By Helen Fernandez
One of ORANGE’s writers, Helen Fernandez, spent a maymester in Prague. In this review of her study abroad trip, Fernandez gives ORANGE a synopsis of her experiences and what one should expect studying documentary photography in Prague. All of the photos in this article were taken by Fernandez during her trip.
“I just got back to the states after spending a month abroad. If you’re thinking about studying abroad, but you’re still looking at your options, allow me to introduce you to Prague: Documentary Photography.
Prague was different. It wasn’t what I expected. I arrived on a rainy afternoon after traveling for more than 15 hours. I waited inside our apartment complex for the program coordinator to give us keys to the place. Slowly, the rest of the students started arriving and filling into the rooms. There’s four people per room and you most likely won’t know any of them. I got really lucky with my roommates because we got along great and enjoyed each others company. Our apartment in Prague looked like an IKEA showroom. It was great. It was familiar.
The first thing you notice about Prague, besides the horrible weather, is the architecture. It really is breathtaking and at night it feels like you’re inside a postcard. There are several gorgeous cathedrals, theaters, and synagogues. The Prague castle only adds to the feeling that you’re in a fairytale town.
The locals in Prague are referred to as Czechs. These people could be considered the complete opposite of Texans. They clearly don’t enjoy tourists, which is understandable, because who does? Unfortunately, I was a tourist in their city, and for a long time it seemed like I would never be able to blend in.
We were advised to be quiet on public transportation because Prague is known for pickpockets who prey on tourists. Traveling with a group of 16 American girls can make this a very tricky task. Not to mention, because we were on a photography maymester, we were also carrying chunky DSLRs around our necks. Therefore, we couldn’t try to look more like tourists, even if we wanted to.
The food in Prague isn’t too hard to grow accustomed to. It’s just like having a Thanksgiving feast for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Fortunately, if you’re into Vietnamese food, Prague has tons of Vietnamese restaurants all over town. For the less adventurous eaters, Prague is also a very popular tourist destination, so if you’re desperate for a burger, you can find one without looking too hard.
I can’t write about Prague without mentioning their love of beer. You can walk into any restaurant and get a pint of beer for less than a bottle of water, or a glass of pepsi. It makes for interesting dinners when you’re a college student on a budget.
Prague was an eye-opening experience, to say the least. I could easily say that I visited every museum in the city. I learned about things I never paid much attention to (i.e. architecture). Prague itself has a lot to offer. You’ll learn about the history of Prague, Czechoslovakia during communism, the Holocaust, Czech artists, and of course, photography. That camera of yours will be by your side more than your smart phone, believe it or not.
Another thing — Prague nightlife doesn’t disappoint. It’s a big party city with great bars and cheap drinks. Expect to meet people from all over the world. I mostly met students from Australia, Mexico, India and California. It’s pretty awesome meeting people with so many different backgrounds and stories.
Prague requires a lot of walking, too. You will do most of this walking in the rain. You’ll make new friends, but don’t expect to meet tons of friendly locals. There won’t be much free time if you enroll in the Documentary Photography maymester course, but you’ll be able to say you had one of the most intellectual summers you’ve ever had. It’s important to visit Prague with an open mind. It can be very foreign to someone who’s never been abroad before. If you choose to visit this city next summer, you’ll be taking on a summer full of art, beer, rain and amazing experiences. Prague is unlike anything else in the world.
On that note, I would definitely encourage you to take a trip up to Prague and experience this all for yourself. I hope this gave you a little bit more insight on what this maymester has to offer. In the end, it’s all about research and finding something that fits the study abroad experience you’re looking for.”