Meet NYU Prague Peer Mentor, Ellie!

Throughout the semester, you will have the opportunity to hear from NYU Prague alumni to gain their firsthand insight and tips.

Today, meet Ellie, who studied in Prague in Spring 2016.

ellie-nyu-prague

Major: Media, Culture, and Communication

What is your favorite memory about your time abroad? My favorite memories come from adventures while traveling: bike riding in Amsterdam, clubbing in Berlin, playing card games with new friends in Copenhagen; etc. Going out with friends in Prague also made some of my favorite memories!

What was the most interesting course you took and why? My TWO favorite classes while abroad were Social Media and Society and Intro to Photography (a black and white film photography). Learning how to use a film camera gave me a new perspective through which to view my surroundings in, and after learning to love spending hours in the school darkroom, I have some amazing black and white photos that show a unique side of the city of Prague, my study abroad experience, and my creativity. Since this class, I haven’t stopped taking photos in film and now explore color and B&W photographs all the time. My Social Media class was everything I had hoped it would be; it explored the benefits, consequences, and transformations of media, power, and various relevant discourses. This class was both relevant to our daily lives, my potential interests and career, and this relevance was constantly engaging. Even now, I still think about the topics we discussed and what I learned in discussion. We approached interesting issues like ISIS on Twitter, marketing, gender studies, trolling, etc. Our professor also showcased many examples and issues present in the Czech Republic. Both of these classes had excellent, approachable, enjoyable teachers and my study abroad experience benefitted from what I learned in and out of class.

What two things do you wish you had packed? Honestly, I had 0 pounds to spare in my suitcases. I can’t think of anything I should’ve brought that I didn’t already have, or couldn’t have purchased while abroad…! I adapted very quickly if I was missing something, so it obviously wasn’t essential.

Name two things you should not have packed.  I brought my favorite mug from home. Though it did remind me of home when sipping my tea in my dorm…It was not a necessary item, it was heavy, and it was consistently impossible to fit anywhere in my suitcases or backpack. I encourage students to bring mementos from home to feel comfortable, but a pile of pictures is far more reasonable than a fat, ceramic cup. I also would’ve brought less books – one or two books to keep me busy on trains and planes, but the rest I could’ve bought in bookstores elsewhere and I just ended up leaving them behind anyways because they’re heavy!

What do you miss most? I miss wandering around the city at every available moment. Every street is unique and beautiful, and I miss finding new corners and coffee shops everyday! I miss always having some new adventure to look forward to. Plus, now I’m back in New York, I miss how CHEAP Prague is!!!

What advice would you give about housing? Really, the housing is secondary to meeting the people in your housing and making these new friends! I lived in Osadni, and almost everyone got to know each other and hung out both in and outside of the dorm. All the dorms are comfortable and spacious, and each neighborhood has its own charms. By making your dorm room personal and homey, you’ll adapt wherever you’re placed.

One good way to get to know locals is: Approaching new people with a basic phrase in the native language is both polite and a conversation starter, and I was surprised how most people were thrilled, and not appalled, to speak with an American. 100% of the people I met liked to discuss Trump – rarely judgmental, simply curious, sometimes baffled. I’ve had both deeply philosophical and intimate talks with strangers at a bar, or fun and lighthearted…but it’s always memorable putting yourself out there to meet interesting people you never could anywhere else. Getting involved in volunteer activities or school groups is also a good idea, because many of these groups actively seek to put you in interactions with locals. Likewise, your RAs are locals, so talking to and hanging out with them is getting to know locals too!

If there’s one thing students should know about Prague, it is: It’s not all cobblestone and castles and pastel buildings. The center of the city is certainly like this, but there are neighborhoods which you will see (cough Holesovice cough) with abandoned and crumbling buildings that extend for blocks, empty industrial parking lots, sparse fields, abandoned train tracks, graffiti signing every surface…Prague is indeed a magical city, but it’s also a recently post-communist state and some of the outer neighborhoods’ infrastructure still suggests recovery. Nowhere in Prague have I felt threatened or frightened on the streets, but the city isn’t entirely made of what you see on Google photos. That being said, I would embrace and explore these weird corners, because they have a Czech charm of their own. Explore as much as you can. This is also a lovely metaphor for a study abroad experience in general!! It’s easy for advisors, teachers, and even myself to romanticize the study abroad experience as a fairy land, but you will have to confront the uglier side every once in a while, whether that’s having an impossible traveling experience, running out of money for the weekend, feeling a wave of crushing homesickness… Embrace, explore, and move on with these as well.

If you could go back in time and do one thing differently, what would it be? Be brave and meet more locals, everywhere. In almost every city, usually my most memorable memories are of interactions with the people I met there, but if I were to go back, I would build up the confidence I gained from those months abroad and seek out new people even more!

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