Having returned to the United States, the way I function in relation to the rest of the world is completely different. I would consider myself a homebody who typically leaves the home to go to school or work but not to explore or be part of the community simply for the sake of being part of the community. I am happy to volunteer for specific events or dedicate time to activities that have set times, but I don’t generally go for walks in unexplored territory or further than a radius beyond a couple blocks of where I live. Dear Prague, you have inspired me to increase my footprint in the world.
As an adult student registered with Students Services for Disabilities, I think having that mark really impacted my view of myself and what I am capable of doing. I know that I have overcome a lot but due to the amount of time I have spent in hospitals or convalescing I am comfortable being indoors. Now that I know that I can explore the world, I am empowered to continue to do so. Dear Prague, you have inspired me to empower myself.
This week, for example, I spent time with one of my classmates from our study abroad program. We are both adjusting to life back in the States, and it was a beautiful connection to meet at home with a friend who lived a similar experience. It became clear to me that I can travel around the city at my will and that I am not limited to my little corner of the city of Chicago only going to campus to study or to a job site. Armed with a liter of water, my UPass, and supplies for the day I can spend a day out in the city of Chicago just as I did in Prague. Dear Prague, you have inspired me to live in a more worthwhile way.
My friend and I shared with each other that it was a bit of culture shock to return to the States and encounter common behaviors of Americans. From O’Hare airport and back to our neighborhoods, we traded stories of how we missed walking down the streets of Prague because the people we encountered had a quieter, more respectful, perhaps, demeanor. We laughed about how we can look at behaviors of Americans in the Lincoln Park or Lakeview neighborhoods and how those neighborhoods specifically cater to the idea of remedying hangovers. In Prague, however, Pilsner Urquell is a commonality but the expectation is that people enjoy their beers with friends and won’t require a “Hangover Smoothie” the next day. Dear Prague, you have inspired me to have a beer every once in a while.
My new-found feelings of limitless exploration and self-empowerment are perfectly timed as I extend myself into the professional world looking for full-time work. I have decreased anxiety about a commute to get to a new location and don’t mind the idea of visiting friends in different neighborhoods. The confidence I have gained from traveling is something that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. And because of my travels, I am confident that now my life will be more interesting. Dear Prague, you have inspired me to test my limits and look for new challenges as I continue to write my story.