The University of Iowa

Language barriers

February 8th, 2016

By Shannon Wright*

View of Prague

A view of Prague.

If I said living in a new country was easy, I’d be lying.

You always hear the stories of culture shock but, you’re not quite sure what it will look like once it begins to happen.

Well, let me tell you. It can be ugly.

I'm not saying it isn’t worth it or anything but, going abroad (especially by yourself) isn’t all the butterflies and roses it’s made out to be.

I have seen some amazing things here. Met amazing people. Had some laughs and learned a lot of Czech words. But, I have only been here for a little over a week and I have already felt major pangs of homesickness. That, I think, would probably be the root of all culture shock. You just miss home. Everything is new and different in this world you are now a part of. It’s hard to adjust at first.

Now for me, I have lived in Iowa my entire life. Yes, I moved from a small town to a bigger city when I was a kid but, it was still Iowa. Leaving the state is weird, let alone the country. I have had a struggle getting used to this new culture and being surrounded by completely new people. Not that the other students in the program aren’t great or the Czech people. Actually everyone I have met here so far is very friendly and talkative. However, it’s just not home.

Kostel svate Ludmily

Me at Kostel svate Ludmily

So, for any students that are thinking about studying abroad. The trip is definitely worth it. I have only been here about a week but I can already tell you that.

It is worth it.

 But, don’t be fooled by all the stories you here of marvelous adventures with best friends they made their first day. Of course you will make friends but, nothing is that easy. Prepare yourself for a completely new atmosphere. You will meet a lot of people, socialize, laugh and smile. You will have to do a lot of things on your own. Like explore the city you are staying in. (Which can be really fun.) It all can be great but you just have to be careful not to be consumed by the shock. Don’t let the sadness or loneliness drag you down. You are in a completely new country! Go out and have fun! If you have to do that by yourself for the first couple days, then do it! Soon enough you will find friends that you can travel around the world with and never remember how you even became such great friends.

For my first week here in Prague, I will say it has been hard. I’ve had to deal with a lot of culture shock but I have also seen some pretty incredible things! I saw the Prague castle! Went on a walk through the city. I have been to multiple different shopping malls. And I learned some great new Czech words. Through and through it’s been a pretty interesting week.

I went to an ice cream shop today with some other students. We have been learning Czech in class, so as we attempted to order our ice cream in Czech the lady behind the counter smiled patiently at us. After we had all ordered our ice cream the lady looked at me and asked in English if we were just beginning to learn Czech. I sheepishly replied that we were all students from America. At this she got excited and asked which state we were all from. It ended up being a great conversation with her last comment being that California is by far her favorite country.

The Czech people are astonishingly nice. Everywhere I go and attempt to ask directions or speak in Czech every person is very patient and apathetic towards me. I don’t know if they are just used to the constant stream of tourists around here or if the Czech people are genuinely that patient. In any case, I haven’t had any bad experiences so far with any of the people living around here. Then, Prague is such a thriving city. People are always rushing around from one kind of transportation to another. Yet, there are other places in the city where so many people can just stand still and take in all the history and life of this place. It is a true kind of magic to be staying in a city that is thousands of years old.

Of course, I have been trying to do all the normal tourist things around here. See the Prague castle, check. Walk through the city, check. Go to the astronomical clock… Well, I haven’t quite gotten to that one yet but it’s on my list. There are so many amazing sites and things to do around here it’s hard to make time to do everything. So I can’t wait to see all of them!

*Shannon Wright, originally from Iowa City, Iowa, is a junior at the University of Iowa. The English major will be spending her semester in Prague on the USAC Studies in the Czech Republic program.