I really like Vaclav Havel. The way he writes and his position on the government. In many of his writings, he portrays his dislike for the communist government in a peaceful manner. He has a Ghandi-like approach that is neither easy to emulate or follow. Mr. Havel is courageous standing up to the communist regime. It’s easy to say that words are less powerful than an act. Yet, Havel’s words are so powerful and influential that it’s no wonder he had many followers. I mentioned this in a previous blog about the writers today, and if we any revolutionary writers existed today. I love Ayn Rand, and regard her as one of my favorite writers. However, I can’t say that Ayn Rand is a writer of our time. Rather, she is an earlier writer and not one of today. With the recent gay marriage debacle about Miss California, I can’t help but to see Perez Hilton as an avid advocate. Though his credibility isn’t so solid, I still think that his blog brings new light and method of advocacy to a new level. And I find that to be a positive action towards progress. Progress is never easy and fast. And reading Havel’s writings, it makes me wonder the kind of patience it takes to see change.
Finally going home: Going home should be a good thing. However at this moment, I’m dreading the thought of having to pack and turn in a 12-page paper and studying for finals. It’s not fun trying to study for something when simultaneously; you’re trying to do some last minute tourist stuff. I understand that finals are a big deal and all, but maybe it would have been better if we had a week after finals to unwind and then go home. I feel like right after finals, I’m going to pack and rush to the airport and finally go home. It’s something I would do in New York, but not Prague. I want to leave Prague knowing that I did everything I wanted to do. Also, lets be honest: When will I ever come to Prague again? It’s highly unlikely. As much as I enjoyed Prague, I don’t see myself visiting here in the next five to ten years. However, I have some other places I’d like to visit in the next few years. I really enjoyed Spain and would even consider living there for a year or two. Also, I wouldn’t mind living in London as well. I liked Spain because everyone seemed unpretentious and easy going. The city of Madrid was beautiful and I could see myself living there. I would learn the language and also work there for a year. It would be something I can look back at and be proud of. It’s not easy to drop everything and leave to a different country—like what I did back home. Deciding to come to Prague was last minute. I decided to go probably during winter break. Everything was chaos. I had to change my housing situation back at New York, sign up for classes abroad, and do everything last minute. Also telling my friends and family that I’ll be studying abroad was another painstaking activity. I think it was also a pain coming here my junior year. This year was supposed to be about internships, studying for LSAT’s , and finding a great internship for the summer. But either way, I got here and now I’m leaving. It’s a little frustrating because it feels like I just got acquainted with Prague, and now I’m rushing to pack and get ready to leave.
In my opinion, there is a place where everyone regards as their safe haven. My safe haven here at Prague is my dorm. As lame as it sounds, my dorm is someplace I’d regard as a comfortable and happy place. When I first arrived at my dorm, I actually thought it looked too bare and empty. The halls looked like an old hospital hallway—it was creepy. But when I entered my room, it was a drastic change. The rooms are massive. The ceilings have to be at least 11 feet tall with wooden floors and tall windows. The kitchen is my favorite park of the room. We have an island and a nice refrigerator with an ice dispenser! It was all too shocking because I imagined my dorm in Prague to look a bit shabby. However, NYU did their job and chose a decent place for their students. The neighborhood itself isn’t very ideal, but supposedly this area is “up and coming.” My dorm not only housed me and my roommates, but it also was a place where I was able to study and watch movies on the fourth floor. It is a dorm, yet it had so many additions. Such as the piano rooms, the music room with the drum and guitars, and countless study rooms. This dorm supposedly houses music majors during the fall semester. I’m glad that I chose this dorm because I feel that compared to the other dorms, I have more privacy. I like cooking from time to time because it helps me unwind and having our own kitchen definitely helps.
De Botton’s “Habit” is a familiar story to me. Not only do I share his thoughts on the subject, but also his stories. When he explained how one becomes accustomed to something, I agreed about how easy it is to for something to become a habit. When I grew up, everything seemed so trivial. It was either a routine, or maybe a slight deviation from the routine. And now I look back at those times and wonder why I ever thought those routines seemed trivial. I feel that human nature pulls these kinds of tricks all the time. We are never satisfied. I feel that we constantly look for something better or more exciting. Regardless of quality, we want novelty. It’s no wonder that novelty sells. Even in fashion I feel that a style goes out of style in a matter of weeks. Yet, probably in a year or two it will return. It’s inevitable that change is always desired and familiarity is avoided. My stay here at Prague has certainly been delightful. I would have never guessed that I would have so much fun here. I went grocery shopping today and while I was walking to and fro from the store, I realized that in a few days I would be leaving this place and probably never return. The thought of never returning to a place I regarded as my home for four months was unsettling. Though I am ready to go home, I also know that I will miss this place greatly. Even the little trivial things I hated to do, like walking across the bridge to class, will probably be something I will reminisce about at home. I remember my mom once telling me that habit is a scary thing. I never understood how scary habit could be until I realized that habit is something you have absolute no control of. Regardless of that habit being a positive or negative one, I understood what she meant about habit being frightening.
Open Letters: Vaclav Havel
The readings by Havel is poignant because as a dissident during the Communist regime and being blacklisted, he puts so much effort to help people. One of the essays, “Dear Mr. Husak,” Havel writes about a consolidated society, where the rich and poor are able to succeed and have equal opportunity. Dr. Husak was the general secretary of the Czechoslovak Communist Party and Havel writes an open letter to him. The open letter consists of scenarios about ordinary citizens that are suffering. Additionally Havel encourages Dr. Husak for a more “consolidated” and fair society. He also talks about the oppressors of society. The oppressors, being the past history for Czechoslovakia. He talks of how Czechoslovakia was marred and oppressed by the communist regime that no matter what the government does, the people of Czechoslovakia will be afraid and will never speak up and thus hinder the ideal society. I liked reading Havel’s letters because it not only brought up many communist references but also made me think about the great efforts of people like Havel who are able to change history. Havel was extraordinary because as a playwright, he was an outsider to the political world and yet made such an impact for Czechoslovakia. Even though he was blacklisted and probably threatened by the communist regime, he continued to encourage the Czechoslovak people and even criticize the regime for oppressing the people and demanding change. This got me to wonder how brave and self-sacrificing he must have been to have put himself on the line for his country. I cannot imagine a society where speaking about one’s country and leaders were a subject of threat and where one must always oppress your opinions. It is lucky and fortunate that we as Americans are able to do this and not feel pressured or afraid so do so. However, I think that America, though progressive, must always think ahead. Today we hear about the topic of gay marriage. Opposing gay marriage, in itself is wrong. I do not see why the government must dictate and approve of two people who care for one another must be banned from getting marriage. Regardless of sex, marriage should be one’s choice and the government should not be involved. It is a pity that Proposition 8 cost so much money to advocate and how the opposing side spent millions of dollars to campaign against them. All of that money could have been spent on something else. Whereas arguing about something we already know and should not even be arguing about is a waste of time and money. During the time of Vaclav Havel, where an open letter could impact so many people, I feel that America needs their own Vaclav Havel.
Honestly, this reading was a bit confusing. Was he trying to portray the existence of “front and back” realities? What does that even mean? In a sense, I can grasp his efforts of authenticity for tourists. That there exists a level of authenticity of culture for tourists in settings where tourists usually go. He gave an example of a hotel lobby, which is a front setting. Where this front area might be an ideal place to stage a cultural experience. Whereas the back setting would be the kitchen or other places for workers where the core cultural authenticity could be found. I agree that tourists get what they want to get. Meaning, tourists are not going to get the most authentic experience because well, they are probably going to do things that are specifically for tourists. And ultimately, the activities for tourists are going to be managed by those who constantly deal with tourists and will know how to deal with them and act in a certain manner. So of course, tourists are not getting the most authentic cultural experience. But will tourists ever get the authentic treatment? Probably not. But isn’t that what traveling is about? Doing things that you can’t do anywhere else? And unless you’re going to be at the destination for a longer period, it’s highly unlikely that you will be treated like a local and also feel like a local. Today, after being here at Prague for over four months, I still don’t get treated like a local or probably know as much as the locals do. I certainly don’t look Czech so it’s pretty obvious that I won’t be treated like one. And it’s not like I have a job, or am able to speak the language proficient enough to understand the daily life and culture of Czechs.
To understand and experience the culture, it’s absolutely imperative to understand their language. I do not know any Czech. Except for a few useless words. Thus, anywhere I go, I have no clue what’s going on. So even if I was in the front or back area, I would not understand whether it was authentic or forged. I think if tourists truly desire to understand and be in an “authentic” cultural setting, they should probably learn the language and on top of doing tourists-like activities—also go on excursions alone without any help. This way, you’re not depending on any tourist help, but only on your knowledge and the help of locals.
Reading this made me realize about the mental steps that are involved in traveling. Its interesting to read Botton’s approach at explaining traveling through different stages. Through anticipation, expectation, and realization. I believe I am one of the travelers that came without any expectations because no one I knew has ever visited the Czech Republic before. I think having no expectations was a positive thing for me. However, for Paris, I had a plethora of expectations. I saw movies and heard about how wonderful Paris was supposed to be. I expected this fabulous world that would fulfill all my expectations. However, to my dismay, Paris was not so great.
To be fair, Paris was fun and pretty. But it was just not everything that I had hoped for. And I believe that the only reason why I was so disappointed was because of my high expectations for Paris. I realized that the best way for traveling is to go with an open mind without any expectations. Sure, it will be inevitable to hear stuff about the place you are going to, but try to go without expecting too much. Going to Spain was a great experience for me. I heard that it was beautiful, but I had no real expectations. And I went to Barcelona and Madrid and absolutely fell in love with Spain. I think going some place and finding it unpleasant is really hard to do. Although I did not LOVE Paris, I still enjoyed my time and wouldn’t have left after a day. Because with each culture and country, it’s important to be patient and optimistic about your remaining stay.
I plan to study abroad this summer again and I’m going to go with an open mind and just hope to experience new and exciting things. I never overly plan anything so I wont be disappointed. But I’m sure I will have a lot of fun traveling around Asia. I’ve always wanted to go to Japan and Thailand. So hopefully I will go and have a wonderful time.
Final Thought: As I prepare to study for my finals, I can’t believe that the semester went by so quickly. I remember the day I left and how nervous I was to come here and spend a WHOLE semester here. But now I’m dreading to leave and saddened to leave my nice dorm, teachers, and of course friends. It’s amazing how quickly I adjusted to Prague. I am very glad that I chose to study abroad because I feel I’ve learned more about myself in the past months here. I wouldn’t call them epiphanies but certainly a self-realization. I feel that being here made me realize how much I enjoy traveling and experiencing different cultures. I love hearing and learning different languages and seeing how and why a culture is what it is. Being in Europe, I have a new found love for soccer. Also, I love how it’s so easy to go from country to country via bus, train, or airplane. Another realization I had is my ability to adjust relatively easily. I adjust easily not only to my surroundings but also to their culture. Also, my plans for the future seemed to have changed and altered in some way because of this experience. Before, I was fine with not traveling and seeing other parts of the world. I was happy in my own little bubble. I mean, occasionally I do travel around on vacation, but nothing to really immerse myself in their culture. However, now that I’ve seen a little part of Europe, I want to visit and really learn about other cultures. I’d like to go to South America, Asia, and the Middle East. After college I planned on pursuing higher education or get a job in the city. But now, my hesitation to join the peace corp diminished and now I’m determined to join as soon as I graduate. Another self-realization would be how fortunate and lucky I am to travel around the world with my parents support. As the semester comes to a close, I feel that I’ve gained many experiences that I will cherish and look back at in the future.Thanks Prague!
I thought this course was a great way to express my feelings in words. It was nice to sit down and evaluate my experiences and put them into sentences. I like that this course allows you to think freely and the course doesn’t restrain you with specific instructions and topics. However, this course gives you enough guidance and stimulates ideas for discussion. My only suggestion would be a new and different system of scheduling the blogs. Meaning, I’d like each blog to relate to each post and ultimately the 18 posts would be one big story. We could approach this by suggesting a guideline on the first post about the longevity of the posts. Perhaps each post could be related to each week or about one specific class he/she is taking and their evaluation of that class each week. I only suggest this because it could be interesting to see how a student learns and approaches new facts and information.
But anyways, I really did however enjoy this course and it encouraged me to go out more and evaluate people and my setting so that I can go back and write about it. It was also nice to read other students blogs and their trips around the world.
My advice to future Prague students:
Do not be lazy with traveling or any tourist activities.
My first month at Prague I must admit was very unproductive. I was homesick and did not like Prague thus did not do any tourist activities. And now that I am leaving in two weeks, I’m rushing to do all of them everyday on top of studying for my finals.
Secondly, once I got situated and comfortable at Prague, I lost ambition to travel around Europe. However, traveling too much in my opinion defeats the purpose of studying at a specific site. But also, I wish I’d gone to Slovakia, Budapest, and other countries that are close to the Czech Republic. And honestly, when will I ever go to Slovakia?
Another advice I’d like to share is getting to know more Czech people. Because while abroad, it is very easy to get sucked into the NYU bubble and just remain in the bubble at all times. Thus, it gets difficult to really interact with Czech people. I think it would be interesting to make a close Czech friend, where he or she could show you around to places where only locals go, getting a different perspective on Czech culture.
Another advice I have for future Prague students is to don’t underestimate your classes here at Prague. Although some classes may seem easier at first, surprisingly there is a lot of work for each class and don’t expect to slack off here.
Also, figure out your banking and financial stuff before hand and really make sure you know if you’re bank is a good choice to use abroad. For me, it would have been smarter to use open up a new account with a different bank that was more favorable to students studying abroad.
That seems to be it. Don’t be afraid to experience new things and go out of your way to do so!
Enjoy Prague and live it up to the fullest so that later you wont regret it! Good luck!