The Ohio State University
Office of Student Life
Buckeye Leadership Fellows Program
March 19, 2018 by
Olivia Adkins, member of BLF ’19 majoring in Public Management, Leadership and Policy, is spending this semester immersing herself in a culture that is a long way from the Ohio State University campus- in Prague!
Olivia chose to study abroad in Prague because she was interested in the political climate of the Czech Republic, the central location in Europe which makes travel more easy and affordable, and because she wanted to experience something fully different in regard to language, culture and history. Reflecting back upon this decision she states, “In my month’s stay, I have fallen in love with Prague and Czech culture and I can’t imagine being anywhere else in the world. Prague is a fairytale land full of castles, monuments of protest, cobblestones and pastries. Ultimately, I had a strong gut feeling when I was choosing my program abroad that Prague was right for me, and this decision has been reaffirmed every day that I live here.”
At first, the experience was overwhelming to Olivia. She has never been outside of the US before, and had no idea what to expect. Olivia is also from a small rural town in Southwestern, Ohio, and felt as though she was unprepared for the onslaught of culture, language barriers and new experiences that awaited her. She learned some Czech, got lost a few times and figured out how to navigate the Metro. Simple things like going to the grocery store prove to be moments of frustration for Olivia, but then on her way home she notices landmarks like a beautiful gothic cathedral older than the United States and she feels okay. After this past month, the country has started to feel like home for her.
Olivia is a student at Charles University in Prague, founded in 1348 AD. It is the oldest university in central Europe and drastically different from Ohio State. She completed an Intensive Czech course her first two weeks and now she is enrolled in a Czech Culture and Society, a Peoples of Europe history course, and Czech and Central European Literature and Czech Art and Architecture. She explains that the school structure is very different from the United States, “There are less formal requirements and harsh deadlines. The ambiguity can be stressful, in the US we are used to having a step by step rubric and clearly outline expectations. But learning seems more free form here. You are less concerned with getting every single point in order to receive an A and more focused on actually gaining information. It’s like relearning how to learn again.”
In her free time, Olivia goes to a café, orders the best cakes she has ever had in her life, drinks hot chocolate so thick it’s like caramel and reads or writes. Right now she is reading Milan Kundera’s The Joke, a Czech-French author from the 20th century. Some days if it’s not frigid out, she walks around aimlessly and notice busts, statues, memorials and street art that she has never seen before. She explains, “The city of Prague is covered in details and secrets that you won’t notice until you start avidly searching. I’ve also attended Don Giovani (the opera), a Prague professional hockey game, spend countless hours in museums ranging from communism to modern art and worked on my personal blog so my family members know I’m still alive!”
Olivia reflects upon her experience with gratitude, “The opportunity to live in a different country, a different culture, a different world is a tremendous privilege that I do not take lightly. It does not pass over me that 25 years ago, it was almost impossible for an American to study abroad in the Czech Republic as it was a soviet state until 1989 and did not accept international students until 1996. I now live in a nation that has seen more than its fair share of hardship, however, has still created a beautiful culture and life. Recent political events at home had made me cynical about the state of the US and as a public policy major I was questioning if it was really worth it anymore, what if nothing worked? Every day on my way to class in Prague, I pass a death mask of Jan Palách, a young Charles University student who set himself aflame in protest of the repressive Communist regime. The fight is worth fighting. And while there may be troughs in our history, it is still valid and good and worthy of the effort. One of our tour guides in my program is named “Z”, and he’s 79 years old. He has seen different regimes take over and had his world flipped upside down a time or two and he’s going skiing in the Swiss Alps next weekend. There is so, so much to live for people. That’s what I’ve learned here. That and I really love Pilsner Urquell.”