Category Archives: Study Abroad

Living and studying in the Czech Republic

It was back in fall of 2011 when a good friend of mine had just returned from a semester abroad studying in Los Angeles, California. Apparently he had the time of his life there and wouldn’t get tired of telling me about his exploits, student life and several side trips to sin city Las Vegas and Mexico. I know several of his peers who got tired of hearing his tales over time (maybe it reminded them too much about how boring their own lives were?) but not me! I couldn’t get enough from his stories and eventually I came to a decision. I had to study abroad for a semester as well!

I had never really considered studying abroad and knew virtually nothing about it, except from what my friend had told me. So I rushed off to university and stormed into the ERASMUS office. For those who don’t know – ERASMUS is the European unions organization which goal is to promote student exchange in European countries. It’s a network connecting universities to each other and as a student you can even get a little stipend if you want to study abroad.

The nice woman in the office asked me where I wanted to go and of course I had no clue. The only things I wanted from a guest university I wanted were a) a big city with interesting nightlife b) lots of sun and c) pretty girls!

prague

Since my timing was pretty bad and I was showing interest at a late time, most slots were already full! But there were still three partner universities available which came close to my wishes: Milan in Italy, Cyprus and Prague, Czech Republic.

I had already been in Prague 10 years ago on a field trip organized by my school and connected great memories with the beautiful city. So my choice was clear: I’m going to study in the Czech Republic!

Armed with some clothes and some basic sentences in Czech I hopped on a night train from Germany to the Czech Republic in February 2012. I arrived on a freezing cold morning the next day. How beautiful this city is!

My contact from Charles University picked me up at the train station and showed me the way to my hostel, which was located right off Václavské náměstí or Wenceslas Square. Talk about a central location! Of course I couldn’t wait to explore the city and spent all day and most of the night just wandering around Prague, getting lost in old town and of course sampling lots of the delicious Czech beer that flows like water in this city.

Soon after my arrival in Prague the semester started and I was introduced to my fellow students. I met great people from all over Europe and also the United States. Right from the beginning my exchange semester was a non-stop blur of various activities. There were pub crawls, ERASMUS parties, field trips to neighbouring countries like Austria and Hungary, visits to sport events like an ice hockey game of Prague’s own team Sparta Praha and of course gallons of Czech beer. Of course sometimes I had to attend university as well!

I could go on and on about my experiences in Prague, how I got a gorgeous girlfriend with blue eyes from Slovakia, how I rented an awesome and ridiculously cheap apartment from a French professor who needed a housesitter and how I found a gym where Jean Claude van Damme had trained in his heyday. But to be honest, I had so many great experiences and met so many awesome people that there is no way to cover even a fraction of it in this short article.

So instead I will just focus on what the experience did for me and how it made me grow as a person.

Pascal studying abroad

What I learned in my semester studying abroad was going with the flow and just throwing myself into unknown situations. Back home I would often stick to my usual routine and meet the same people in the same places. Living in Prague, I would just go out at night, hit a random bar and start talking to all kinds of people. This led to some amazing nights out and often times I wouldn’t get home before dawn and had made a lot of new friendships along the way. One night I would get drunk with Finnish film students until the break of dawn and the next I was hanging out with students from Vysoká škola ekonomická v Praze (Prague’s university of economy). Every day was like a new adventure.

I carried this attitude home with me and back in my hometown I still go out at night just, going with the flow, meeting random people and seeing where the night takes me. So if you have the opportunity to study abroad, go ahead and take it! It’s an amazing opportunity for students and you really don’t want to miss out on it.

Pascal

Pascal is a university student from Germany and spent 5 months living and studying in the Czech Republic's capital Prague. He loves to travel and is the founder of Travel Income Blueprint.

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My (Lack of) Study Abroad Experience

Many of my friends studied abroad in college. My best friend from high school studied in Spain. Several of my close college friends went to Costa Rica. Another close college friend went to London. A bunch of guys from Sigeps (a few thoughts on their migration to Balanced Man program) scattered themselves throughout the world.

Me?

I stayed in Seattle at University of Washington. When people find out that I didn’t study abroad, they are all beyond shocked — given how much of a travel addict I am now.

Looking back on it, I really have no idea why — though I can take a few guesses as to my reasoning. I had never traveled abroad before. I was “comfortable” where I was, with my friends. Staying put was the easy road. I was scared of the unknown.

When I first talked to Martin earlier this year, who has been helping us out a bit and already written on the topic of study abroad, I asked him what the study abroad community at Kalamazoo was like. To my surprise, he said something to the tune of…

Everyone studies abroad at Kalamazoo. If you attend this school, you’ve already made the decision that you want to study abroad.

How cool is that? Everyone studies in foreign countries? We need more schools with that mindset, and more kids who decide studying abroad is something worth doing.

I think it goes without saying, I recommend everyone study abroad if you have the opportunity. You’ll be exponentially better off over the course of your life if you experience other cultures with your own two eyes rather than just through the lens of the media.

And if you already missed that opportunity (like I did), there is never a better time to start traveling than NOW.

Drew Meyers

Drew Meyers is the co-founder of Horizon & Oh Hey World. He worked for Zillow from September of 2005 to January of 2010 on the marketing team managing Zillow’s API program and various online partnerships. Founder of Geek Estate Blog, a multi-author blog focused on real estate technology for real estate professionals, and myKRO.org, a blog devoted to exploring the world of microfinance. As passionate as you get about travel.

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Oh Hey World

Oh Hey World for the Student Explorer

One of the main reasons I joined the team at Oh Hey World was that I saw great potential for students traveling abroad.  As I’ve detailed in previous posts, I studied abroad in Strasbourg, France, and some of my favorite and most valuable experiences involved meeting European students with similar interests and aspirations in life and finding localized recommendations for things to do.  Oh Hey World makes this easy by facilitating connections with like minded travelers while keeping your friends and family up to date on all your adventures.  Here’s a brief guide on Oh Hey World for the student traveler.  If you have any questions or ideas, feel free to email me at martin@ohheyworld.com.

Oh Hey WorldStep 1) Set up an Oh Hey World Profile

This is easy and pretty self explanatory, enter any interests you want to pursue or talk about with fellow students; these can be anything from “German Beer” to “Ballet.”  Make sure to enter “student” and your study abroad program (if you’re the first one, you can make up a tag) as a quick filter for finding fellow students in your new home and staying in touch with those in your program.

Step 2) Create a welcome kit.

Once you’ve settled into your area, set up a welcome kit for other students of local bars, coffee shops, hang out spots, and places of interest so that other students will have a list of the best spots to frequent when they check into your city.  You’re going to develop specific knowledge of your city amazingly quickly that other students can benefit from. More info here.

Step 3) Invite friends

Oh Hey World is a network and it works best when that network is large.  Then, whenever you check-in to a new place, you will have a ready-made list of people to meet and places to check out as you travel.  Go to your profile, select “settings” and click on the find friends button.  Then enter the email address of a friend and send them an invite to the Oh Hey World Community.

Step 4) Check In

Whenever you travel to a new place (study abroad is perfect for a little extra-curricular travel), check in.  You never know who will be visiting or living in a new city until you check-in.  Moreover, Oh Hey World will point you towards students with similar interests in an area, making finding people and forming connections not just a perk of traveling, but a central part of the traveling experience.

Martin Bergstrom

Martin Bergstrom is a marketing intern at Oh Hey World. A recent graduate from Kalamazoo College, Martin previously worked in politics before making the jump to start-ups. He is particularly interested in changing the ways people interact with both each other and the world around them through technology.

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ParisianChillin

The True Value of a Study Abroad Experience: People

Study abroad isn’t really about academic classes. That isn’t to say that classes aren’t important, they are full of important information and knowledge, but that the most important experiences and insights of study abroad are found outside of the classroom; they come from the people you meet and the adventures you have. Study abroad is a time of personal discovery and exploration that should be cherished and embraced.

ParisianChillin

I spent the first semester of my junior year at Kalamazoo College in Strasbourg, France (here are a few tips for the area) on the East bank of the Rhine river. Strasbourg is somewhat of an anomaly in France, a country steeped in ancient history that is sometimes fiercely protective of its distinct culture and language, with its blend of French and German influences that defies easy cultural classification. Many of its citizens are fully bilingual in French and German and Alsatian (a low-German dialect with strong French influences) can still be heard in some older quarters of the city. Moreover, modern Strasbourg is both a university town, with over 50,000 students, including many international students, enrolled at the University of Strasbourg and several related colleges, and a hotbed of European politics as the home of the European Parliament. It was into this multinational, young culture that I stepped when I arrived fresh off the plane from America.

My coursework at the University of Strasbourg centered around European economic and political institutions and was both incredibly interesting and informative, but it was my life outside the classroom that shaped my European experience. Through an old friend studying political science in Strasbourg, I developed a network of European students and scholars who, like me, loved to debate politics, economics, and philosophy over the wealth of wine and beer Strasbourg had to offer. I spent many a night with these new found friends, loudly arguing about the finer points of governance, democracy, and the rights of man. My attendance record in school dropped, and yet I was learning so much about France, about Europe, and about how to form bonds with people in a completely new place and culture.

A year and a half later, it is these connections that have stuck with me and I am still in contact with many of the friends I made over shared drinks, aspirations, and interests. It is these connections that form the true magic of study abroad.

Despite my success in forming these bonds, such connections are not immediate. I was lucky in the fact that I knew a current student in Strasbourg and even luckier that this friend group shared similar interests and aspirations to my own. Even then, these connections took months to form as I was gradually introduced to new people and hang-out spots around the city. It is here that I see the true potential for Oh Hey World.

Oh Hey World connects people to any friends or connections they may have previously made whenever they check in to a new place or location. Moreover, Oh Hey World can connect users with other people in the area who share similar interests and experiences and facilitates long-lasting bonds of friendship and connection in a way that few social media projects have managed to capture. I joined the Oh Hey World Community several months ago and joined the Oh Hey World team this summer, because I see potential for both students like myself, and the larger world, to form bonds and make connections when traveling that would have never been possible before. I travel frequently and am always excited to meet new people with similar interests and experiences. So the next time you’re heading to a new place, check in; the first round’s on me.

Martin Bergstrom

Martin Bergstrom is a marketing intern at Oh Hey World. A recent graduate from Kalamazoo College, Martin previously worked in politics before making the jump to start-ups. He is particularly interested in changing the ways people interact with both each other and the world around them through technology.

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