After living and studying in Prague for four months, I am back home in the states. Leaving was actually a lot harder than I anticipated. I did not think the friends I made would become so important to me, but they are now some of my best friends. Over the last week in Prague, I hung out almost every day with a big group from my program (CEA). We went on a sunset cruise, played pub golf, and hung out at our favorite spots. It was a perfect way to say goodbye to Prague. Now that I’m back, it seems it’s been seconds since I left, but it also feels like I was abroad for years. There was definitely some culture shock when I re-entered the US. One of the first things I noticed was how chatty everyone is. While I was in the customs lines, random people would just make comments to other people and talk about trivial stuff, which I don’t remember noticing in Europe. It was also very weird to be in a place where English was almost exclusively the language being spoken. Everywhere I’ve been for the past four months, whether it be a grocery store or a bus station or an airport, I have mostly heard languages I couldn’t understand. Another thing I noticed was the health difference. Shopping for the first time in the US was eye-opening. Whereas the stores I shopped in Europe were mainly fresh food, the Walmart I went into had probably three-quarters of the food in cans, boxes, and plastic bags. Along this came a glaring health difference in the amount of obese people. In Europe, I did not see many grossly overweight people, but it is an obvious issue in the US.
For the first few days I was home, my mood was pretty low. I was happy to be home, but I was really missing Prague and the friends I made. It was a super special experience, and the bonds we made are unique and hopefully last forever. My friends in the states jokingly ask if I’m even coming back to school at Alabama or if I’m just going to visit Europe again and never end up coming home. I plan to continue school in the US, but I can certainly see the European appeal. Beautiful people and cities coupled with a completely different culture that I find to be healthier both mentally and physically have me asking myself why I’m not living over there. It will certainly inspire me to look at jobs outside of the US.
As I settle back into life here for a couple weeks before returning to Europe for the summer, I am so grateful I took the opportunity to study abroad. It set me back a semester of school, but the experiences I had and what I learned about myself and the world made it so worth it. I think I’m making the most of my youth and curiosity and hope I can inspire others to do the same. Perhaps the most important lesson I’ve come to understand is that home is less about the place and more about the people. Anywhere on the planet can be your home if you’re willing to explore and put yourself out there.