A Love Letter to Praha
Well it’s been a week and I miss you like crazy.
Six months ago I arrived all wide-eyed and afraid, simultaneously over-prepared and completely unready. Little did I know that I would be challenged in ways I never expected, experience things I’ll never forget, and make some of the best friends of my life.
Words can’t describe my experience. When I've asked friends who've returned from studying abroad how it was, they often gave non-descript answers like “it was great” and then let it drop. Now I understand why. How can I share all of my stories? How can I show how much I've changed? How can I explain my love affair with a city? The short answer is: I can’t.
I have hundreds of wild stories I could tell and inside jokes that make me laugh just thinking about. But even all of those stories and memories don’t capture the feeling I had walking down your cobblestone streets.
I went from not knowing a word of Czech to being able to get through a conversation, order in a kavárna, and check out in the grocery store without a word of English. Google maps used to lead me astray but by the end of my semester I knew every winding street and secret passageway. It no longer felt like I was traveling or studying abroad. Praha, you were my home. You are still the only place that truly feels like home.
When I think of you, I think of sitting on my bedroom windowsill on a quiet morning. I can still picture that spire right across the courtyard. I can hear the kitchen crew on the Home Kitchen patio below, chatting in Czech as they make fresh bread. I see the old man in his boxer briefs reading the newspaper on his balcony while his wife watered their hundreds of plants. That’s my Praha.
Everyone always warns you about the culture shock of visiting another country, but they rarely talk about reverse culture shock. I no longer feel like I fit in back in America. My worldview and everyday life have shifted so much that life back “home” doesn’t feel normal. I’m slowly adjusting though. I try not to talk about study abroad too much, I try to stop myself from using my Czech vernacular, and I try to hide how desperately I miss you, Praha.
In the Czech language, you don’t say that you love an object, a food or a place. Love is reserved for people. You can only say you like things. That’s one thing the Czechs got wrong. You can love a place. You can fall hopelessly, madly in love with a place the same way you can with a person. It can change you and make you a better the same way someone you love can. And it can break your heart to leave the same way losing someone you love can.
But this isn’t na shledanou, Praha. This isn’t goodbye. It’s just a see you soon. Because I’m coming back for you. It might take me a while to get there, but I’m coming back. So, teším se.
Miluji tě, Praha,