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The great unknown

I’ve always thought that the beauty of traveling to another country came predominantly from experiencing new cultures and ways of life different than my own. However, after a little more than a week in Prague, I’ve realized that experiencing new cultures isn’t just about living day-to-day, taking pictures of pretty buildings or trying Czech food.

No, the way I have learned most about culture during my brief time here so far has been by listening and by observing.

Having traveled to a few other countries, I thought I understood what it meant to be “the foreigner,” but upon arriving in the Czech Republic, this idea changed. I’m no longer the American who can pick up bits of language here and there, understand a sign or two and maybe converse in broken Spanish to a shop-keeper.

I’ve learned what it means to be completely ignorant. Not knowing the Czech language has caused me to realize that I’ve never been in a place where I have absolutely no idea what’s going on, at all.

And, if I’m being honest, it is a bit uncomfortable. Who enjoys being in a sea of words without any clue as to what is being said? This is where my greatest learning has come from.

Becoming accustomed to being the outsider has shown me that there is an element of discomfort that won’t go away completely. However, there’s also the feeling of relief (and pride) at finally recognizing when someone is saying “hello” or “excuse me” that seems to make the struggle worth it.

I didn’t come to Prague expecting to know everything, but I did come wanting to learn more about this beautiful country and wanting to understand its people better as well.

Any traveler can tell you that if you choose to remain ignorant, you will – but if you make the decision to embrace ignorance and a willingness to learn, your life will change. In less than two weeks, I’ve already found this to be the case and, going forward, I’ll continue with this mindset.

Once I accepted the fact that I was unaware of many things coming to the Czech Republic, I began to see the beauty in the unknown. For many, this can be a scary place, but in a city as beautiful as Prague, it’s often where the greatest adventures are found.

The beauty of this city, I’ve also found, transcends language and culture altogether as people from all over the world come to admire Prague’s art and architecture. Beauty, it would seem, is a universal language –one I understand. And it’s my hope that as I continue to learn about the Czech culture and language, my appreciation of all this country has to offer will continue to grow.

 Astronomical Clock in Old Town
Square in the afternoon
 St. Vitas Cathedral  Charles Bridge at midday.

Amanda Palomino is the Spring 2015 CEA MOJO in Prague, Czech Republic. She is currently a junior at Hofstra University.

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