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All Roads Lead Back to Prague

There are roughly 50 countries in Europe. As we try to conquer this list, a lot of time, energy, and money is consumed by the average student abroad. By the end of time here, I will have checked off seven. From the mountains of Slovakia to the Netherlands’ canals, I can’t regret a single border. One day, I really hope to cross more. However, crunched in overnight bus seats and sprawled on hostel bunks, one finds plenty of time to think. And lately, homesickness calls not for the States, but the familiar sounds of our city seeping through the apartment walls. From this, I’ve derived an unexpected realization-studying abroad isn’t about the distance you cover, but the connections you make with your new home. Because in the end, my most cherished moments are traced back to Prague.
 A child waves the Czech flag during November 17th celebrations.

There was that warm night back in August. An impromptu walk led us to a concert down by the water. We stood for a while, watching the locals sway and dance. The lyrics were in Czech, but melodies are universal.

There was the Farmer’s Market at Andel. We spotted it on a morning tram--the colorful stands blurring outside the window. A canvas bag of produce and two Czech pastries later, we had found a new Friday tradition.

An afternoon spent riding a new tram line revealed how much was left to be seen—districts, coffee shops, bookstores, parks, passageways. I was reminded that Prague will inevitably keep some secrets to herself.

 Struggle for Freedom and Democracy Day commemorates
the 1989 student protests against an oppressive government.
 Ducks spot the pond of Stromovka Park.

And I’ll never forget the crowd in Old Town. It was Independent Czechoslovakia day, and a square dominated by tourism was reclaimed by locals for the night. They held up signs and clapped along as music commemorated the holiday. Not a single gaze was broken when speakers took the stage.

There were festivals, too numerous to count, that seemed to materialize around the city. A neighborhood party offered food, crafts, and an opportunity to emerge in the community. Hidden along the river, the St. Martin’s day
celebration was easily missed. If not for the smell of food tents and the laughter rising from below, I would have run right past it.

And I’ll look back to the day where I gained perspective. It was November 17th, or Struggle for Freedom and Democracy Day. Upon every jacket, a ribbon was adorned, while pamphlets and signs still called for change. With one hand, children grasped the fingers of their parents—with the other a small Czech flag. Sidewalk memorials revealed the weight of the day. Waves of heat rising from a field of carefully placed candles. They warmed my face in the chilled autumn air as an important lesson was learned. Before passing judgement on a culture, you must first understand the past that created it.

 Sharing Czech pastries on community day.
 Lanterns allowed neighborhood festivities to go into the night.

There are roughly fifty countries in Europe, spanning ten million square kilometers. While studying abroad, we are tempted to cover them all. But whether taken by bus or train, my favorite remain those that lead back to the Czech Republic.

Taylor T. is the Fall 2016 CEA MOJO in Prague, Czech Republic. She is currently a junior studying Marine Biology, Art, Wildlife Conservation, and Global Studies at the University of Delaware.

Taylor Tewksbury is the Fall 2016 CEA MOJO Blogger in Prague, Czech Republic, and is currently studying at University of Delaware.
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