History class never interested me; I always took them just to pass. American History, World History, etc. just weren't my cup of tea -- which is why I decided to take my history general education requirement during my shorter study abroad trip. I thought it would be boring -- but I was happily mistaken.
The Czech Republic’s wars and political reformations were much more recent than America's, so I got to meet a lot of people that lived through those changes. My Central European History professor had seen it all. She was able to give us personal stories and experiences that will never be written in history books. Half of the classes were field trips to see actual sites where events happened. From this class, we got tours of the Jewish Quarters, Charles Bridge, Prague Castle, underground cemeteries, and the National Museum.
Soon, I started finding myself at the front of tour groups when visiting a new city on weekends. From my new curiosity about where cultures diverged, I learned much more about Prague’s past than what my friends cared to listen to. I even went on a castle tour in a language I didn’t understand. History explains why older generations don’t smile when you walk into a store or why some neighborhoods will all look the same.
Between protests on the prime minister, Slovakia’s first female president, and posters about climate change, I got to witness what other countries are going through. While studying abroad, I recommend going beyond the typical sightseeing and truly understand the meaning behind it. Artifacts are more than their looks, and I can start to hear the peaceful protests behind each can of spray paint being added to Prague’s John Lennon Wall.