Studying abroad in Prague: Preparing and Arrival
This fall I am studying abroad in Prague, the capitol of the Czech Republic. Located in the heart of Europe, this landlocked country is very similar to the climate back home in Massachusetts, characterized by warm summers and cold snowy winters. Read more below about the study abroad preparation process and my arrival!
Preparing for my Study Abroad Semester
Personally, packing was probably one of the hardest parts of preparing for life abroad! As I mentioned above, Prague’s weather is very similar to the weather back home, which means I was packing for the end of summer, fall, and winter. I flew out of Logan International Airport in Boston, and my ticket included one personal item, one carry-on, and one checked bag with a weight limit of fifty pounds. I also opted to add another checked bag for an additional $100. Even with four bags, I found myself unpacking and repacking right up until the day of my trip.
Packing cubes and vacuum seal bags will be your best friends! I used these to organize my clothes, and they saved me a lot of space, especially with my sweaters. I also bought a luggage scale online, which was a huge help, as it allowed me to check my bag weight to make sure they fit the airline requirements. Now, after living here for a few weeks, I realize that I definitely would have packed a lot differently. As a natural over packer, I would’ve told myself to leave some room in my suitcase to bring items back, as I’ve already bought a lot of new items here.
Given the situation of COVID-19, preparing for this semester looked a little different than usual, as I had to pay extra attention to ever-changing COVID entry requirements for the country — as well as countries I’d be flying in and out of during my layover. While I was fortunate enough to not have to quarantine before or after my arrival, I was required to obtain a PCR test no later than 72 hours before my departure, and needed to fill out two passenger locator forms for my stop in England, and arrival in the Czech Republic. Currently, mask mandates are in effect in all indoor establishments around Prague, as well as in all of my classes here at University of New York in Prague (UNYP). As back home, the situation is ever evolving, but I feel very fortunate to be able to be abroad during this time!
The Journey Abroad
I flew out Saturday night, arriving at my first stop in London Heathrow Airport Sunday morning. After a short layover, I boarded my plane to Prague, which is approximately a two-hour flight from Heathrow. Upon arrival, I was greeted by a UNYP student who led me over to another small group of students who also flew in around the same time. We then were taken by a private bus to our apartment, shown to our rooms and left to settle in for the rest of the day.
I am living in an apartment with five other girls studying abroad for the semester at UNYP: three from the US, one from Spain, and one from Denmark. It’s been a really cool experience getting to live with people from different places, even those from different parts of the US, as we’re able to share experiences and culture from our lives back home. I have my own room, and we share bathrooms, a kitchen, and the dining room. A handful of other UNYP students also live in the apartments, as they’re about a three-minute walk from the school, and five minutes to the nearest Tram stop.
Life Abroad so Far
Here at UNYP all classes are taught in English. The student body is composed of over 800 students from more than 60 countries around the world. My classes tend to be quite small, with around 15-25 students each, and all classes are in one UNYP building. Meeting people from all around the world has been so incredible, and it’s really cool to be able to share cultures and experiences with others! My classes are three hours long, once a week, and I’m taking four courses this semester. I have classes Monday-Wednesday, which gives me an extra long weekend!
Life in the City:
As someone who has never lived in the city, I have come to love the convenience of studying abroad in Prague. I have definitely been getting my steps in as well, averaging 30 to 40 miles a week while walking around to different places. Public transportation here is also phenomenal. The tram, an above-ground train running on the streets, is my main form of transportation—with numerous stops within Prague. The Prague Metro has trains running underground, and there is also a train station with trains throughout the Czech Republic—as well as to neighboring countries such as Germany, Budapest, and Austria. As a UNYP student studying abroad, I was given a public transportation pass, covering fees for Trams and Metros within the city. My student ID card gives me a 70% discount on train tickets in the Czech Republic, as well as various tourist admission discounts. English is very widely spoken within the city, especially in the touristy sections of town. Outside of the city, English isn’t as widely spoken, but many younger adults, teens, and children speak some English.
Homesickness & the Time Difference:
The first week abroad felt like a vacation, filled with orientation activities and sightseeing trips. The reality of being abroad for a semester didn’t really sink in until classes started, and now after three weeks abroad I’m starting to get used to calling Prague my home for the next three months. While homesickness hits occasionally, being around a lot of other native English speakers in my apartment helps me feel more at home, and staying connected with friends and family has been a huge help. The time difference between Prague and Massachusetts is six hours. While I’m unable to reach my friends until around 2 or 3 pm here, I am thankful to be able to call and text them at night to talk about my adventures here.
During all stages of my study abroad process, I have felt very supported by my community back here at UMass Amherst, as well as my contacts at UNYP. This week, my academic advisor reached out to me regarding planning my next semester back at UMass Amherst, and I still receive emails and notifications about campus life back home. This helps me feel connected to my community at UMass, even while in a different country! I am excited to continue with my journey here abroad and bring my experiences back to UMass Amherst in the spring.