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Kara Wilton 's Travel Blog
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University of Economics in Prague
Seeing the city, one spire at a time (Written Tuesday, February 14th, 2012)
02/16/2012 at 7:17 AM PDT

Seeing the city, one spire at a time (Written Tuesday, February 14th, 2012)
On Saturday we left at 11am sharp to go see the Prague Castle and other main attractions, as well as to go shopping for clothes. We took the tram to the subway, then another tram up to the entrance of the Prague Castle. From Prague Castle, we walked all the way down the cobblestone hill past shops (stopped in a Starbucks to warm up) and went on to Charles Bridge. The view from Charles Bridge was truly breathtaking. I think it is better to go to Charles Bridge in the winter, because I was told it was so packed with tourists when the weather is nicer. You can see pictures of Charles Bridge and pictures of the city, but they do not come close to standing on this bridge and seeing what I saw. It is incredible and if it hadn’t been so cold, I could have stayed there for hours. In a few weeks, when the weather is more tolerable, I will certainly go back to take another stroll. After the bridge, I found some modern art (and a free copy of the Prague Post, a newspaper on current issues happening in Prague written in English) on our way to the Astronomical Clock which was very complex and interesting, but we missed the hourly clock performance. We made our way to the Pallidium where I had a very interesting encounter ordering food… Anne took a Czech language class before she came here, so she was able to order her lunch in Czech. I have not yet started my language class, so I ordered in English. Every young person in the city center speaks English, whether they admit it or not. So the man sort of pretended to not understand me, and even though I asked for the same thing as Anne, I paid 25 Czk more for the same thing. It was not that big of a deal, because 25 czk is only about $1, but this what some people are like here. They take advantage of Americans because they think we are so rich and cannot stand up to them because we do not know the language. I would not call myself rich and incompetent, but in some ways I suppose it is true. My Czech buddy Jan gets very upset with this behavior because he does not want people to think that all Czech people are corrupt or thieves. I suppose it is all part of the economic development. The next day we finally sorted out the internet and I was finally able to call home. I spent all day in, with a short trip to Kaufland for more groceries, but I mostly talked to people at home. What was most exciting about Sunday was that Anne and I finally got to meet our flatmates! Ornella is from Toulon in Southern France and Wonda is from Taiwan. I feel like our room is now complete and we are all getting along quite well. The past two days have been filled with orientation meetings, which are long and draining, but we have to go to them. I have met many more people, from Greece, Canada, Argentina, Mexico, Spain, France, Australia, and all over. I think one thing I did not expect from this study abroad experience is how much I would learn about cultures from all over the world, not just the Czech culture. I have learned so much about the world by just being with other exchange students from around the globe. I think the culture experience of an exchange program is much richer than just living in another country because of the immense diversity among the student population. I am finally starting to get adjusted to my surroundings as things become more familiar. The Welcome Ceremony that I just got back from was really fun. They had traditional Czech dancers and singers which was quite entertaining to see the folk culture. Now everyone is getting ready for the big party they are throwing for international students. This weekend there is a trip for the exchange students to southern Bohemia and I start my classes next week and am very excited!
Chuck Norris in the Czech Republic?
02/13/2012 at 4:03 PM PDT

Chuck Norris in the Czech Republic?
Last night I dreamt that my mother and I were talking about my normal life back home. Then I woke up and it took me a few seconds to wake-up to the fact that I was here…in Prague. I looked outside my window, and saw buildings and trees all covered in SNOW! I’m definitely not in Tempe anymore. Jan and I finished more paperwork for housing and then to the police station. We succeeded at the police station for getting my documentation verified, but Jan had a less successful time. Jan was born in what was then Czechoslovakia. When he was three, he became Slovakian. He has been studying here at the VSE in the Czech Republic for three years. At the police station, he was told that since he was not a Czech citizen he also had to register here, or risk paying a fine. Jan said he thought that this was silly and also sad. He said he has the same birth certificate as any Czech citizen, but now he is treated differently. I was really interested to get his thoughts on this because this is part of the reason why I wanted to come to the Czech Republic. I wanted to come to an area that is changing and developing. I am not saying I enjoyed Jan’s disappointment, but I was certainly curious. So after the police station we again tried to get help with internet, unsuccessfully. Then we went back to my room where Jan, Anne, Laila, John, and I embarked for IKEA. Our mission was temporarily halted, because the machine to get the public transport tickets was not working very well because it was too cold. It was slightly frustrating, but we got enough tickets to get to IKEA and we could get more tickets at the subway station. To get to IKEA we took a tram to the Subway then took a free IKEA bus from the subway station. At IKEA we had lunch, I ate a fish dish with some sort of creamy sauce and then what I think was a potato and broccoli vegetable cake. I also had a soup, some bread, a marzipan covered Twinkie-esk dessert, and a drink. We went shopping and I got plates, mugs, towels, a better blanket, hangers, an alarm clock, a plant, and other essentials for a little less than $60. After IKEA we had to journey all the way back to the dorms (about 40-60 min). We had some time to take a breather when we got back then Jan and Anne (my Czech buddy and Estonian roommate—in case you needed a reminder) started making Chuck Norris jokes. What? I had no idea Chuck Norris jokes had traveled all the way across the Atlantic, but then again, should we expect anything less from Chuck Norris? Then we gathered our laptops because we heard of a pub nearby that had free wifi. I had my first half liter of Czech Beer with 10% alcohol content. I decided since it was my first, I should only have one beer. I also had a Panini so the total for one beer and one Panini sandwich came to a little over $5 (or 90 czk). The beer was 26 czk, so a bit over $1. At the internet pub I was able to look at my bank account, email, and the all-important Facebook. I was also finally able to submit my first blog post that I had written before my departure… That seemed like an eternity ago. I tried Skyping but that made me miss home more, since the connection was not strong enough to allow for a video chat, so the call kept dropping. I think it is harder emotionally to be so close to talking to someone who means to world to you, but losing the call than to not talk to them at all. To not miss everyone during the day, I have to put it out of my mind that I have left them behind, which is normally easy with so many things to do and see. I had to stop talking with them because it was too much for me to keep losing the signal. We left the pub, made plans for the next day; Anne went to bed as I sat down to write this. That is all for tonight. I probably won’t be posting for every day… just these first two days are jam packed with newness and shock, with so many changes that I have to adopt. Until next time, Ciao!
Oh MY LANTA! Where am I and what am I doing here?
02/13/2012 at 3:32 PM PDT

Oh MY LANTA! Where am I and what am I doing here?
So firstly I want to apologize if these posts are posted a few days after they were written. A lot has happened, but I have not had access to internet, so I have not been able to post anything. I am writing this post on Friday, December 10th for reference. Remember how in the last post I said I felt calm and normal… well that changed. After the plane landed, I looked outside the window and what did I see? FALLING SNOW. I am a Tempe native, and I can honestly tell you I have never lived in falling snow. The snow is going to be a huge adjustment. After getting my luggage, I found Jan, my Czech buddy. I am the luckiest exchange student ever, because Jan has decided that he wants to be the best buddy in the program that the VSE (acronym for Prague University of Economics) sets up for the exchange students. He speaks English incredibly well, and knows four other languages too. He is originally from Slovakia and he told me he was so excited that I was American because he wants to practice speaking English. We took the bus, subway, then tram to the student housing. Our buddies spoke to the hall managers in Czech and we just signed papers. Then we went up to my room which is on the 6th floor and met my roommate! Anne (pronounced like ahneh or ahnay) is from Estonia! She is getting her master’s degree in Finance. In the check-in process we found that I didn’t have pictures needed for my housing ID card. Jan said that it was written somewhere, but I have received so many different instructions, of course I missed reading the most important things. Then we first had our troubles with the internet. We had to go to Jan’s room in a nearby building to look-up where we could get pictures taken, John also needed his pictures taken, and where to find a converter so I could plug-in my computer to charge it. I got to briefly use the internet. Then we had to go back to my room where we met up with the other Americans I got checked-in with, John and Laila so we could go on our errands. We went first to the police station. I was not able to properly get registered at the police, but Laila and John were. I found out that here it is required to have insurance cards for a policy approved by the Czech Republic with you at all times, otherwise you risk getting fined. This was yet again some very important information that somehow was not communicated to me… Oh well! Then we were off to find pictures and converters more in the city center where there are more shops. The directions Jan was given were wrong, so the whole ordeal required a lot of running around the city in the snow very cold and confused. Eventually we were successful…By the time we got back to the dormitories I was starving and exhausted. Jan and I went to get dinner in a student cafeteria where I had fried chicken. The fried chicken was breaded and fried in a pan, not deep fried. I felt so healthy. Jan told me that it is very unusual here to have a meal without first starting with soup. I think I will enjoy participating in this custom, seeing as it is so cold. You know, with the snow and all. After dinner, we attempted to fix the internet again, unsuccessfully. After that we took the tram down two stops to the Kaufland which is similar to our Fry’s Marketplace. I found Honey Nut Cheerio’s, milk, honey, tea, a jelly donut, “earth water” (aka normal not mineral water), body wash, shampoo, conditioner, hand lotion, hand soap, toilet paper, and a shopping bag to carry it in all for 688 czk (around $38). I spent about $10 on just the lotion (a smart investment I think) and the donut was less than $0.25. I am giving all the prices to make the point that everything here is either cheap or reasonably priced, which I have never experienced in Europe before. We went back to my room and made plans to go to the police station first thing the next morning, with the correct papers. Anne and I chatted for a bit and that was my day! I cannot believe it, so much happened! Ciao for now!