Last spring, I was lucky enough to stumble upon a study abroad program in Prague (with the Council on International Educational Exchange). Upon applying, I had no idea that I would be the only non-American student attending the program. Acknowledging this simple detail, I became a tad bit nervous. Okay, I’m not going to lie – I was really nervous.
It was already a big deal for me that I was staying in Prague for a full month in a country I had never been to, amongst a culture I had no clue about. But I was also going to spend it with 70 American students. The fear that I would be treated as an outsider since I was from the small middle eastern country of Lebanon and the fact that some people thought that the Middle East was a war zone desert was a bit overwhelming.
Luckily, I met a girl over Facebook from our program’s page who was half American, half Egyptian. I felt a sense of relief that at least one person was partially Arab and could speak my language. (To be honest, our dialects were very different and we would later laugh at how hard it was to understand each other sometimes.)
Study Abroad in Prague
Upon arriving to the Václav Havel Airport, I already felt homesick. I wanted to grab the next flight back because I felt so out of place. But all that soon changed. Everyone was very welcoming, from the program staff to the other students. Surprisingly they found it “cool” when they learned I was Lebanese; they had all sorts of questions to ask, and were intrigued and eager to know more about my culture, which was quite unexpected. They had no former judgments or bias, or at least that’s what they showed, and they always expressed interest in understanding other cultures, whether it was my own or the Czech culture.
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