Tansu Philip - 2014 Program Participant
Showing our other study abroad friends the tourist destinations of Prague was a must, so the John Lennon Wall was our first stop.
Why did you decide to study abroad?
Since I'm not originally from America, the idea of going back abroad was appealing to me from the start. Not only had I heard good things from Americans, but students in other countries who participated in the EU version of study abroad, known as Erasmus, highly recommended studying abroad as well. The opportunity to spend an entire semester in another country, living, learning, and exploring, seemed entirely unique and a situation I needed to take advantage of before growing up, and having to be an "adult" and all that.
What about Prague stood out as a destination?
The fact that it was completely new! I think it's quite silly to study abroad in a place you're already comfortable with. It was important to me to go somewhere I'd never been before, where I didn't speak the language, and where I knew I would feel out of place. The more obstacles, the better, and since my Mom wasn't too keen on sending me to Syria, the Czech Republic it was. Plus, I was raised partly by a slew of Czech nannies when I was a child living in England, so the idea of potentially running into one of them seemed quite fantastical; and it proved to be, since that never happened, but the idea was still appealing.
Why did you select CEA Study Abroad over other organizations?
Quite honestly, I didn't have a choice, since it was the only study abroad program provider my school had, but now I know why. The staff, both in America and Prague, completely exceeded my expectations. I couldn't ask for a more helpful group of people or an easier transition process.
Walking down Petrin Hill, home to Prague's version of the Eiffel Tower
What were your housing arrangements like in Prague?
I lived in an incredibly nice apartment in Vinohrady, so named for the vineyards that used to populate the area. It's a small but extremely elegant district of Prague, filled with nice boutiques, restaurants, and architecture. The best part was getting along with all five of my roommates. Some people weren't so lucky, so I truly felt blessed. Plus, even with three people to a room, we had so much space!
What was a normal day like as an international student in the Czech Republic?
Getting up around 8 a.m., stopping by the farmers market outside our apartment for a quick breakfast before hopping on the subway for a 20-minute ride, jumping on the tram and then walking to class. Sounds brutal in any other situation, but it was probably the highlight of my days in Prague, getting to admire the city just like the other locals. There was so much to appreciate just walking around that my commute wasn't an issue.
Following an interesting day of classes, simply because my fellow classmates consisted of Czech, American, or international students, I'd use the free local wifi that abounds in the city to hunt down my friends so we could find something fun to do. There's always a festival of some sort happening in Prague, so we often found ourselves exploring those. A music festival here, coffee festival there, or my personal favorite, food festivals!
After gathering our little crew, person by person as they trickled out of class, we usually had a huge, cheap group dinner at a local restaurant before heading out to our favorite bar, Vzarkovana, drinking and chatting until 1 a.m. was not unusual.
Tansu enjoying a world class cocktail for cheap at the AnonymouS bar, her favorite bar in all of Prague, known for its V for Vendetta theme
What was the most memorable experience you had while studying abroad?
There was a certain weekend in October where a bunch of our friends all visited from their respective countries, England and Italy mostly. The whole lot of us gathered to do an incredible 24 hours of sightseeing, eating, drinking, partying, and generally goofing off. It was so incredible to be able to share the magic of Prague with friends who had never visited. I'll never forget that weekend.
What was the biggest challenge you faced during your time in the Czech Republic?
Funnily enough, coming to terms with the idea of leaving. There comes a point in your experience when you feel like it'll last forever. Immediately following is the feeling that it's about to end too soon, and that's when the nostalgia hits...hard. My last two weeks in Prague were spent fighting back tears at the thought of saying goodbye to my new home, rather than enjoying my remaining moments.
What advice would you give to other Chapman students who are interested in studying abroad in Prague?
Even at the peak of your homesickness, it will still be better to be in Prague than have another semester at Chapman. You'll always have orange, but Prague is a once in a life time opportunity and place!
It is still fairly untouched by tourists, allowing for the raw culture that big, overrated cities, like London, Paris, and Florence, simply can no longer provide. Prague is cheap, always interesting, unique, and so accessible to other beautiful cities in Eastern Europe, for pennies! Budapest, Krakow, the opportunities are endless, and it won't cost you much. Try and tell that to your friend who wants to study abroad in England, and who pays more for a single meal than you do for a week of living in Prague.
Paragliding in Interlaken, Switzerland
What are the top reasons you'd want to go back to the Prague?
The pure, unadulterated beauty of the city. I'm not one to appreciate nature or architecture virtually ever, but Prague is the first exception to that rule. Although there are plenty of fun things to do in the city, even if there wasn't, I would go back just to appreciate how unbelievably gorgeous the city is.
What makes Prague such a great place to study abroad?
The classes are incredibly interesting since your classmates come from all over the world. You'll be able to take classes where you get global opinions, rather than the opinions of just American students. It's an eye opening way to learn, especially if you take political science classes like I did.
How has your experience studying abroad impacted your life?
I truly will never be the same. I'm less of a control freak, since there were certain circumstances I experienced abroad that I just couldn't have control over. That's the beauty of not speaking the local language or being able to decode a complicated subway map. Plus, I'm more of a "yes" person than I was before. When abroad, the urge to say "yes" to everything overtakes you, and never disappoints. Every random, spontaneous trip only added to my study abroad experience.
Would you recommend your CEA Study Abroad program to others?
Absolutely! CEA offered a variety of free trips with a great staff; it's unbeatable.