I first came to Prague two years ago to spend the spring semester of my sophomore year studying abroad. I remember landing and wondering what I was thinking when I decided to spend four months in a country I hadn’t even remembered googling prior to arriving.
I had selected Prague somewhat randomly–it hit the narrow criteria I had for my study abroad location: 1. Go somewhere in Europe. 2. Go somewhere you haven’t been before (this eliminated Italy, England, and France). 3. Go somewhere that has enough classes for you to take.
Now when I think back to selecting this place and this program, I thank my sophomore self for making a decision that would prove to be so important and extend far past that single semester. Prague became my home in those four months and changed me in ways I could have never imagined.
Upon returning, I became obsessed with sharing my experience and encouraging others to (quite literally) leave their comfort zone and engage in international immersion. I discovered a passion for promoting international education and connecting with prospective, current, and alumni study abroad students when I became an Alumni Ambassador for CEA.
During my study abroad semester, I had met the On-Site Ambassador (a CEA Prague program alumnus) and learned about the ambassador program. Once I returned, I’d received numerous emails encouraging me to apply via the online application. I hesitated, unsure if it was something I should commit my time to. But each time I would think back on my study abroad experience, I realized how life-changing it had been. I had this feeling that the ambassador program was something I just had to do.
As an Alumni Ambassador, I had the opportunity to promote CEA on my home campus and collaborate with ambassadors on other college campuses across the country. Additionally, I learned how to articulate my own experience in practical ways, explaining on resumes and in interviews how the challenges of a semester abroad make me unique and well-equipped.
The idea of returning to Prague was something I had only dreamed about. When I heard the CEA Prague office would be hiring a summer On-Site Ambassador, I worked tirelessly on my application and was absolutely thrilled when I’d been chosen.
|CEA Prague On-Site Staff|
I kept imagining what it would be like to be back in the place that had been my home two years ago. Would it be the same? Would it be just as amazing as I’d remembered?
Since arriving in Prague, I haven’t stopped smiling because of how familiar this place is. My experience looks radically different this time around, but this city holds the same wonderful magic that two years’ time has only made more beautiful. Some of the challenges I face look quite similar, like trying to greet, purchase, then bag all of my grocery items without getting yelled at in Czech by the cashier, and some look quite different, like living by myself, not being a part of a group of students, and finding community in my own way. Nevertheless, I see the ways I’m growing on a daily basis. Returning to Prague with my own study abroad experience and my Alumni Ambassador training behind me has allowed me to recognize the ways I’m being challenged and changed as they are happening. I see every day and every task as an opportunity to learn something, and I know that I must cherish every moment here because of how quickly my time here will go by.
Fulfilling the CEA On-Site Ambassador role gives me the incredible opportunity to work professionally with the staff and personally with the students. I am able to support students in the way that I was supported, and serve the staff in the way they served me. I work with a wonderful and diverse (culturally and in personalities) team that works so very hard to maximize the students’ experiences.
When I stop to think about where I am and what I am doing, I can’t really believe it, and I can’t help but smile. I am back in my favorite place in the world working with wonderful people and doing some serious self-reflection and growth. I can’t think of anything more fulfilling.
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Eliza Jason is the Spring 2017 Alumni Ambassador in Prague, Czech Republic, and is currently studying at Point Loma Nazarene University.