Reality check: Life goes on, even in Europe
Having been in Prague for a full month, some of the European glamour has gradually begun to ebb. Real life has started again, and with it the realization that life in Prague runs a bit differently than I’m used to.
Europe has a different way of doing things, and a different time frame to do them in. There is none of the hustle that we are used to in America, none of the hurry. Teachers never mind when you’re late; invariably they are running late themselves. Restaurant meals are frequently prolonged affairs, mostly because there is no rush getting the food to the table.
As reality has settled around us, real life concerns have come with them, namely budgeting issues. When I was planning for Prague, I thought a lot about how much money to bring with me, and how to make it last. As I’m sure everyone knows, the decision to go abroad is an expensive one. Through many talks with advisers and bank proprietors, it became very clear that I would be paying for this trip for years to come. Those of us in Prague frequently remark how lucky we are, we are running on the Czech Koruna, which has an exchange rate that makes everything cheaper.
This past weekend, some friends and I traveled to Munich and Salzburg, Austria. We were eager to see the sights, but wary of what the trip would cost. A lot of my experience while abroad has been managing my expectations of my experiences and the reality of them. Somehow, when I imagined myself gallivanting around Europe, my dreams never included squeezing five people into a room equipped for two, or haggling with the train attendant in broken Czech over the validity of a second-class ticket. There is less of a financial safety net while abroad, it forces you to be an adult and to face reality, in ways that you maybe had not before.
The reality is that real life will continue no matter where you are in the world. Nothing stays a fantasy for long. That being said, if you’re lucky, which you probably are if you’re studying abroad in a beautiful country, then the reality you face might turn out to be better than any fantasy you had created for yourself. Not to sound trite, but you learn so much about who you are, and how you handle completely foreign situations. Maybe you don’t stay in a five-star hotel, but you fulfill a childhood dream of dancing at the gazebo on a tour of Sound of Music sites in Salzburg, for a measly 16 euros, no less.
You’re exchanging your childlike notions for a full-blown adult experience, and trust me, it’s well worth the trade.
Caroline Handel is a junior in the School of Communication and studying abroad in Prague, Czech Republic. She will be writing a monthly column about her experiences.