American in Brno: Getting into Czech life

Waiting at the bus stop on my way to my dorm one day, I looked up to see if the bus was coming. What I saw was a strange man on the passing tram who spotted me, turned in his seat to face me, and then waved enthusiastically at me like we were long lost friends. All I could do was laugh and wave back. Well that just about made my entire week.

Here we go, back for round two in the beautiful city of Brno. I am Kaleah Mcilwain an exchange student from Philadelphia, USA. This is the second installment of my bi-weekly blog series on my experiences in Brno. 

Let's see what shenanigans I got into this time around.

Hello you too

My study abroad program at Masaryk University requires that I take a Czech language course so that I can learn to use the language while I am here. Better way to integrate myself into Czech culture and all that jazz. But honestly, three months to learn a language? I've taken four years of Spanish in the States and I'm still below basic at that stuff, so I'm just saying we gone see.

It may help that I'm staying in a city where everyone speaks 99 percent of the time in Czech, which translates into me understanding what people say zero percent of the time. Which people really do not get. I do not speak Czech. I had never even heard the language before I came to this country. But still Czech people talk to me in Czech as if I will suddenly catch on and speak back to them in Czech. It's flattering really, I mean I must be giving off this Czech vibe when people see me. That has got to be it.

But I have made some progress with the language. I can say hello, goodbye, thank you, and have a nice day. Plus I know the formal and informal way to say all these things. Ha! I'm on a roll here folks. I also know some other random words that are not helping me at all, like vegetable, tea, coffee, and student. Just miscellaneous things that was of no help when that guy behind the register in Tesco was yelling at me in Czech.

Or that one time when I decided one random moment (again at Tesco so I should have anticipated this fail a mile away) that I was going to actually use the language that I was learning. I had it all planned in my head.

I was going to say hello, the cashier would scan my item, tell me how much, I was going to hand her cash, then top it off with a thank you, goodbye and have a nice day. What actually happened? I said hello and the lady decided that it was a good time to have a conversation and went into talking a bunch of Czech that I did not understand. She ruined my whole plan. She did not have a conversation with any of the customers before me, but when I got there she wanted to be talkative. Shaking my head. I just smiled, handed her some money and left.

So much for my plan. Next time I'll give off more 'I'm American' vibes. Or learn more Czech... there's an idea.

A girl could get used to this

Studying at a university in Europe is quite the experience. I have been living the life here (mostly). I have six classes which is more like four because one of them is Pilates and the other one is my internship. Can you really consider working out and writing these amazing blog posts school work? Neither can I.

The best part is I only have each class once a week. Only once, not kidding. That is really a thing here, only seeing your professor one time a week. Whoever came up with that one please contact the United States and let them know that they are missing out. Do you know how much free time I have? Let me tell you.

So on Monday I have no classes so my life is amazing because there is something about the beginning of the week that just makes me upset. However, I go to my internship office on Mondays. Another requirement of my study abroad program is that I do an internship in my field of study. I am studying journalism and this semester I intern in the Press Office for Masaryk University, which is where the idea for these blogs was created. I love writing so the fact that is all I do on Mondays is fine by me.

On Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday I have one or two classes and I am always done by 3pm which gives me an ample amount of time to do my favorite things in Brno. Eat and go shopping! One Thursday I literally went to my one class then shopped for the rest of the day.

Homework? What is that? The work that I receive from my Czech professors takes only one hour or two of my time, max, sometimes not even.

Notice how I said Czech professors? Well there is this one American professor I have who in typical American professor fashion gives over fifty pages of reading each week and assigns things like five page papers, but I digress.

Unfortunately, that is quite normal for all your professors to do in America so I count myself lucky that I only have one of those this semester. The real question is how am I going to go back to American ways after experiencing such freedom?

It's the little things

So I gave that whole thing, not smiling, a try for a day. I felt like a horrible person. There is something very uncomfortable about looking someone in the eye with no facial expression, so I gave that up after the third person who looked at me. Sticking to my smiling ways. But there is hope for me yet in Brno. People have started to return my smiles. I'm growing on them!

But now there is the strange people I encounter who ohhh and ahhh when they see me which is very uncomfortable, kind of a compliment, but still strange. I walk away as quickly as possible, I will not go missing in Europe.

And I finally made Czech friends! Those people were right about that whole hard exterior soft on the inside thing. They are really nice people once you get to know them. Which is the case for most people you do not know so nothing new there.

My new friends have enlightened me as to why Wednesday is the party day of choice here. The logic is, Wednesday is the best day to get together with all your friends because people travel from say Thursday to Monday, most likely hungover Tuesday, and then everyone is ready to go out Wednesday and do it all over again. Funky pattern these folks have got going on here.

Do not think I did not notice how school work was not mentioned. That may have something to do with those Czech professors. This culture fascinates me. I like it.

Can I digress for a moment

My wins and failures in the Czech Republic.

Netflix/Hulu/Amazon Video: I was devastated when I went to watch my Netflix shows only to find that Netflix here is different. By different I mean they do not have my Netflix shows. All the shows I planned to watch, just gone. But there is a bright side to this sad tale. The movie selection here is actually better than the US so point goes to Czech for that one.

As for Hulu and Amazon video, I can not even watch them because they are not a thing here so yeah crushing my dreams one streaming site at a time.

Shipping: I am 4,276 miles from home. Of course there were things I forgot to pack. No problem, shipping and ordering online exist for a reason. I had all these hopes and dreams of ordering from Amazon, my favorite online site. You can feel my hurt when I went to order something and shipping fees were outrageous and Amazon Prime does not exist here.

Tiramisu: I have an obsession with Tiramisu. It's my favorite dessert on the planet, but the sad part is in the US you will not find it often unless you know where to go. Here in Brno, I find Tiramisu everywhere. I'm in heaven. I already know almost ten places in the city that have Tiramisu and I have tried five of them already. I'm living my best life here indeed.

Brno just gets better and better with time.

Here is where I leave you for now. What to expect next? Halloween is right around the corner and there is a hockey game that has people very excited and I have been told I should not miss it. We will see.

Masaryk university