In the last sixteen days, sixteen students have pushed themselves and been pushed to explore a country, culture, and their own personal experience doing both. We were conscious of our status as Americans, what that meant in each context of exploration, and when we wanted to highlight or hide that fact. We examined our clothing choices, conversation styles, volume levels, and identities as Americans and tourists. As we learned more about Czech culture, we also saw our lens shift to examine American culture. Every day we spent in this different country, watching normalization and assimilation occur in our own group, we were able to apply the questions we had for the Czech Republic to the United States.
Each person came into this experience with a different set of priorities and missions. At times, we clashed when our expectations for the group were not cohesive. Sixteen dynamic and very different personalities were existing together in an unfamiliar, challenging, and at times competitive environment. These clashes only cemented personal convictions and questions surrounding our experience. For some, they found a routine that worked for them and stuck to it. For others, they explored and hunted down unique sights and locations. Some came prepared with a check list and notepad to absorb the most they possibly could from each location. Others utilized public transportation to go outside of their comfort zone and aimed to be as Czech as possible. Each path allowed us to find our group of like-minded people, explore the country, and answer the questions we had for ourselves.
Outside of the cultural opportunities of these two weeks, we were given the tools to make travel and long term abroad experiences more than just a once in a lifetime opportunity. We were given tools, ideas, connections, and the ability to continue traveling, continue exploring, and find ourselves in a world where we don’t just take a trip to the Czech Republic once, but we continue to research the world around us and become global citizens. Meeting with Susquehanna alum currently living abroad, getting concrete tips for how to make it a reality for ourselves, and how to navigate an unfamiliar country and culture with as few international disgraces as possible is far more valuable than a single trip. These components; outside the tours, cafes, performances, and struggles, will ensure that these two weeks become more than just sixteen days. We have been prepared to continue questioning our surroundings and gaining more perspectives to enhance our understanding of the world.
Thank you, Susquehanna, for this opportunity, and a big thank you to Dr. Ed Slavishak and Dr. Anna Andes for preparing and pushing us to be more than just tourists from America.