I’ve wanted to study abroad ever since I was in high school. I spent countless hours up late at night, researching cities to study in and places to visit. Prague had never been on my radar at that point, but plans changed, and now after three months of studying here I never want to leave.

Since Prague is in the center of Europe, we have quick access to many different cities and countries. It’s crazy that we can take a two hour bus ride and not only be in a completely different city, but also a completely different country, a completely different culture. Coming from California, where you can drive nine hours and still be in the same state, this is so mind-boggling to me.

Don’t get me wrong, the Unites States is a great place to grow up and live in, but if you want to see a real melting pot of cultures, Europe is the place to be. I’ve learned more about culture and history this semester than I have in my entire time in high school and college. Seeing the different cultures first hand instead of learning about them in textbooks can really help you understand the world better.

In most European cities there is history on every corner, ranging from the Roman Empire in 27 BC, to the Renaissance period starting in the 1300s, to the Cold War during the 20th century. Here, we are surrounded with so many various points of view in such a close knit area. People here are more aware of cultures different from their own because they can drive two hours and witness them first hand. That’s something that very few Americans can do.

Another unique thing I’ve found in Europe is that each country has different ways of life, even though they are all so close in proximity. For example, Italians are more outgoing and louder in public. In Paris, the population is much more diverse. In the Czech Republic, people are more reserved, and if they are being friendly you know it’s genuine because they won’t be friendly if they don’t mean it. Each culture has a unique way of going about things, and I have learned to appreciate and understand the actions of each ethnicity.

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My view of the world has changed a lot from my three months of traveling around Europe and studying in Prague. Before coming here I was very excited to knock so many cities off my bucket list, but I’ve learned that what really makes a trip special is the people that I traveled with and the cultural boundaries that I’ve broken. The little bubbles I was living in at home and at college are great, and I learned so many things living in these places, but I experienced, saw and felt so much more during my travels. Traveling is such an important experience to go through in order to fully understand people that are different from yourself.

Photo courtesy of Georgi Shillington