I’ve now been back in the US for about a month.  I was home in Illinois for a little over a week, then I headed back to New York for the second rotation of my co-op.  One of the most depressing facts I’ve encountered is that it costs me nearly FOUR TIMES as much to get from New York to Chicago as it took me to get from Prague to London. Yikes.

A lot of people say they came back from studying abroad a completely changed person, and that they look at life and America in a different way.  I really can’t say the same for myself.  I’m pretty sure that I’m the same person that left for Prague six months ago, and I don’t think I changed much.

However, as cliché as it might sound, I gained an abundance of knowledge and appreciation for other cultures.  Aside from Prague, I was fortunate to visit nine other countries while in Europe.  Prague itself can often be a hodgepodge of Europeans, and I can say that I met and made friends with dozens of people I met through travelling-  the Czech girl I met at a bowling alley, a group of Spanish engineering students studying in Slovenia that my sister and I met in Montenegro, a Polish woman who practiced architecture in London, and German guy in Berlin who just happened to have a parent from St. Louis….the list goes on and on.

Fortunately, nearly everyone I came across spoke at least basic English, and most knew more than enough to hold a normal conversation.  You can learn so, so much and come across so many opportunities by simply being friendly and saying hi to the person next to you on the train or at a restaurant.  This was one of the most significant things I took away from my time in Europe, and I can’t even stress how important being open in these types of situations is to getting the most out of new experiences.

Going from living a fairly carefree life in Prague (some of my most difficult decisions involved which part of Europe i should visit next) to a 9 to 5 job has taken a lot of getting used to.  At first I enjoyed the structure I have now here that I never had in Prague, but today while sitting in my cubicle, I Google Imaged Prague Castle, and it made me hurt a little bit inside.  I made the transition into working life so quickly that I think it will still take a couple more weeks until I fully appreciate what I have gone through these past few months, and at that point I think I’ll really start missing it.  Until then, I’ll be using Google Image to satisfy my travel urges.

Thoughts from the End

I’m pulling the first all-nighter of my life.  My cab is coming to take me to the airport at 4 am, and I am notoriously a last minute packer—it’s now 2 am, and I just finished an hour ago.  A lot of people in my program have very early flights this morning, so I don’t even know anyone who has decided to sleep tonight.

My finals were spread out over these last two weeks.  Cornell has ingrained in me to relentlessly study until I know every bit of material I possibly can, so as a result I definitely overstudied, just as I did for midterms.  It at least has given me the peace of mind that I did well.  Although I’ve given a few for various clubs I’m in, I haven’t had to give a presentation in any of my classes at Cornell, so my Operations Management presentation I gave last week was my first for a grade in college!

I’m really awkward at saying goodbyes, but I never find them too terrible.  I have had to say goodbye to a lot of new and old friends over the past few years, from my best friends in Illinois, to my college friends at Cornell, to everyone I met while at my co-op, and now those I’ve met in Prague, and I’ve realized that if you have a truly good friend, no matter how far apart or how long it has been since you’ve seen each other, things won’t change much.  Sure, you have to make an effort to send some emails and call each other and plan visits when you can, but the in between time when you don’t see each other won’t change the status of your friendship.  I’m going to miss the friends I made here a lot, because after all, we spent nearly every day here together and experienced so many new things together.  But those will be the experiences that hold our friendships together, and I have no doubt that we will stay in touch and make the effort see each other again; to me, it’s more important to appreciate the time you were able to enjoy with each other and be excited for what’s next rather than dwell on the fact that you’re parting ways.

Until next time, Prague.

PS- I can’t wait to go to Chipotle.

The Ultimate Travel Buddy

I didn’t know a soul in my study abroad program when I came to Prague.  I made my first friends on the first day after the doors of a crowded tram slammed shut right in my face, leaving me in the dust behind everyone else in my program that was also going to our orientation; I had absolutely no idea where our orientation was or which train to get on.   I was to the point where I was going to call the emergency number for my study abroad program to ask for help when three girls speaking English walked up and stood right next to me at the tram stop.  When I started talking to them, they were taken aback at first- by looks, they thought I was Czech!  It turned out they were in my program, lived in my building, and were running late to orientation- thankfully they had thought ahead enough to bring directions of their own, something that I hadn’t managed to do.  We bonded over feeling completely lost, and from then on we were friends.

I met two of my other good friends while waiting in line for the bathroom in between classes.  You just never know.

I have mostly travelled with these girls and my two roommates, and for the most part, things have gone smoothly.  I have learned, however, that just because people can get along when they only see each other a few times a week doesn’t mean that they will travel well together; you learn quite a bit about others when you travel with them, down to how long it takes them to shower, if they can read a map, and how much they snore.  I found that I work best with flexible travelers, people who don’t mind changing plans at the last minute and doing things on the spur.  I also appreciate it when my travel buddies can read a map, because it can be exhausting when you’re the only one navigating.  Everyone wants to get something different out of travelling, so the key is to find someone who has similar objectives as you.

Out of anyone, my sister, Rachel, who is 26, has been the best travel companion imaginable.  She came to Prague last Wednesday, and from there…

  • Flight to Belgrade, Serbia and spent 2 days, 2 nights
  • Overnight train, then bus, to Kotor, Montenegro for 2 days, 1 night
  • Bus to Dubrovnik, Croatia, for 3 days, 2 nights
  • Flight to Berlin, Germany, for 2 nights, 2 days

..and then back to Prague.  It just might have been the best nine days of my life.   Rachel and I have very similar travel styles; we both enjoy being out of our comfort zones, get a huge rush exploring unknown territory, and love meeting interesting people.






Our trip gave us more of this than we could ever imagine.  From taking a six hour bike tour of Belgrade, to riding through rural Serbia on an overnight train that looked like it could fall to pieces at any moment, to climbing an ancient fortress in Montenegro, to staying in a beautiful Croatian villa overlooking the Balkan Sea, to finally experiencing the Berlin Wall for the first time since being fascinated by it after writing my eighth grade research paper—it was incredible.

I spent nearly all today with some friends at one of Prague’s beer gardens, which have finally opened since it’s gotten warmer.  The beer gardens are basically just large open spaces with lots of picnic tables, beautiful views, and cheap beer.  When it’s sunny, they are packed all day and are a great way to meet young people from all over the world.  Tomorrow, we’re going paddle boating on the Vltava river.  Prague is a whole different city when it’s warm!

Unfortunately, the warmer weather has also brought on finals….


Little Wonders of Prague


Just as it’s exciting to bring friends from out of town to your hometown, having visitors to your study abroad city feels the same and gives you a whole new appreciation for your surroundings. In this case, the visitors were my parents. They made comments and were sometimes taken aback or surprised by things that I’ve by now become accustomed to.  A few examples-

1) ZIZKOV- the slightly-seedy-but-rapidly-undergoing-gentrification district of Prague where 40 study abroad students and I are living this semester.  In the last decade it has evolved into a young, hip, diverse area with ethnic dive bars and restaurants on every block.  The architecture and overall feeling of the area is far different from the center of the city, which I think surprised my parents; the city center is constantly swarming with tourists.  Zizkov is mostly locals, so for outsiders like us it took awhile to feel comfortable.  By now though I feel lucky to live in an area that is truly “Czech” and not overrun with souveneir shops, as the central part of the city is.   (“CZECH ME OUT” t-shirts can be found on every corner, and yes I plan to return to the US with one)

<<< Zizkov

And on that note…

2) The Tourists- As the weather gets warmer, tourists are coming out in full force.  It now takes me a good three to five minutes longer to get to class just because of the swarms of people on the trams and the narrow cobblestone streets that I take to get to school.  Out-of-towners seem to completely outnumber Czechs in the central part of the city these days.  My dad even spotted a man at a tram stop with a St. Louis Cardinals hat.  We’re from the St. Louis area, and of course this guy was as well- I’m pretty sure Cardinals games aren’t broadcasted in the Czech Republic.

3) Food variety-  Czech food is very heavy and starchy- thick soups, bready dumplings, lots of sausage, fried cheese, and dark beer.  However, very, very few restaurants in Prague serve only authentic Czech cuisine.  In fact, contrary to my expectations, Prague is overflowing with ethnic food, from Ethiopian to Mexican to Thai to Spanish. (And KFCs all over the place…)  There are also multiple places where you can find huge brunch spreads on the weekends, from omelets to pancakes to breakfast sandwiches and more.  Czech food, while tasty, can get old very quickly, so the variety of restaurants has been very welcome.  My tastes have definitely expanded simply due to Prague’s wide and extremely tasty food selection.

Despite the variety, however, I still find myself writing all of my blog entries from an American-owned bagel shop called Bohemia Bagel.  It’s one of the only places I can get unlimited refills on coffee and soda, and also free water- tough to beat in these parts.

4) Bachelor parties- Or “stag” parties, as it seems most Europeans call them.  I have never witnessed so much debauchery caused by bachelor parties in my life, much of it even in broad daylight.  Prague is a magnet for these parties coming from all parts of Europe, probably due to its cheap alcohol (a large beer usually won’t cost more than 30 crowns, or about $1.50, tops) and vibrant nightlife on any day of the week.  The Czech Republic is not on the Euro, so at the moment a Euro goes a very long way in Prague.   

I’ve witnessed a few future grooms dressed up as…

-A lion

-The tooth fairy

-Just a plain fairy

-a strange man in a kilt and suspenders

-a dog


-a butterfly

…..and many more.  Only in Prague.

Although these are all pretty trivial experiences, I think that they are a good every day examples of parts of my life that have become completely the norm for me yet are out of the ordinary for the average visitor. Spending time with my mom and dad here has helped me regain the sense of curiosity and intrigue I experienced in Prague when I first arrived here but which has faded a bit since then.  It has also made me realize I still do not know how to pronounce 70% of the tram stops or street names here.

My sister is coming in a couple weeks, and we have a nine day mini Eurotrip planned- Prague, Czech Republic>>Belgrade, Serbia>>Kotor, Montenegro>>Dubrovnik, Croatia>>Berlin, Germany.  Adventures galore.


Stay in Touch!

No doubt, one of the highlights of studying abroad is the opportunity to explore different countries on the weekends…relatively cheap travel options and hostels make this something that nearly everyone in my program does.   In fact, the travelling is so frequent that although I’m always in Prague during the week and a weekend here and there, sometimes I do wish my new friends and I spent more time just exploring our home city on the weekends.  It’s a trade-off that I’d assume most study abroad students in Europe face, but given that many of us will never have another four months our lives to travel throughout the continent to our liking, it’s difficult to stay put.

While country-hopping, though, I’ve gotten into some trouble because of the occasional lack of a message to Mom and Dad that I’ve crossed a new country’s borders alive and well. This past weekend I met up with some friends from Cornell in Amsterdam.  Our hostel didn’t have very great internet connection, and I managed to fail to get in touch with my parents to let them know I made it safely.  When I arrived back to Prague yesterday, I realized that of all cities, for many reasons, Amsterdam was probably one of the last in which I should have forgotten to keep my parents updated.  I feel absolutely terrible for making them worry, and from now on, occasionally keeping in touch with them one way or another while I travel will be at the forefront of my mind.

That being said, frequently keeping in touch with people at home can be a little bit of a challenge, especially without a smartphone. (I, along with I’d estimate about 60% of my program, have extremely basic pay-as-you-go phones.)


The most common ways of staying in touch with home, from what I’ve seen…

  • Email—with a smartphone, you can access this wherever there is wi-fi
  • ESP
  • Facebook
  • Skype- besides the free face-to-face chatting, you can put money onto your account and call any number internationally for just a few cents/minute
  • Carrier pigeon
  • Whatsapp- an 99 cent application you can download onto a smartphone that lets you text internationally (yes, even to America, for free! (if the other person has Whatsapp))

Ok so one of those is a little impractical, and another only works in my dreams.  I know there are other ways, but most involve quite a bit of money.  For smartphones, the newer versions allow you to “unlock” your Sim card so that you can use it, rather than the indestructible yet primitive typical-study-abroad-European phones . Happy talking!

My parents are actually visiting in a couple weekends, so I’m working out what I want to while they’re here.  It’s made me realize two things in particular…1) I really miss my parents, and 2) I’m not nearly as familiar with the winding streets, alleyways, and bridges of Prague as I should be at this point, and if I took them around without a map, I think I’d get us all lost.


Sick in Bed

I’ve never resented being sick as much as I do right now.  I got back from an amazing Spring Break in Barcelona and Tuscany on Sunday evening, and I was suddenly hit with one of the worst sinus infections of my life on Monday, and I’ve barely left my bed the last two days.   I went to a doctor that my program recommended a couple days ago who gave me some unknown antibiotic and decongestant, both of which I tried to Google to figure out exactly what I was taking…I didn’t have any luck there.  Every hour I spend in bed is an hour of my time in Europe I feel like I’m wasting away, but after my mom sent me an email telling me in all caps to rest and not exert myself lest my sinus infection turns into pneumonia, I realized I’ll get better much faster if I just stay put.

Our midterms at Anglo American University, my school here in Prague, took place a couple weeks ago, right before Spring Break, and they were a vastly different experience that what I’m used to with prelims at Cornell.  Back in Cornell engineering classes, sometimes you can study for days for a prelim and still get a 40 or 50, which may  still end up being an A or B when the test is curved (either way getting a 50 is a bit demoralizing). You can’t just memorize the equations and sample problems, you have to truly understand the concepts and know how to apply them in different situations.  This type of practice made my midterms here go quite smoothly…paying attention in class and a few hours of studying was all that was necessary to do well.

Also, while a majority of my classes at Cornell through my first two-and-a-half  years have been very theoretical and solely math- and statistics-based,  my classes here (econ, finance, and a management class) have been a nice change of pace  because of their more practical applications.  While classes in Prague are definitely less intense and require less work (usually one short assignment per class each week) than I have at Cornell, I still feel like I’m getting  a lot out of them.  I think it’s been good for me to apply the study skills and thought processes I’ve developed through my engineering classes to different types of material.  I’ve found myself often over-thinking test questions and more simple concepts, which I’ll also attribute to my engineering background; it’s taught me to examine multiple possibilities to every problem and think of the consequences of each, which doesn’t really help when I’m asked a straightforward question on a test.  Usually on Cornell tests if there is a seemingly straightforward question, chances are it’s a lot more complicated than it looks.  Overall though, studying here has given me a real appreciation for what my engineering classes have ingrained in me.

Course enroll for fall semester was a couple days ago, and while usually at school it means a painful 6:45 am alarm to be prepared for the 7 am time slot, the time difference made it much more pleasant than usual, being at 2 pm instead.  Two things came out of this:

1) I enrolled in all of my classes in record time, having no difficulties with full classes or a server that crashes every 5 minutes due to the thousands of students barraging it.  Staring at my packed Monday-Friday schedule is a bit of a tough reality check, seeing as I only have class Monday-Wednesday here in Prague, and I wasn’t even in class because of my co-op first semester.  When late August rolls around, it will have been a full year since I sat in a Cornell class, and I’m already trying to prepare myself for what I think will be a bit of a harsh transition.  While I’m 100% happy with my decision to study abroad in a non-engineering program (I actually have yet to meet one other person in my 280-student program studying engineering at back in the states), it’s not going to give me the easiest senior year.

2) I have one year left of college. One. Year.  Then I have to get a job.  Thinking about what I was doing and what was going through my mind at this time last year does give me a lot of confidence that as long as I keep specific goals in sight and work hard while still allowing time for fun, things will turn out ok.  At this time last year, I was just finding out whether I got a co-op or not and contemplating if I wanted to study abroad and be gone for the entire year.  I had gone through a rough first semester, but things had gotten back on track that semester, and I decided that a change of scenery would really do me well and keep me going in the right direction.  After being in Prague for two months now,  studying abroad was absolute the best decision I could have made.  Being in Ithaca can sometimes feel a bit confining and in the dead of winter, a kind of dreary place, but spending a semester or even year away gives you a whole new appreciation for what Cornell gives you; I absolutely cannot wait to be back senior year.   I’m also fully convinced that as an engineering student,  studying abroad is one of the best things you can do during your time in college.  It gives you new perspective on what you’re studying and why you’re studying it and forces you to really get out of your comfort zone–something that can be really beneficial to engineers.  In the real world, the ability to relate to different types of people and of different nationalities might just be as beneficial as understanding Markov chains.


I’m a pretty big believer in smiling…I think it’s the easiest way to brighten someone’s day besides giving out free cookies, it takes very little effort, and you can do it to complete strangers.  It’s something I notice right away when I meet a new person, and I’ve always believed that on the whole, people really underutilize their smiles.  Consequently, I became aware immediately after arriving in the Czech Republic of the lack of smiling and outward signs of happiness.

Whether I’m wandering the streets around my apartment, sitting on the tram to go to class in the mornings, or standing in line at the market, everyone is very reserved with their emotions and therefore have seemed pretty cold.  I’m big on warmth and openness to strangers, so it actually makes me a little uncomfortable- I’ll smile at the cashier at the store and try my best Czech greetings, and usually I just get a blank look back.  Then I just feel awkward.  Because I don’t speak the language, I’m unable to bridge the gap and form much of a connection with the people I come in contact with, and unfortunately here smiling hasn’t always worked.  Maybe it has something to do with the country’s fairly recent communist past.

When someone in my Czech class asked our teacher why everyone seemed so unfriendly here, she gave an interesting answer.   She told us that much of the younger generation has somewhat of a disdain for the older generation because of the past communist rule; they feel that the older generation “let” the communists take over, and that there is quite a strain between the age groups.  I’ve also observed, and my teacher confirmed, that middle-aged and older Czechs tend to not take care of their outward appearance much; the men wear grungy clothing and tend to not be well-groomed, and many women do not wear makeup, do not wear any sort of feminine clothing, and therefore seem somewhat drab and seem to age more quickly.   Although they may be perfectly happy, to us westerners, their outward appearance exudes unhappiness and no sense of well being.

On the opposite end of this, I’ve had a lot of fun encounters with younger Czechs.  They learn English from a young age in school, so this of course helps.  On a Wednesday night a couple weeks ago, a few friends and I found a small, trendy bowling alley/pub right up the street from our apartment in Zizkov (I don’t think you’ll find places like this anywhere else in Prague!).  There was a group of about eight Czechs that looked around our age, and after noticing them intently watch us bowl gutter ball after gutter ball for about 15 minutes, I went to talk to them.  As soon as I approached, one of the girls literally jumped up to meet me and told me that all of her friends wanted to talk to us but were wary of their English.  I assured them that I was sure communication would be absolutely no problem.  I brought them over to my group, where the language barrier proved to be a non-issue; part of the fun in these situations is deciphering and translating words and phrases that are unsure.  I spoke to the first girl I met for quite some time; she was 22 and wanted to be an English teacher.  She was incredibly sweet and outgoing, interested in America, and insisted that we go out together in the following few weeks.

She added me on Facebook the very next day, and just a few days ago asked me if I’d be interested in meeting once a week to help with her English once a week.  I’m not sure if I’ll be able to with my school schedule and travel plans, especially because I know I tend to overextend myself when I get excited about things like this, but either way I think it’s pretty cool, and I plan to get to know her over the next few months.

I’m currently on the tail end of an eight-hour bus ride back to Prague from Krakow, Poland, where my program sponsored a weekend trip.   I don’t think my tailbone has ever hurt so badly…I haven’t shifted positions in about three hours.  We went to Auschwich-Birkenau yesterday, about an hour from Krakow, which was a difficult experience to describe, and even after being there it’s a tough place to fathom.  Krakow was absolutely fantastic, and especially being part Polish, I really enjoyed my time there. The center of the city is surprisingly cozy and lively, and the people were extremely friendly.  I ate at least 15 pierogies, which are dumplings often filled with meat, sauerkraut, cheese, potatoes, or fruit.  One of my favorite places was a market in the main square that had all sorts of jewelry, toys, clothes, and memorabilia.  When I was younger, my grandpa, whose parents were both Polish, brought home dolls from Poland for all of us grandkids, and I found a stand that sold dolls identical to these.  He passed away a few years ago, and seeing them and thinking about him was pretty emotional.

This past week was pretty warm in Prague, a few days even reaching the 50s, and I was able to do a lot of exploring, (the pictures below are from Petrin Hill, which after a bit of a hike showcases amazing views of the city) which was fantastic.   It’s supposed to be back in the 30s this week though, so the winter coat and boots are unfortunately coming out once again.

The Cold Spell has Broken!

I’ll cite my fingers being too cold to type as the reason it’s taken me three weeks to post since I arrived in Prague.

But really, it took no less than two full weeks for the temperature to even hit 20 degrees Fahrenheit. It truly is a miracle I still have use of each of my fingers and toes.   It was the most uncomfortable weather I have ever experienced, and  it was painful to have any exposed skin.

Because of the cold, it was difficult to see much in the first couple weeks, and I got a little frustrated because I felt like I wasn’t getting to experience Prague like I wanted to, since the best way to see the city is by foot.  Also, I’m not sure if it was jetlag or the excitement of being in a new environment, but I had major sleeping troubles during those weeks- I wasn’t able to sleep more than 4 or 5 hours a night, which caused the worst head cold of my life.   The peak of the excitement came about a week into my trip, when my roommates and I decided to go on a morning walking tour offered by our program.  At 10 am we headed out (me on three hours of sleep) into the 10 degree Prague morning to see Old Town Square, Prague Castle, and the Charles Bridge.  I’ll just say it was probably one of the worst decisions of my life, and no living creature should ever subject themselves to something like that.  I did get a few good pictures…

I guess it’s kind of pretty.

The cold spell has snapped though, and this last week I’ve been out and about wandering the winding cobblestoned streets of the city (yesterday resulting in a full-out face plant, scratched knees, and a hole in my coat), and I’m already convinced that there is no city as beautiful as Prague.  It has a charming, fantasy-like feel that can’t be captured by pictures.  Prague missed the memo on the monotonous-colored buildings and geometric shapes of many cities; shops and stores of varying heights and colors are squashed side-by-side, and I feel as though I’m walking around a movie set, or some town built just to please the eye and senses, rather than for actual function, if that makes sense.

I don’t even know how else to describe it.  I am a huge runner, and now that my cold is gone and I can sleep, I’ve gone on some of the most amazing runs of my life.   I don’t mind running a couple miles to stumble upon this view..

I’m living in an apartment complex with about 50 other students from my program in a western area of Prague called Zizkov, which doesn’t look at all like the pictures above. For a vague comparison, Zizkov is to Prague as the Lower East Side is to New York City, and it deservingly will get its own blog post next- it’s such a unique area.  The unconventional Zizkov Television Tower with creepy babies scaling its heights, below, can be seen from anywhere in Prague and is about a quarter mile from my apartment.

I only have class Monday through Wednesday, which is really messing with my Cornell Engineering stay-up-til-3 am-every-night-doing-problem-sets-that-I-barely-understand mindset.  Besides two writing seminars during my freshman year, this is the first time in college that I’ve taken any non-engineering classes: Corporate Finance, Econ, Operations Managements, and a Czech language class. It’s a completely different style of learning than I’ve been utilizing the last few years, and I’m thoroughly enjoying reading through a chapter of my Econ textbook and understanding it all the first time through; I could read two pages of my Differential Equations textbook from last year dozens of times and it would still might as well have been written in Czech.

Speaking of the Czech language…my quest to become somewhat proficient in the most basic way has not exactly been successful.  I wasn’t even that great at Spanish, so I’m not sure how it will turn out.  Slavic languages are very difficult and completely different from any romance language.  It seems as though everyone here has a dog, and many walk around without leashes with no problem, completely obedient to their owners, (they don’t even chase after me when I’m running, it’s great) prompting me to realize that those dogs probably know more Czech than I ever will.  I’m trying.  Much of the population, especially those under 25 or so, have a basic knowledge of English, many speaking it very well, so it’s not difficult to get around.  It’s easily apparent though that the Czechs very much appreciate visitors knowing at least a few basic phrases (hello, please, thank you, yes, no, “I don’t speak Czech” -my specialty).

Now that it’s no longer hazardous to my health to be outdoors, my posts will be much more frequent…

Off to Prague

I’m sitting in St. Louis Lambert Airport, waiting for my flight to Chicago, where I have a brief layover before an eight-hour flight to London, then a final short flight to Prague.  To be honest, I don’t really know how I feel.  I have been home in Belleville, Illinois for nearly six weeks, and, not having much of anything to do or many commitments, there’s been time for basically every feeling possible to enter and leave.




Confused? (Try learning some Czech words, you’ll understand.)

Positively off-the-wall thrilled to be spending four months in Prague?

Check, check, check, check, aaaand check.

So right now, I’m pretty neutral.   Like Switzerland.  The feeling when a big life event like this is right in front of you and inching closer by the minute is a little unsettling; in this case, knowing the endless possibilities of my four-month-long stay in Europe and wanting to ensure I make the most out of everything I stumble upon is what really gets me.

My sappy study abroad feelings aside, I’ve been asked the same two questions over and over and over and over again:

Why did I choose to study in Prague?

Frankly all I really knew about Prague in the beginning was that it used to be communist, the castles make it look like a giant Disneyworld (per my sister who has spent a couple months there), and that they drink a lot of beer.

Do I have an intense passion for Czech culture and history?  No.  I’ve read a lot by now, I find it interesting, but no, not really.   Can I speak Czech?  Don’t make me laugh. Do I know anyone in or going to Prague?  Not a soul.

I guess I decided on Prague because I knew so little about it, meaning I have so, so much ahead of me to discover and learn, so many new people to meet, so many places to explore, opportunities for incredible amounts of spontaneous fun, and the ability to conceive my own opinions and thoughts on a new environment and culture, rather than base them on what I’ve known before.  And now I know how cheap that beer is.

And secondly,

How, as an engineering student, am I able to go and graduate in four years?

My program isn’t an engineering-specific, just a normal study abroad program.  Being an Operations Research major allows for more flexibility than other engineering majors to study abroad, but choices are still more limited than for non-engineers.  If you have a lot of AP credit, there are a lot more options.  The main reason I was able to study abroad was that I participated in the College of Engineering’s Co-op Program, and in this we took four of the required OR classes last summer (something only co-op students can do).  Completing these courses allowed me to work at my co-op last semester and gave me more flexibility in the classes I could take abroad.  I was fortunate to find a program in Prague that offered classes I could get approved to fit Cornell’s requirements.  This does mean being away from Cornell for the whole year, my thoughts about which I could write pages, but to make it short, it’s been worth it.


Well, I didn’t get to finish this in St. Louis, and now I’m in London, and I sat next to a fantastic person on the flight here, a man who is from Holland and works for NATO and has worked in Dubai, Brussels, Iraq, and Afghanistan, where he met his American fiancée and is marrying her next month in Arizona.  I guess my trip is off to a good start.