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By Rachel Blair

I just got back today to Paris from a long, but amazing weekend. As you all know, this weekend I went to Prague, Czech Republic and it was beautiful.

In mid-September one of my friends from school, Sydney, who is studying abroad in Florence, Italy asked me if I wanted to travel to Prague with her. Now me, not knowing anything about Prague but who wanted to explore said yes. One of the best decisions I made this entire semester.

Before I went to Prague, everyone told me that it was beautiful and had amazing architecture. All I knew about Prague was how pretty everyone claimed it was and Nicki Minaj’s “You b****** can’t even spell Prague.” So, I left the planning up to Syd, but was excited to mark this as my last trip.

However, I was the one that found us our Airbnb and let me tell you, it was the best Airbnb I have ever seen. We absolutely loved it. We loved it so much that every night we were excited to go back to it, and today we didn’t want to leave it.

But Prague is such a beautiful city, with so much to do, and easy ways of getting around. One thing that I was really fascinated with was that some of their subway trains were actually in the middle of the street. There would be cars driving next to you on both sides and sometimes even behind and in front of you at any given point while on those subways.

Also, the prices of everything in Prague were amazing! First of all, their currency is so much weaker than ours that $1 is about 20/25 of their money. So, buying things is very weird there because you would spend about 150 on a drink, which makes you feel like you’re a big baller, but in reality, you’re paying practically nothing. One night for dinner, I got a meal, alcoholic drink, side, and dessert and only paid $25. On top of those cheap prices, everything was actually really good. I would’ve been willing to pay more for everything I got.

I really enjoyed the amount of time I was able to spend there as well. Sydney and I for whatever reason decided to catch 7am flights that would get into Prague at 9am. In the end, I was very happy we did that because it gave us a full 3 days, but that Thursday morning when I had to get up at 3am I regretted that decision. Like I said, both of our flights arrived in Prague around 9am, and our Airbnb was only 45 minutes away by public transportation, so we started our day off around 10:30 and got to see Prague when there weren’t as many people around.

Sydney works for admissions and has been assigned the task of taking pictures with the GW banner. On Thursday, we went to this really nice bridge, but Syd forgot the banner, so we knew we had to go back at some point to take the picture she really wanted to get. We decided to go back Saturday. Wow, what a difference it made being there on Thursday compared to Saturday. As we were getting closer to the bridge on Saturday, the crowd of people just kept increasing and we knew we made the smart decision of actually seeing it on Thursday.

Without even meaning to, I believe that Sydney and I somehow managed to get all of the top tourist attractions done on Thursday and Friday, with very limited tourist, and then got to do cool adventures on Saturday, where we barely had to see tourists.

Prague is such a beautiful place and while there, it was amazing to think about how all of that was existing while I wasn’t there, and it will continue to exist while I’m gone. It’s amazing what little impact we have on the world, but it’s also amazing discovering new cultures and walks of life. While living our lives in the United States, we don’t think twice about the things going on in anywhere else in the world, especially someplace like Prague. But I think it’s important to acknowledge that people live their everyday lives in these places, and that they do exist, and we should take the time to get to know them. While we’re stuck in our ways in one country, a totally different life is happening in another.

I believe it is important to travel and to take in as much of the culture and experience as possible. No matter what you do, the cultures and lives in all of these other countries will still go on, so it’s better to appreciate and understand them than to avoid them.


By hjensen95

A requirement for my program in Prague (Communications, New Media and Journalism) is to maintain an internship while I’m studying abroad. The internships range in roles but fall within the realm of journalism, new media and public relationships. I was lucky enough to land a tech internship. I’m interning at a co-working space called Locus as the User Experience intern. My primary role being a website re-design and online database revamp by the end of my time studying in Prague.

The owner of the co-working space is an ex-patriot who has been living in Prague for years. The members of the space range from Czech locals to international people. It’s been very cool to interact with people from all walks of life at the co-working space. This experience has been fulfilling so many of my intentions for study abroad. It’s such a unique opportunity to have an internship abroad.

Because I’m pursuing a special interdisciplinary major (SIM) in Interaction Design (IxD) I had to convince the panel back at GW to allow me to go abroad. I made the case that having a global frame of reference is imperative to succeeding in the Interaction Design field. The first step in developing good IxD is to have a thorough understanding of different types of users to design comprehensive interfaces for them.

...continue reading "Interning Abroad"

By hjensen95

The political climate in the Czech Republic is vastly different than that in the states, to say the least. The Czech Republic was under communist regime until 1989, it has only been a democracy since 1989 and was officially founded in 1992. The Czech Republic was formed (previously Czechoslovakia) when members of the parliament voted to pass a law officially separating the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic.

Thus, making The Czech Republic one of the newest countries. Prague (and the Czech Republic) has a rich history of political turmoil, most famously known for the velvet revolution. The Czech Republic is a “unitary parliamentary constitutional republic” where the President serves as the head of state and the Prime Minister is the head of government. The current PM is Bohuslav Sobotka and the current president is Miloš Zeman.

Of course, I can’t escape American politics while abroad. I’m constantly asked about my views on Trump, the election and the political climate in DC. I thought, leaving DC for a semester would give me a bit of a political break, I was completely wrong. I think my political engagement has increased from going abroad. This has happened on two tiers; both when I meet locals in Prague and traveling other places in Europe and within the academic setting within my courses.

...continue reading "Politics, abroad…"

By hjensen95

I haven’t ventured into Czech cuisine as much as I thought I would. I have a few dietary restrictions, namely remaining pescatarian and straying away from dairy as much as I can. A large part of the Czech diet consists of heavy foods such as meat, potatoes, bread, pastries, and cakes. I’m used to eating healthy foods back home with the occasional indulgence. Thankfully, Prague is a very international city and I can find pretty much everything I need or want here. I’ve taken a liking to a local salad chain called Ugo (which is sort of like a Sweetgreen).

One thing here that differs from my eating patterns in the state, is the emphasis on lunches. Lunch is the biggest meal and most people eat it at restaurants because it’s typically very reasonably priced. So, I’ve been trying to follow that dining cue. I’ve been aiming to eat breakfast and dinner at home while enjoying my lunch out.

In a classic Czech Restaurant, you will find items such as Svíčková na smetaně (beef sirloin in cream sauce) and Vepřo-knedlo-zelo (Roast pork with dumplings and sauerkraut) on the lunch menu. Another popular dish is Goulash, which is a stew made out of meat and vegetables, however originally from Hungary – many consider this dish to be a classic Czech meal.

...continue reading "Eating my way through Prague"

By hjensen95

I LOVE transit here in Prague, it is the simplest, most intuitive and, useful I’ve experienced in my life. It is based off the “trust system,” in that you only need to show your ticket if you’re asked. Meaning you can just hop on and hop off the metro as you please. There are three methods of public transportation; the tram, the metro, and the bus.

I use the tram most times and occasionally the metro and I’ve never used the bus. The nice things about the program that I’m on is that they provide you with a metro card to use for free the duration of the entire semester. Now having this luxury, I couldn’t imagine having to pay for public transportation in cities like London or Paris.

Cost is something that came into consideration when choosing a place to study abroad. Prague has one of the lowest cost of living throughout Europe and that is apparent when traveling to other cities. For example, most meals cost between $4 - $8 USD – a steal compared to other major cities.

Most locals eat lunch out because it’s both cheap and the largest meal of the day. I’ve started to get into the rhythm of making breakfast and dinner for myself and eating lunch out. Today I ate chicken with potatoes and gravy and that cost me 100 Krona (or $4 usd).

While I’m not studying it in school, I’m interested in international economics and how the costs of things (say a coffee) differ between countries and economies. I can get a coffee for about $1 or $2 that I would pay around $5 back in the states. While some things are overpriced; when I first got here I accidently paid around $18 USD for a shampoo (without realizing the conversion rate until too late).

...continue reading "Daily life in Prague"

By hjensen95

I’ve now been in the Czech Republic for two weeks and I have gathered a few of my favorite spots here in Prague. One thing I love about Prague is the cafe culture. Czechs love their cafes because it’s a good place to meet friends, read or take a break from the day. My favorite coffee shop is literally called “Coffee Room,” and it’s only a couple blocks away from my apartment. It has “Brooklyn” vibes offering avocado toast and artisanal coffee drinks. The baristas started to recognize me and I know have incorporated it into my morning routine. The baristas been helping me practice my Czech while I order my coffee and they correct me if I make any mistakes.

Another one of my favorite spots in Prague is a building called “The Dancing House” (In Czech Tančící dům). The building is known for its unique architecture and many think the building looks like a man and a woman dancing together, hence the name, “the Dancing House.” The building was designed by a Czech/Croatian architect in 1992, and it was completed in 1996. Apparently, the building's design was very controversial when it was being built because it starkly contrasted the Baroque/Gothic architecture of the rest of the city.

One of my favorite things to do at night here is to go to a music bar called Lucerne in the Old Town of Prague. I love it because it exclusively plays 80’s/90’s music and broadcasts the music videos to the songs on a huge screen. Local Czechs, study abroad students and ex-pats of all ages go to Lucerne to enjoy a fun night of dancing and singing along to oldies. When Lucerne is not playing host to these “throwback” parties it serves as one of the major music halls here in Prague. International and local artists are found weekly at Lucerne and tickets are hard to come by.

...continue reading "Top 5 things to do in Prague as a Study Abroad Student"

By hjensen95

I’ve been in Prague, the Czech Republic for a week and so far, I love it. The first few days were, expectedly, a little bit rough regarding transitioning. For example, the time between arriving and starting orientation felt too short, and I was only able to feel settled after a few days when I finally had some down time. However, since I’ve settled in, I feel extremely comfortable with my abroad experience so far.

My first week consisted of orientation at our study center. Having flown in on Sunday evening from the West Coast and having orientation on Monday morning was tiring. Orientation consisted of the typical activities; name games, alcohol/drug safety, academic advising, etc. The orientation lasted for two days and then for the rest of the week we participate in planned internship interviews. A requirement of my program is to intern abroad.

Among other things, the internship element of this abroad program enticed me. What a unique experience to say that I’ve interned abroad? I’ve had three interviews, and I have my next one tomorrow morning, and then we are placed based on the mutual selection. I’ve had many meaningful conversations with my interviewers, many whom are expatriates (used to live in the US). They gave me lists of things they enjoyed doing in Prague and thought I would as well.

...continue reading "Welcome to Praha!"