Living in Prague in the Czech Republic and traveling around Europe during the past Fall semester I encountered a unique opportunity. Purposefully losing my way in foreign cities, turning unfamiliar corners to reveal centuries-old buildings, wandering through places saturated with rich histories and distinctive cultures, I found myself on a constant adventure.
Each and every day had something new to offer, and something new to teach. Every city, country, town and village I visited provided me with original insights and unforgettable experiences. Each new place, similar, yet so different than the last, continued to supplement my small understanding of this huge world.
Traveling overseas I have put my perspective on perspective. I have taken my comfortable American outlook, traveled thousands of miles, landed in the heart of Europe, immersed myself in foreign cultures, and examined my point of view from an outsider’s perspective – over and over again. The results were life-changing.
School in the Czech Republic is, for me, set in a plain white building with a small red door that opens into a hallway with classrooms on either side and a small library upstairs. Perched above the city, within the walls of an ancient fortress housing a Medieval cathedral and a hole-in-the-wall sausage stand in the same vicinity, we attend classes and watch local citizens stroll through the nearby parks.
Classes conclude for the day during late Fall in Prague, and as the sun sets early and darkness creeps into the city lights begin flickering in the distance. As I walk towards my apartment from atop the fortress I feel small as I pass the enormous decorated façade of the Cathedral and as I turn right through an archway the illuminated city makes itself apparent. Something clicks and I can see the sights, even with my eyes closed.
Pausing, standing, now, admiring these sights before me I wait to descend down the staircase leading me home. To my left the Vltava flows without care and to my right yellow-hued street lamps glow on the descending steps before the staircase bends right and out of sight. In front, an entire city, twinkling after dusk, lies before me. High above the city and far away looms the Prague Castle, shining in the distance and watching over the buildings below. I think to myself in amazement: This is my walk home from school…
I speak unanimously for the peers who joined me abroad when I say that going overseas has given me a broader comprehension of our world. Each student, all coming from different places, brought with them a similar, intrigued mindset when leaving for our trip, and, as the days passed in Europe, we all found ourselves absorbing the newness of our surround- ings with an increasingly informed perspective. As we traveled, our perceptions adjusting and our mindsets shifting, we accepted the sights before us with open minds and wide eyes and an insatiable curiosity. We had no idea, but the way we saw the world was changing.
I have now arrived home able to call home a place far away from mine; a place with a way of life so similar, but simultaneously so different than what I had understood prior to my trip overseas.
Something I’ve realized upon my return is we are all – whether we acknowledge it or not – constantly attempting to find ourselves in the ‘grand scheme of things’. Listening and absorbing new information all the time we attempt to construct a personal outlook, and through this lens, this individually sound and inherently unique comprehension of our surroundings, we construct an existence distinctive to our- selves.
We create routines and schedules, we converse with students on campus and strangers in passing, we study unique combinations of classes and participate in different extracurriculars. Schedules arranged individually, purposefully, by each of us, become campaigns that outwardly define who we are. We become a product of our surroundings, our thoughts, and of our actions – and this is our perspective.
We carry this perspective with us like we might tote a camera with its own curiosities; capturing, moment by moment, scenes from the everyday that shape our point of view, later, through reflection, realizing the influential power that seemingly ordinary experiences provide us. Each day and every instance of feeling displaced away from home offers new opportunities for us to adapt and learn, to travel and reflect, to inquire and discover, and to experience and understand.
Going to unfamiliar places, around every corner is an experience waiting to redefine the way we see and think. Studying and living abroad, traveling through unfamiliar European cities, seeing the sights and hearing the sounds of far away places, consuming myself with this adventure for a short while, this thing we all are in a constant attempt to understand – our perspective – I found to be enhanced.
Living in a home far away from home, I truly have learned about my home; and that is the beauty of the world – each place is alike, but every place is new.