I had so much more exploring to do. Yet I had done so much in my short time.
I’m yearning for the exploring Ioring I set out to do in a continent easily made for just that. There is little to explore in the small continent of my childhood home where I’ve always lived as opposed to the historic, rich Czech Republic where I’m supposed to be finishing up my semester right now. Prague sometimes feels like an old wonderful recurring dream that I hope to dream of again each night before I fall asleep. The only proof I have that I was there are the photos I took or that were taken of me.
However, that’s not true. I also have the relationships I made which feel more tangible than photos.
At a program which is confined by a short period of time such as camp, friendships are easily made knowing time is fleeting by both parties. Sometimes these friendships are superficial and the individuals are only able to scratch the surface of who the other really is. Other times you get lucky with the people you meet. Our Prague experience turned out to be the duration of a camp-like program but the relationships I made were made upon the agreement we would be building something long-term. Which means the relationships I have formed in Prague are sincere and genuine even though the time was cut off prematurely. These friendships were built upon this agreement that we would be in each others lives for longer, and I think our group of students, RAs, professors, and administration were particularly good which made these strong relationships easier to build.
I’m trying not to treat my abroad experience like a photo of a loved one I hold inside my wallet that becomes battered, the colors fading, the corners spiraling. We are not in the 19th century so I’m able to keep the experience pristine like a document backed up in two different hard-drives. Instead of mourning my experience I can maintain it by keeping the relationships I have made and by practicing what I learned from class.
When I look back to the beginning of my experience, I view it as starting at my embassy experience. I had a particularly difficult time getting my visa. I made four trips to the Czech embassy due to miscommunication and misconception (mostly due to the stupidity on my end.) Every time I went to the embassy, I thought to myself “this better be worth the trouble”. When no one checked my visa after I arrived in the Czech republic, I thought I might cry. I put so much effort into a bureaucratic system that seemed solely to exist to make my life difficult. When I returned to the states in the duration that would have allowed me to visit without a visa, I did cry. The visa that was, in the end, not necessary, felt symbolic of how I could have viewed my semester in Prague. I didn’t have to make the effort to leave the comfort of New York. In fact, it felt self-punishing to set myself up for a bigger heartbreak leaving my new-love, the Czech Republic. But what’s that saying used in cliche film moments? “Better to have loved and lost than never loved at all” and I hate being cliche but I gotta say the effort was worth it. The love for a country I just started to get to know wasn’t only surface level. Like the friendships that were made on the preconceived notion that they would be long-term, my experience in Prague was not treated like a 6-week fling but something akin to a powerful journey. My exploring was not rushed or forced. The experiences I hold will not be forgotten easily because I experienced them with great intention. It was worth the trouble.