A Year Later

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A lot can change in a year. For most people, the new year starts on January 1st, but in 2018, my year started on January 30th. One year ago today, I woke up at the crack of dawn and boarded a plane to Prague, Czech Republic. Well, first I boarded a plane to Minneapolis, then Paris, and then Prague. Regardless, I felt like my new year and my new life started that day. 

Over the next five months, I fell in love with the city. I explored every cobble stone street, tried nearly every kavárna, and learned everything I could about the culture. I fumbled my way through conversations in Czech until I could order my coffee flawlessly. I walked everywhere until I could no longer get lost. Prague was my home.

I also met some of my best friends. We came from all over but we always found things in common. We traveled all over Eastern Europe together but those nights with all of us crowded together in our Vězeňská apartment are some of my fondest memories. Our tight-knit group was my family. 

Now we’re all spread across the world, from Oregon, to Louisiana, to Pennsylvania, to New York, to Prague. We talk as often as we can, but who knows when we’ll all be in the same place again. 

Coming home was hard. It felt like a breakup. My heart ached and my mind was thousands of miles away, lost in recent nostalgia. I would say words in Czech and tell stories from abroad but no one could understand. 

As time went on I adapted. I worked over the summer to keep myself busy, distracted from my homesickness for Prague and family difficulties in Walla Walla. It was a long, hard summer. 

Finally, it was time to start my senior year of college. Fall semester was a whirlwind of seeing old friends and adjusting to being back at Willamette. I had a full class load, worked three jobs, and wrote my thesis. Eventually, life in Oregon felt normal. 

Now as I sit here in 2019, one year after boarding that plane, I can’ help but reminisce about the past 365 days of my life. I learned countless new things, experiences so many new places, and developed deep, lasting relationships. It wasn’t always easy, in fact, most of the time it was incredibly hard, but I’ve grown exponentially. I will be eternally grateful for my study abroad experience and for all the people here at home in Washington and Oregon who made coming back easier. With graduation on the horizon, I’m excited to see what the new year has in store. 

travelBrelynn Hess