. However, only moving away for a semester or even a year is almost no time at all in the grand scheme of things and skype has changed my life for the better. My advice is, just do it. I can tell you stories upon stories of how studying abroad shaped me into a better person or tell you all the countries that I have traveled to but there just aren’t enough words to express how this choice will benefit you.