All it takes is the tiniest reminder and my head and heart rush back to Prague. The cultural differences that I still pick up on. The pictures on my wall. The crowns that I am still finding everywhere.The sound of my sneakers pounding on the pavement on my runs around campus. The familiar lyrics of Wagon Wheel or My Baby Blue. And the memories that are constantly replaying in my head.
I long to be in Prague for just one more day. Feeling the way I did when I was there. Like a puzzle piece that had finally found somewhere to fit perfectly. Spending an afternoon in Choco Cafe with no real responsibilities. Running around Malastranna and visiting the peacocks in the park. Climbing to the top of Petrin Hill and gazing out over the beautiful city. Or standing at the edge of Letna Park feeling like the whole world is at my feet. Riding the metro everywhere. Hearing Czech all around me. Cramming into the Sara(h)s room for Monday night dinners.
Before I left, I wrote a letter to Prague, pouring my heart out. All my doubts about going, everything I was scared of and worried about along with everything I hoped to gain from the experience. I sealed the letter, wrote do not open until May 22nd, 2010 across the back and stuck it in the back of my journal. That letter traveled all over Europe with me, still sealed. I only just opened it now. I haven’t been able to open it because that meant that Prague was really over. And as much as I hate to admit it, it is over. I will never go back to Prague with all the same people under the same circumstances. I am so blessed that I did get experience something as unique as studying abroad in Prague. Everything I wanted, I got and more. Every fear I expressed in January, I overcame.
The part of the letter that struck me most was the ending sentence, “Prague, you are where I am supposed to be.” Its hard for me to wrap my mind around the fact that I was absolutely dreading going. I remember telling myself over and over again that I was supposed to be going, there was a reason I had gone through the whole application process and gotten all ready to go. Despite constantly saying that to myself, I almost convinced myself that I was not supposed to be in Prague. I am just now realizing, I was always meant to go to Prague.
Transitioning to life back at back in America has been far from easy. The first few days, I was shocked to hear English. Going into a grocery store for the first time was almost as overwhelming as my first time in a Czech grocery store. Eating in restaurants is so different. Reverse culture shock is worse that culture shock. Coming back to Assumption hasn’t been as easy as I thought it would be. People say things don’t change when you go abroad, but they forget to mention that YOU change. I am struggling to figure out how to fit back here. Getting thrown back into the most intense forms of student leadership not even 2 weeks after I got back was one of the hardest parts of readjusting. Walking around campus still feels strange. Like I never left, but also like I’ve been gone forever. I sometimes forget I missed a whole semester here and I expect things to be just like they were when I left last fall. People who I find memories of around every corner, aren’t here anymore. Things have changed.
The other day, I sat in the middle of the back seat of a red Volvo surrounded by my best friends and for just a second my mind wandered back to Prague. For one second I allowed myself to wish I was there. But it suddenly hit me, without the people surrounding me now, I would not have made it in Prague. The constant emails, the letters, the packages, the skype calls got me through those 4 months and it was only with their support that I made it. They are the reason I was strong enough to go to Prague in the first place and without their constant encouragement, I would not have had the chance to grow and change like I did. I would not have fallen in love with the most beautiful city in the world. I realized that as much as I long to be in Prague, the second I left Worcester again my heart would be aching to be back. There’s no winning. That chapter of my life is behind me and it is time to move forward to the next chapter.