For as long as I can remember, I've always loved the phrase, "it's the little things in life". For me, this refers to the "little wins" that happen in day-to-day life, like getting an especially good cup of coffee, getting a good grade on a quiz, having a good run, or catching up with a friend; this phrase could be anything small that adds some pep to my step or puts a smile on my face during a mundane day. I use this phrase quite often in my daily life, but during my adjustment to my new life in Prague, this phrase has taken on a whole new meaning. Now that I've been studying abroad for a full four weeks, I have come to realize that my "little wins" here in Prague are different from my ones at home, but have a whole new meaning. The new meaning that my "little wins" have is that they show that I am understanding a new cultural difference, getting the hang of the Czech language, or getting to know the city of Prague better.
Coming to Prague, I knew there would be cultural differences in the way people act. Having spent a fair amount of time in Croatia with my family there and traveling around Europe, I may have underestimated how easy it would be to adjust to a new city and culture. There were so many new cultural differences I had to be aware of. I had to remember how to tip, not to make too much eye contact, give up my seat on the tram to someone who needs it, and so many more little differences. After the first week and after I was aware of all of the cultural differences, I am proud of myself every time I remember to do something I don't normally do at home. These "little wins" that I experience make me feel so much better about my adjustment time to the Czech culture. And, now that I know all of these little things, I have come to appreciate and love all of the nuances that are the Czech culture.
Similar to how I felt about the cultural differences, I thought learning the basics of the Czech language would be easier for me because I know how to speak Croatian, which is a slightly similar language. But, I found that even saying “Dobry Den” or “Dekuju” in Czech took me a long time to learn in terms of pronunciation and usage. I found myself wanting to speak Croatian and getting flustered and confused and reverting to English greetings. But, once again, after a few weeks time, I know my basic Czech words and no longer get confused. Now, when I walk into a store and say “Dobry Den” and the people speak to me in Czech, I know I’ve done something right because they think I am Czech. And, when I buy the right food at the grocery store without Google Translate, it's a good day. These “little wins” always makes me feel better about my Czech language skills and my ability to not stand out like a sore thumb n Prague.
Going from a suburban small college in Massachusetts to studying in Prague was a big change. I would no longer have my car, my five minute walk to class, or the convenience of having my dorm room around the corner. In Prague, I would have to learn the workings of city life: the vastness, the winding streets, the public transportation, and communter lifestyle. At first, this was a bit overwhelming and confusing, especially commuting. Thankfully, Prague has such amazing public transportation and I was able to learn it quickly, albeit through using a lot of GoogleMaps and iPhone data. But, now I thoroughly love taking public transportation, feeling like a local, and getting to see the city. Every time I take a pretty tram ride, I smile, and remember my “little win” of navigating my way around Prague. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that every tram ride is just so relaxing and pretty, here.
Overall, my “little things” in Prague have taken on a whole new meaning for me and I appreciate them so much more. My daily visits to the local coffee shop, ordering my cappuccino in Czech, or getting on the right tram have made me smile and feel good about my adjustment to my new and amazing life in Prague. These are not normally things that would make my day at home, in the United States, but they are for sure things that make my day here, and that is what defines studying abroad: all of the “little things (and differences)”.