The University of Iowa

Cultural Experiences in Prague

August 1st, 2013

By Anthony Sudarmawan

Quinn Hejlik stands in front of the tower of Charles Bridge in the Old Town district of Prague

Quinn Hejlik stands in front of the tower of Charles Bridge in the Old Town district of Prague

The first time Quinn Hejlik tried to order turkey in a supermarket in Prague, Czech Republic, he accidentally ordered turecko (Turkey, country) instead of kruti (turkey, deli meat).

Quinn, a UI junior from Omaha, Neb., recently returned from studying abroad in Prague through the USAC program, which offered him an opportunity to learn Czech without any prior knowledge of the language. USAC puts students in a two-week intensive Czech course in order to provide them with the basics of the language. Upon arrival, students are prepared to communicate their daily needs. USAC also offers numerous excursions that allow students to explore the city and Europe.

Quinn’s adventure began when he started learning Czech a week before his study abroad program. He understood that the Eastern European language would be difficult to learn, but he also knew it would be fascinating. He still remembers a particular sentence in Czech that contained no vowels: “strc prst skrz krk” (translation: stick your fingers in your throat).

While he was abroad, he definitely missed driving, online streaming, non-smoking areas, and free refills and separate checks at restaurants. Generally speaking, Europeans tend to use public transportation rather than drive. Online streaming, non-smoking areas, free refills, and separate checks are rare in Europe. Quinn was also surprised by the fact that fruits were not scaled at the cashier in supermarket; rather, customers had to put their fruit on a scale machine and print a label before going to the cashier.  

Nevertheless, Europe offers many great opportunities for students to study European languages, explore ancient relics and sites, experience a different culture, travel cheaply and conveniently within the EU, and learn the rich history of Europe. Quinn explored all of those options by traveling to 10 different countries, visiting many art museums and two concentration camps, and studying in a university built in 1348. He also learned about European history and how that history ties to modern Europeans’ attitudes. He specifically used an example of Hungarians and Slovaks. To understand Hungarians resentment toward Slovaks and vice versa, he had to learn hundreds of years of history of the two countries.

Now that Quinn has returned Iowa City, he is adjusting back to the U.S. When asked if he has needed a lot of effort to adjust back, he responded no, but he has started to notice things more at home, such as open fields of corn and American flags everywhere. He loves to talk about his study abroad experience to whoever will to listen for hours.

UI students who wish to learn more about studying abroad in Eastern Europe should visit the Study Abroad office in 1111 UCC or call (319)-335-0353 to make an appointment with an advisor.