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Pre-departure Preparations

10 May

Hello Everyone!

Welcome to Studies 101!

I will try not to ramble, but I am long winded in my mind, and I really like to type. I like to learn too, so this is a dangerous format.

We are 3 days out from departure:

I have been meaning to create a thoughtful, meaningful introduction to this blog for two weeks. it has been on my to-do list at work and at home, but the free time has never come up.

The mental preparation, as well as the academic and physical preparations have been keeping me pretty busy!
Before leaving for the overseas journey, all students must participate in a courseload equivalent to that of a full term. This is a study program worth 6 credit hours, and while we will be extrememly busy while on the ground in Czech Republic, I understand the need for a structured acaemic setting as well. Our education system is based in metrics.

I felt a little underprepared initially, as this course is a mix of grad level students and undergrads. We undergrads are a bit outnumbered, and I can tell I am in the prescence of very bright people. Intimidating!

As I learned last semester in my Business Analysis course, looking at various data sets and drawing a quick, concise correlation between them is something I am only “slightly above average” in.  And I have to work for it.

This course has a lot of that

We are reading case studies about Hungary, Poland, Czech and assessing their political and economic environments during the 70s and 80s leading up to their respective revolutions. The what and why of the desire for a switch from Communism to a market ecoonomy is fascinating and something I, while not understanding it as well as I’d like at this given moment, enjoy discussing at home over dinner. Cam was always great with history, and he adds insights based in facts I have forgotten.

The academia aside, preparing for departure is probably more stressful for me than necessary. This will be the second plane ride of my life, and my first excursion out of the country. I have my passport copies ready to go, as recommended by our European hosts, I have contacted my banks, I am listing all the little things I may need for the 2 week jaunt, I have my traveler’s insurance, and I am checking the flight baggage lists for tips on packing your carry on and checked bags. (remove batteries from electric toothbrushes!) Sprint Evo unfortunately won’t work in Europe as it is on a GSM system rather than a CDMA. I don’t know what these things are, it just means your phone is only a really small computer if wifi is available. If no wifi, it’s a paperweight. No roaming charges, as no roaming can happen, but I’ll keep it in airplane mode just to be safe.

So much to know pre-departure, but as this is something those who call themselves “international citizens” deal with daily, it really isn’t that big a deal. Gotta keep things in perspective!

I am of course over the moon with excitement. I have been listening to some choice Czech phrases with  my language app, but mostly I have been brushing up on my high school German. Those two years are finally about to be put to use!

We had the privilege of speaking with Mr. George A. Novak, Honorary Consul General of Czech Republic  in class yesterday afternoon. He provided us with a personal recollection and history of the last Russian invasion during in 1968. He was able to leave with his son and fiance the day after the invasion and became and architect here in America.

He had so many stories; and his retelling some of the daily activities of youth in Czech made me begin to grasp the little differences of our peoples:

  • Opera houses, and music halls are very popular there. He said it was common for people to just stop in and listen for free to organists at church or at city hall. It isn’t something elitist, as often it is here in the States. I enjoy classical music, but the closest I usually get to it is through NPR or a school orchestra ensemble.
  • They have Name Days that are celebrated much like birthdays here. He said no one could remember birthdays, but names were easy so there was always a party at the office. We like his style!

I’ve done my own reading in preparation and learned some interesting tid bits:

  • They count differently. 1 is counted on the thumb. I witnessed this with one of our hosts during our Skype call.
  • Eye contact is important. At least business wise. If eye contact is broken and silence falls, you can be fairly certain you have said something that has upset them.
  • Drinking during meetings is seen as disrespectful
  • “No” is not something they like to say. It’s more of a beating around the bush “it might be difficult…” sort of language that indicates if something ins’t going to happen.
  • Apparently, visiting homes in the Czech is a very serious matter. It isn’t taken lightly here. No stopping by randomly after class. It’s a semi formal affair
  • weddings are just now entering into a stage of “American Grandeur” usually they are simple, at the courthouse with immediate family
  • Multilingual. This is where my German will come in handy! Mandatory education in English and an elective language of German, Spanish, others

I am compiling a list of social thing to accomplish while abroad. I am hoping it can become a sort of scavenger hunt with the group. Currently it includes things like:

  • mailing a letter
  • driving a car (this might be hard as I haven’t connected with the Hungarian coworker friend of Cameron’s as I had hoped—plus none in our group acquired the appropriate international drivers license.)
  • grocery shopping
  • library visit
  • visit a college campus
  • attend a gym (this has been a funny item that several of us have been asking about! We need our treadmills!)

If I can get others onboard with this social experiment, I think it could be fun . What things do we do daily at home that are a normal part of our culture? What can we try to do while abroad to immerse ourselves as much as possible in the cultural experience?

They left us with outdoor holiday brochures last night (the equivalent to a “visit the great outdoors” travel guides we might have at a rest stop here in Georgia) and now hiking is on my mental list of things to accomplish. But I may have trouble finding any of the others who want to brave the Jizerske mountains. ( they have ancient wooden cottages! Must see!)

The best advice I have received pre-departure:

“Take lots of pictures. But not of THINGS. Take pictures of YOU in FRONT of things.”

That advice will color this blog.

Be warned. You will see a lot of my face. 🙂

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