Saleen Says: my first European excursion.

Before I decided to come to the University of Georgia, I made a promise to myself that I would study abroad. I never did it while I was pursuing my undergraduate degree because I didn’t have the time or the money. I was busy taking English and education classes, working, and it just didn’t seem to align with my life at the moment.

When I first started applying to graduate programs, I was overwhelmed by the number of schools I wanted to apply to. In fact, I think I had a list of at least 10 schools. Eventually, I narrowed my list down to a few, and then applied. Once I was accepted into some programs, I needed to make a decision.

When it came down to it, I had to choose between UGA and WVU. I looked at the study abroad programs for each school and instantly found the “Travel Journalism in Prague” program at UGA. I read the description and knew I had to go.

Of course, that wasn’t the only reason I chose to go there. I had also read wonderful things about Grady online.

Whatever the reason, going to UGA turned out to be a wonderful decision; I had a wonderful first year away from home, and an even better three weeks outside of the U.S.

What I learned

Don’t let fear limit your productivity. 

During our trip, we were required to write two stories and produce two videos, so we needed to make our way around the city for interviews. I was nervous about navigating through the city alone, so for the first few days, I tagged along with classmates to get things done.

I needed to visit a ton of places so I could write about them: restaurants, museums, toy shops, graffiti shops, and the like. However, I found that I wasn’t able to visit as many places as I needed to because we had to split our time (i.e. go to one of the locations they needed to visit, then go to one of mine, etc.).

My fear of venturing out alone began to interfere with my productivity. I just wasn’t getting as much done as I wanted to, so one day, I decided I’d just go out alone and see what I accomplished. That was the best decision I could’ve ever made.

I made a map using Google My Maps. It allowed me to add each business I needed to visit to a map and determine how far it was from my current location. I was able to knock out at least four places on my list in one day by doing this.

I remember how proud I was that day. When I got back to my hotel room, I told my roommate about it. She said “Sometimes you’ve got to rip the band-aid off.” She was absolutely right. It was liberating.

I was able to stop when I wanted to, and pace myself. One day after I’d made my rounds, I bought a chimney cake with vanilla ice cream and walked over to Old Town Square where a huge crowd was gathered. They were filming a Japanese or Korean show in the center.

I stood around with the other spectators for a while, then headed back to the hotel for class. Despite being around so many people in that crowd, I enjoyed the solitude. No one knew me, my name, or why I was there. For the most part, no one talked to me. I was surrounded by people, but I may as well have been completely alone.

I don’t mind things like that because I need that time to recharge. It was nice to just take in the city by myself.

Prague generally felt like a safe and welcoming place to be.

Other things I learned while abroad

If you rarely wear it in the United States, you probably won’t wear it while you’re studying abroad.

I did what a lot of people do: I overpacked. I brought so many pairs of shoes, yet I didn’t wear some of them. I think I wore three pairs the entire time: my huarache sandals, my leather zip-up tennis shoes, and some Adidas running shoes that I was forced to buy when I realized the shoes I brought weren’t made for walkin’.

This leads me to my next lesson…

Bring comfortable walking shoes.

We walked a lot, so much that my feet looked like they belonged to a pregnant woman in her third trimester. Buying those Adidas proved to be the best purchase I made there. I bought them at a sporting goods store at Palladium Mall. That is pretty much the best mall/shopping center I found in Prague. It’s huge.

Despite my feet swelling up, I felt like I got a good workout most days, which was good because I ate a lot of McDonald’s while I was there, and lots of chocolate seashells.

Lastly…

It takes no time to fall in love with the places (and the people) that surround you.

I realized once we wrapped up our second week in Prague that I was used to being there. I’d gotten comfortable exploring the city alone and smelling food everywhere I went. I got used to being around my classmates every day, going out with them and getting to know them, and I even got used to the employees at the hotel. It’s like that when you’re surrounded by good people.

By the time our third week hit, it was pretty saddening to think about going home. I missed Georgia, Virginia, and all my friends and family, but I’d just gotten used to being there, so I wanted more time to explore.

Even now, I miss some of the girls from my trip: Melanie and the way she smiles at everyone and finds the good in any situation, Maddie and her spontaneous hugs, and Dr. Hollifield, who has inspired me to travel more and to check more countries off my bucket list.

I am so grateful for the opportunity to have gone to such a beautiful city, and to have met the amazing people who I had the pleasure of getting to know while abroad!

I’ve attached some photos from our last week in Prague.

Enjoy, and thank you for sticking with me as I embarked on my first trip to Europe!

This is only the beginning!

 

 

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