My sophomore year, I wandered into an info-session for CEA’s study abroad programs. After the presentation, I concluded that I indeed wanted to do it, but had a hefty decision to make. Where should I go? It finally came down to two countries, France and the Czech Republic. Both had a rich history and stood out to me. To determine which would be my future home-away-from-home, I made a trusty Pro & Con list.
Paris; the land of jazz, art, and the royale with cheese - as my travel agent, Samuel L. Jackson, informed me the first time I watched "Pulp Fiction." My favorite photographer, Brassaï, was based in Paris. Without calling myself a total Francophile, I was a bit obsessed with the romanticized thought of Paris in the moonlight and a slight drizzle of the rain. What wasn’t there to love about Paris?
Well, for one, it didn’t have any of my curriculum. No journalism or communication courses – and if I’m spending an entire semester away from my American university, it should count toward my education. This really mattered in my final decision. Although most of the courses I would have potentially taken would fall under my “Global Study” credits, I would have to work extra hard that next semester to make up for the core classes I’d be missing. Prague, on the other hand, did have plenty of journalism and photography courses. The first thing to do when deciding on a study abroad location is to check what classes you can transfer over to the credits for your home university.
I thought about it longer and realized that all my idols from the French art movement of the 20th century are dead, and I probably wouldn’t be having late-night philosophical debates with Gertrude Stein. I didn’t want to go to Paris that semester of 2018; I wanted to go to Paris in the 1920s. A fun lesson I learned during this time was to do the research. A simple Google search taught me about the Czech Republic’s rich cultural history, and soon, I fell in love with that one as well.
The Czech Republic is significantly cheaper than most European countries, and sitting at a Parisian café every morning, while nice, would eventually add up quite a bill in Euros. This affordability correlated to travel, too, meaning I would be able to visit more countries while based in Prague than I would in Paris.
Thus, a decision was made -- Prague it was.
It turns out I made the right decision for what I was looking for in a study abroad experience. And although studying abroad wasn’t ever part of my original scholastic-plan, neither was having the best experience of my adult life thus far. But it worked out for me -- just as it can for you.
Peter O'Neill is the Fall 2018 Alumni Insider in Prague, Czech Republic, and is currently studying at Quinnipiac University.