| Patrick Gradus is a recent grad from St. Norbert College
and an Associate Alumni Ambassador (Prague Fall'13).
Life begins at the boundaries of our comfort zone. Study abroad can challenge and transform your life by breaking the mundane routine we fall into at school. It is a unique opportunity that offers more than a chance to live and study in a foreign country. It can help you gain confidence, independence, develop language proficiency or simply broaden your global perspective. For many, it is the first chance to not only leave their hometown, but the United States as well. My study abroad experience combined many of these traits, but self-discovery defined it more than any other. It was the first time I was identified as an individual and not as an identical twin.
|Patrick Gradus (right) with his mother (center), and brother, Mike (left)
| Patrick Gradus (#63) with fellow teammates including brother, Mike (#53),
and Czech friend, Petr (#50 - far right)
|Patrick (left) and Mike (right) with their French relatives|
|Patrick (left) and Mike (right)|
The regional focus of our majors determined our study abroad options. Mike focused on the Middle East. His program involved a home-stay family and small classes with a heavy emphasis on independent academic research. My CEA Prague study abroad program was more traditional: Live with other American students and attend a local university. He could not leave Jordan without program supervisors, whereas I could go wherever my wallet allowed. It was clear upon his arrival at Prague’s Václav Havel International Airport that the countries we lived in were as different as our experiences.
The culture shock of a European city--alcohol sales, public displays of affection, and Caucasian people--was an adjustment for him. Luckily, Prague's Christmas Markets in Old Town Square, a plate of goulash, and a few liters of Pilsner Urquell cheered him up. I tried to ease his difficulty with reverse culture shock. Storytelling seemed easiest and came naturally. It was unexpectedly introspective revisiting my life and adventures while abroad with Mike. In sharing stories with Mike, I gained better appreciation for the growth we both made.
|Mike (left) and Patrick (right)|
Seeing the life I built in Prague collide with the life I have at home was eye opening. For the first time in my life, people knew me as an individual and not in relation to another person. This may sound obvious, but never before had a group of people known me without knowing my brother. Without study abroad, witnessing this stark contrast likely would not have been possible.
Patrick Gradus is a CEA Associate Alumni Ambassador and a recent graduate from St. Norbert College. Patrick studied abroad in Prague, Czech Republic, during the Fall 2013 semester.
Read more about our CEA Content Creators.