Třetí Týden v Praze (Week 3 in Prague)

Week 3 in Prague was really busy, but an awesome trip with my Slovak friend Barbora, and U.S. friend John, capped off the week on a high note.

From the beginning to middle of the week, I had to finish the last of my old university (MSOE) homework, which involved submitting the last of four computer science homework assignments, as well as taking a discrete mathematics final.  Finishing this work, along with attending my ČVUT lectures and seminars, and attending more international student meetups was both fun and tiring.

Friday morning, though, my friend John and I joined our friend Barbora for a stay at her home just outside of Bratislava, Slovakia (thanks Barbora!).  Staying at the home of locals was both awesome and awkward.  It was awesome, because Barbora’s family was way more hospitable than me or John expected.  It was awkward at times, though, because her parents knew only a few English words here and there, so all dialogue was translated through Barbora.  In Bratislava, we saw a KHL game Friday night; the fans were crazy about the Slovan team.  I don’t think there was a 20 second period of time uninterrupted by a well-known cheer.  Surrounding the KHL game, our experience was focused on seeing the town squares of Bratislava, the castle, and the UFO in Bratislava.

Thanks for reading!

Employers are Beyond Grades

I stumbled across an interesting quote at the end of an article sent to me by my mom today:

The world only cares about — and pays off on — what you can do with what you know (and it doesn’t care how you learned it). And in an age when innovation is increasingly a group endeavor, it also cares about a lot of soft skills — leadership, humility, collaboration, adaptability and loving to learn and re-learn.

Now, obviously, this argument doesn’t hold water in every labor market — such as that for medical doctors — but for an increasing number of fields, like technology, professional management, business, this theme in hiring seems to be on the rise: what have you to offer besides your good grades?

Škola, Čištění, Žádné úsměvy (School, Cleaning, No smiles): Týden 2 v Praze (Week 2 in Prague)

Week 2 Photos; More to come

Week 2 in Prague was admittedly less exciting than week 1.  I knew it would be hard to replicate week 1 for a couple reasons:

  • week 1 had planned activities (parties, trips, etc.) almost every day
  • I had to finish two assignments and complete two exams for my other university, MSOE, which has bled into week 3 as well

A brief synopsis of what happened in week 2:

I started attending classes this week:  I have two “technical” courses (a programming course and a course in operating systems) as well as an introductory Czech Language course.  This light course load is perhaps the best benefit of completing two trimesters at my other university before coming to CTU; I can focus my time here on taking in the culture, socializing with fellow students, and perhaps complete a side project which has been devoid of my attention for too long.

The beginning of the week was devoted mainly to finding my classrooms, meeting up with Czech friends whom I met when they visited my home university, and meeting new people at various hosted events throughout the week, namely a Czech culture presentation/party hosted by the international student club.  

The second-half of the week  had an emphasis on school work and cleaning/getting settled in to the dorm.  I had to finish school work from my other university, because I left three weeks before the end of our second trimester in order to com here.  I had to take a math exam and write a group chat application (similar to the old AOL Instant Messenger, but a much lighter version), and have yet to complete one more exam and computer science assignment due the upcoming week.  The other big event at the end of the week was cleaning.  We cleaned the hell out of our common dorm area (it’s similar to an apartment with three bedrooms) and got rid of all the rotting food and other unpleasant items which made the place feel less livable.  This cleaning was inspired by a flat-mate of mine from the Netherlands whom I met for the first time this week.  

That’s about it for week two’s highlights; though, I’ve noticed other interesting cultural differences.  For instance, people are usually only smiling when they’re genuinely happy or amused.  I’m used to the notion of the “polite smile” which you generally wear when you meet someone, pay for groceries, etc. in the U.S., so that’s a bit different for me.  Another related cultural difference is conversations with strangers:  they don’t really exist here.  I think that people from the U.S. are generally much more open to have a conversation with someone they don’t know at all.  

Thanks for reading and following the adventure!

Mluvíte anglicky? Nemluvím česky…. (Week 1 v Praze)

Most links below will be to albums of photos I took.

Last Saturday, I packed my bags for a 13 hour flight from O’hare airport in Chicago to the international airport in Prague to study abroad for 5 months at CVUT (or CTU), located in Prague 6, Czech Republic.  I am doing this trip with 6 other students from my home university, MSOE.    

This has been a week of quite a few firsts.  I have had my first plane ride, first step in a new country besides Canada (which was only a trip to Niagara Falls, for one or two nights), first trip to another continent, among many others associated with going far from home for the first time.  

Let’s begin with the flight.  I don’t know how you felt (or will feel) on your first plane ride, but I was fine 98% of the time; the other 2% of the time (takeoff and landing) was spent hushing the voice in your mind that knows you’re completely capable of falling in the tiny percentage of plane crash incidents*.  I was actually quite impressed with the flight experience.  It was pretty comfortable, and I was fed dinner and breakfast on the 8 hour flight (Am. Airlines) from Chicago to London; I was also fed lunch on the 2 hour flight from Britain to Prague. 

After getting off the plane, grabbing our luggage, and officially making it into the country by showing passports and visas, we were greeted by our awesome “Czech buddies” (students who volunteer through ISC to take an exchange student 1-on-1 for the first few hours in Prague to help the students get accommodated at CTU).  They took us from the Prague airport to Maskarykova dormitory, which is our living accommodation.  They also helped us setup our documentation so that we could get registered at these dorms and with the school.  Finally, they treated us to Czech cuisine and a beer for our first meal in Prague.

The next few days in Prague consisted of meeting many students doing the same as us, studying abroad, from all over Europe, Asia, and North America in a series of games, trips, and parties hosted by ISC (international student club through CTU).  The most notable of which include a “Prague Discovery Game”: we found land marks around Prague to earn points; an integration party: all the exchange students meet for dancing and interesting ice-breaking games; various trips around the Czech Republic to notable locations outside Prague:  I was only able to sign-up for a day-long trip to Terezín (a concentration camp) and Mělník, because the others were sold out.  It was quite moving to see some of the holocaust remains in the museums near Mělník; some drawings from the kids looked like drawings my little brothers could have made.  

Overall, the week was awesome, and Prague blew me away.  The city is beautiful, and life here is pretty nice.  The biggest differences I’ve noticed are the use of transportation (it’s safe to take everywhere in the city and everyone uses it) and the pace of life, which is generally s l o w e r than what I’m used to in the states.  There were also parts of my first week’s experience which weren’t so enjoyable.  For instance, I’m quite ignorant to world issues when compared to the knowledge of most Europeans.  It’s also hard to find a free public bathroom outside the mall.  That’s all for now; thanks for reading! 

* the statistics show that one is much more likely to have a fatality in a car than on a plane, on average, and I’ve personally had worse luck with cars, as it would turn out.