Arriving in Prague was a complete whirlwind! I flew into the city with my roommate, Josie, and thankfully, our Czech buddies greeted us as soon as we got through the gate. It was really nice to have someone to help us find the way to the dorms with all of our stuff, especially since we had no idea what any of the signs were saying.
Arriving in Prague:
This is my first time living away from home; so moving into a dorm was an exciting but new experience for me. When we arrived at the dorm, we first had to check in, at which point we realized that the attendants were not necessarily fluent (or competent) in the English language, so we struggled a bit there. Our buddies helped us to get set up and then it was time for us to go and look at our new home! The dorm that we are in is much nicer than I expected, so I’m quite pleased with it. Our room is the second biggest in our flat – complete with two beds, wall shelves, two desks and bedside tables, and three closets. On the whole, it has been quite a nice place to live, but there was definitely some cleaning that did need to be done. The setup of the flat is three rooms, each with two occupants, and then a communal ‘kitchen’ and bathroom. I use the term kitchen loosely here – if you expected to have a fully functioning kitchen, you would have been sorely mistaken. There are two burners, a sink, and a bar fridge. The fridge has to be my biggest complaint, since it is so small and there are 6 of us trying to store food in it. The kitchen didn’t come with any dishes or appliances, so we had to purchase all of that. Also, there were no towels or anything like that provided, so we had to purchase all of that as well. As you can guess, our first day was spent doing an IKEA run. We also ventured to Kaufland (the supermarket) and successfully did our first grocery run! That was an extremely frustrating and difficult procedure, but once we had done it once, we became experts.
Our flatmates are all really nice! We live with two French girls, Leo and Maite, and two Americans, Holly and Ashley. It has been a new experience for me to get used to living with other people and having to work around everyone’s schedules. For example, sharing one shower and bathroom between 6 girls is a new challenge, but we have gotten used to it. On the whole, it hasn’t been too bad.
Injuries While Abroad:
About two weeks into my exchange, I had an accident and fell about 6 feet or so, landing on the side of my foot. Instantly, I was unable to stand on it; although, I thought that I had just badly sprained my ankle and that I would be fine in the morning. After my friends and I were in a cab on the way home, I realized that it was worse than I had originally thought. We asked the driver to take us to the hospital, which was a struggle in itself, since he didn’t speak English. Unfortunately, earlier that night I had left the majority of my belongings, including my purse and phone at home so I wouldn’t lose anything. I did not have any proof of medical insurance with me, and the hospital refused to help me until I could produce the document. My friend had to go back to the dorms and get my stuff so that I could be seen. As soon as she came back, it took about 5 minutes for me to get x-rays and return to the waiting room. The doctors that were there spoke enough English to help me to understand what had happened to my foot and what I was going to have to do. I had broken my fifth metatarsal (the bone running down the outside of my right foot), and severely sprained my ankle. I was going to need a cast and crutches and was not to put weight on it for several weeks. It was quite a traumatic discovery to learn that I was going to be in a cast on my exchange, but it ended up being much less awful than I anticipated. I was even able to find a service in Prague that let me rent a wheelchair – the girl even dropped it off at the dorm! However, Prague is not particularly wheelchair friendly, so be forewarned.
The next morning, I realized that I had left the soft copy of my x-rays at the hospital, so I got my buddy to take me back. This time, the doctors were quite rude and did not speak English; I was eternally grateful that my buddy had come with me. I guess the moral of the story is to play it safe if you ever need to go to the hospital abroad. Bring government issued ID, a credit card, and proof of insurance. Also, try to bring someone who speaks the local language with you.
It has now been 5 weeks since I broke my foot – I can walk normally and it has hardly slowed me down at all. I have visited four countries (aside from the Czech Republic) in the past month, and I have to say, my cast has been a great conversation starter, and it has helped me to make many new friends. I guess everything happens for a reason, right?
Travelling from Prague:
There are two things that have surprised me about traveling in and out of Prague. First, there are hardly ANY discount airlines that fly out of this city. Second, there are a lot of buses that drive out for fairly cheap. The central location of Prague does make it an ideal starting point for many weekend trips; even to fly to Ireland is less than two hours. The majority of students here take weekend trips, so here is my advice:
I think that many people come to Eastern Europe with the impression that trains make travel very easy and inexpensive here. Unfortunately, these people are mistaken. While there definitely are some high-speed lines, very few of these run in Eastern Europe, making most journeys take a very long time. Additionally, trains do not run directly between two places, and cost a lot of money. For example, I took a train from Prague to Zurich, and it took almost 15 hours, stopping all over the Czech Republic, Germany, and Switzerland before reaching my destination. However, I would like to mention that if you don’t mind sleeping on trains/buses, doing overnight routes can be a good alternative, since it saves you money when booking accommodations as well.
Particularly from Prague, buses are probably the easiest way to travel. Many companies such as Eurolines, Polskibus, Student Agency, etc. all go in and out of Prague to various destinations around Europe, and the main train station is quite close to the dorms (about 10 minutes by public transport). Student Agency is by far the most popular, with buses providing outlets, free wifi, free hot beverages, and personal televisions when you travel internationally. Again, buses are a slower form of transport, but it only takes 4 hours to Bratislava, 5 hours to Berlin, and 7 hours to Budapest on the bus from Prague. A word of warning though – overnight buses to Krakow may have a layover in a grocery store parking lot, in a small Polish town, from 10pm-3am – not the best surprise.
As I mentioned, discount flights are hard to come by out of Prague. Ryanair does fly to Prague, but not frequently, and only from Dublin and London. Other companies such as Wizzair and EasyJet also fly out of Prague, but I have yet to find very cheap flights. I recommend sites like edreams.com, skyscanner.net, or drungli.com to help find cheap options for the weekend. Remember to book flights in advance to get cheaper prices.
There are a lot of options for trips from Prague, and I would highly recommend exploring Europe while here. My last piece of advice is to make sure that you explore the country you are living in too, because you will want to remember for the rest of your life. All in all, life in Prague has been a great time so far, and I’m really glad that I chose to live here. Even though there have definitely been some challenges and changes that I have had to get used to, it has been completely worth it, and I wouldn’t change this experience for anything!
Submitted by Erin Langill
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