Kayla Irvine - 2016 Program Participant

What inspired you to go abroad?

I have always dreamed of going abroad, but never thought it could be a reality. Once all my friends started signing up for their programs, I decided to sign up myself.

Why did you choose to go to the Czech Republic with AIFS? 

My program not only was in a location where I had ancestral ties, but had courses that met my major requirements.

Trevi Fountain, Rome, Italy
Trevi Fountain during a weekend in Rome

What was your favorite part about studying in Prague?

I loved the culture and the history in Prague; every building could have a story and you would never know.

What surprised you most about Prague?

The city never sleeps! Honestly, we would go out for the evening, and even at 2 a.m. or 3 a.m. the trams would be busy! There would always be people out, which helped me feel safer.

How did local staff support you throughout your program?

The staff was super helpful throughout the process, but especially during the first week. They really helped me to adjust to the new culture.

What's one thing you wish you would have done differently? 

I wish I would have explored the city a little more. I feel as if I didn't see enough of it.

What is one thing every participant should know before participating in your program?

It is okay to be alone. I was worried to be alone in an unfamiliar area, but exploring on my own made for some of my best days and experiences.

How difficult was it to communicate with locals?

Communicating with locals was difficult at times, and easier at others. Anyone who was under the age of 30 could usually speak English, which was super helpful. A lot of people over the age of 30 did not speak English, and would become standoffish after me trying to communicate in English. I think that the locals became more open to foreigners when we would try to speak Czech. We knew basic words and used them as much as we could. The ones we used most often was hello (Dobry Den), thank you (Děkuji) and please (Prosim).

Describe a typical day in the life of your program.

I would wake up and go to class, then grab lunch. I would go back to my room, sometimes take a nap, then go out to dinner with friends. I would sometimes go out in the evening, and would always have a great time.

What did you enjoy doing in your free time?

Getting lost in the city. I had data if I needed to use a map, but I found some of my favorites stores and shops by getting lost in the city.

Lennon Wall in Prague, Czech Republic
Lennon Wall

What was your accommodation like? What did you like best about it?

My accommodation was decent. I shared a room with one person in my program and our room connected to another by a bathroom. My favorite thing about my accommodation was that it was a little in the outskirts of town, but there was a corner store and a pizzeria right down the street.

Do you have any packing tips for students headed to the Czech Republic?

I know that people say not to overpack, but I definitely underpacked! I was so concerned with packing too much, that I definitely packed not enough (clothing wise), so I even went shopping in Prague and bought more clothes! I would make sure that your luggage is 10-15 pounds UNDER the limit on the way there, so that you have room for your new purchases on the way home. I didn’t pack enough clothing, and had to do laundry twice, which was time consuming and frustrating. As I was so under on the way there, I was also underweight on the way back! Some people were at the weight limit on the way there, and they struggled on the way back!

What was the hardest part about studying abroad?

I think the hardest part for me was not fitting in. I often didn’t feel like I fit in with others in my study abroad program, and being in an unfamiliar place it made me uncomfortable to be alone at first.

What made studying abroad extra special for you? 

I used my weekends to travel elsewhere on my own, so I got to check many locations off my bucket list.

What is one thing you wish you would have known before studying abroad in Prague?

I wish I knew more of the Czech language before studying abroad in Prague. I told myself to practice the language, but did not at all and I really regret it. Our program gave us an eight hour intensive course on the language, but I feel I could have benefitted more if I learned more prior to the trip. The eight hour course was spread over two days, and they were two of our first days in Prague; I was tired and hot, and did not give 100 percent, so I feel if i studied more prior I would have been better off.

What do you feel the biggest benefit of studying abroad is?

I now feel so cultured and understand all the benefits there are to living in the United States. I never once appreciated free water or condiments, but I sure do now! I realized how amazing living in America is, and would not change it for the world- but I am definitely going to continue traveling to Europe to see more beautiful and historic cities. I will just look forward to coming back to the United States when I can!

Charles Bridge in Prague, Czech Republic
Charles Bridge

Would you recommend your program to others? Why?

I would 100 percent recommend my program to anyone. It is in the beautiful city of Prague, and has so much history and culture to it. The advisors in my program were so helpful and had events to help us and show us various parts of town. I would recommend the London flight program, as I got to know some of the other people before the program commenced.

If you could study abroad again, where would you go?

If I studied abroad again, I think I would choose to somewhere that speaks Spanish, as I took years of it in middle and high school. I would love to experience Spain, but for my weekend in Rome, it was WAY too hot for me. I’d have to figure out a place that was not 90 degrees everyday. Prague was a perfect temperature for me, and I would like to study abroad in a climate similar to Prague.