Category Archives: External Programs

Edinburgh

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Edinburgh

On Easter Monday, Anna and I left our hostel in Paris early in the morning. We had to take two metros to get to Charles de Gaulle airport. We were going to Edinburgh to meet my friend Caitlin McGrory who studied a whole year at the University of Edinburgh. We had a 7:10AM flight and made it on time. The flight was smooth and fast, though surprisingly I slept for almost the entire flight. My mistake, I did not tell Cait when we were to arrive until boarding and then she realized how little time she had until we came. She arrived to meet us at the airport, taking a double decker bus to the airport. I thought it was so cool that the city uses these buses throughout the whole city. We took one of these buses and of course I had to sit on the top floor. She took us for a walk and brunch in Old City. We saw Old College, made of beautiful and dark limestone in Georgian style. She took us to the Royal Museum of Scotland, which is free to all visitors. I particularly liked the fashion section that chronologized haute couture fashion of the time from the 18th century to the present. We walked through an old cemetery  and heard bagpipes – it felt so Scottish! I had to go and see the bagpipers up close. I really enjoyed seeing the joy these people had playing the bagpipes and the immense effort and skill needed. After that, we saw the Edinburgh Castle, where we saw panoramic views of the city, including the bay of the North Sea called the Firth of Forth. On our way back, Cait saw a woman with an owl and she told me how much she loved owls. I agreed to take pictures of her with a small female owl. She was in heaven holding and petting this owl. She then took us to Saint Giles’ Cathedral, which was a former Anglican church turned Presbyterian during the time of John Calvin. It reminded me of Anglican churches I saw in the past, but also resembled la Cathedrale Saint-Pierre in Geneva, Switzerland. Inside the cathedral is the meeting space for the Order of the Thistle, a Scottish order of chivalry whose members include the queen, other members of the royal family, and descendants of nobility. In the late afternoon, we took a walk in the Meadows, a large open park comprised of a large green with paths and benches. That night we had dinner and went to a bar to hear live Celtic music.

Our second day in Edinburgh was focused on conquering Arthur’s Seat, the peak of the mountains overlooking Edinburgh. We walked by Hollyrood Palace on the way where the queen stays on our trips to Scotland. The hike was very exhausting, but the views from the top of Arthur’s Seat were stunning. We could see the entire city and surrounding areas, including the Firth of Forth and the seaside towns like Portobello which we would visit later that afternoon. On our descent we stopped by Duddingston Loch where birds of all kinds dominated the area: geese, ducks, swans, and seagulls. We then took a quick stop at Scotland’s Parliament building. The parliament was in session so we weren’t able to see the chamber where they meet, but nonetheless it was neat to see where Nicola Sturgeon and other MPs meet day in and day out. For lunch, we ate at the Canon’s Gate Restaurant, where I ate fish and chips and Elderflower Liquer, which is particular to Scotland. From there, my goal was fulfilled when we took a bus to Portobello. I told my friend Caitlin that my special request for this trip was to see a beach in Scotland. As I fulfilled her request to see the French Alps when she visited me in Lyon just two weeks before. Portobello is just a twenty minute bus ride. It is a small Victorian seaside town. Seeing the ocean had such a calming effect on me and put me in a joyous mood. We took a walk near the water and down the beach, until we found a restaurant where we wanted to get some drinks and appetizers. It was such a great experience to sit there and see the beach while eating nachos and talking about our experiences. We took the bus back to Edinburgh and saw the city at night from Calton Hill. Our trip to Scotland was almost over and I commend Caitlin for being such a great host. The next day would be our flight to Dublin.

Body Positivity in Rabat: Part I

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Disclaimer: I use a lot of gender binary terms in this post, but it applies to everyone! Body positivity is for everyone whether you are male, female, trans, male/female dressing, gender fluid, etc! Everyone should just love their body!

So, what is body positivity? Body positivity is relatively new to me, so I’m going to put it in simple terms. Body positivity is the wild idea that our bodies were made for function and not for displaying (“Your body is an instrument, not an ornament”). Body positive happiness is like that feeling when you were a little kid, running around and playing, not really caring what you looked like, but just having fun. Body positivity has become increasingly important because body standards around the world are widely unattainable. Ideally, everyone would just love their body and not care what it looks like. Ideally, everyone would accept each other’s bodies as well as their own. Ideally, the world would be a body positive place. And before I begin, I want to give a quick thanks to my dear friend Libby Reiner – she taught me everything I know about body positivity, and before I met her, it never occurred to me that my body was something I could love.

Let’s start with the idea of representation. The images you see frequently become (a) the images you expect and (b) the images that society deems acceptable. Side note: Apart from bodies, this is why representation of all races, genders, sexual orientations, abilities, religions, and so on is incredibly important. The more we see representation in media increasing on all fronts, the more accustomed we become to seeing a wider array of the human race and the more support we give to those who don’t always see their identities represented in mainstream media. This being said, the representation of all bodies is just as important. From a young age, we immediately understand body standards because of what we’re fed by media. As adults, imagine a world in which we saw all sorts of bodies in advertisements, TV shows, and movies. Imagine if those roles weren’t reduced to the “fat girl, but she’s funny!” trope. Just like all identities, if we’re going to make different body sizes seen as a good and important thing, we need to have better representation in the media and our everyday lives, and that’s where Morocco comes in.

Mirror, mirror, on the wall – mirror, mirror, not there at all! My body positivity journey in Morocco has begun with mirrors. In my experience thus far, there are very few mirrors in Morocco compared to the United States. In fact, there’s one mirror in my house, and it’s the one above the sink, meaning that you can’t see below chest level. The only time I’ve really seen my entire body reflected back at me is when I cross one specific building on my walk to school every morning. So even though I have gotten a full-body reflection, it’s not even a conventional mirror. The absence of mirrors was completely jarring at first. I immediately made a makeshift mirror by propping my phone against my desk, stepping back a few feet, and squinting to see my reflection. That’s how desperate I was to make sure that I looked okay. How I look had become so implicitly important to me that I couldn’t fathom the idea of leaving my room before I had seen what my whole body looked like in that outfit.

Luckily, I’ve progressed. Body positivity is a journey, and learning to live without mirrors has been part of mine. Now, before leaving the house, I really don’t know exactly how I look. And you know what? It doesn’t matter, because I probably look fine. Living without mirrors has given me a Popeye-ish outlook on my body image: I look how I look and that’s just how I look. I’m way more interested about how my day in MOROCCO is going to be than how I look.

There is definitely more to come about body positivity during my stay in Rabat. Expect a second post about body positivity coming soon to a blog near you! To continue the theme of relaxing my own standards and focusing more on my body’s function than its appearance, please enjoy some pictures of me below where I was having too much fun to care what my body looked like.

 

Morocco: Unplugged

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Morocco: Unplugged

Living in Morocco means living with less technology. At first, this transition was difficult, but I’ve learned that living a simpler life with less technology has been fairly rewarding. For example, I don’t watch a lot of TV while I’m here because all the channels are in Darija (Moroccan Arabic) and I can barely understand them. As someone who is typically glued to Netflix, I can actually say that I haven’t minded being separated from TV this summer.

There’s also not a ton of air conditioning here. The only place I’ve been to that has it is my school. For the most part, houses and cafes don’t have air conditioning. My house definitely doesn’t, but this makes the breeze mean more – I really take a moment to appreciate wind and sounds coming through my window, a window which I wouldn’t even have opened in the United States. Additionally, because air conditioning is limited but staying cool is a priority, the riyads (old houses) here are built with a huge open-air courtyard in the center of the home. This courtyard doesn’t have a roof so that the air can get in. Living in a house like this is a really cool experience, and it’s one that I wouldn’t have had if air conditioning was available!

For laundry, my house doesn’t have a dryer, but we sun-dry our clothes by a clothesline on the roof. Even though it’s a pain when my laundry takes two days instead of two hours, my host mom said that laundering in this way is actually better for your clothes and better for your skin!

The most radical change in unplugging myself and living simpler this summer has been detaching myself from my phone. I don’t have an international data plan and wifi here isn’t great, and it’s not available everywhere, so sometimes my phone doesn’t even function. All the students have Moroccan cell phones in case of emergency or for communicating while we’re not near wifi, but for the most part, cell phones are out of the question while away from our homes or school.

Sometimes unplugging makes my life a little harder than I’d like. It’s sometimes tough to adapt to a lifestyle where so many amenities are limited, and not having constant wifi/data makes communication with my friends and family hard.

Even though there are some hardships that accompany unplugging while abroad, I think they’re definitely worth it. I’ve learned a lot by separating myself from technology. Dinners with my friends are more meaningful because no one is sitting on their phone – we’re all engaged in conversation and our experience becomes more meaningful because of it. I’ve also had time to reflect on non-electronics activities that I love to do like writing and reading.

Unplugging is also nice because I can become more integrated within Moroccan life. Instead of hanging out on my phone or watching Netflix on my laptop, I can just go downstairs and chat with my host mom while she makes dinner or play with my host brother. With the time that I might have spent online, I can also free up time to explore Morocco! We spent the weekend in Fes, and the wifi at the hotel wasn’t great, so we headed into the city to explore the medina! This isn’t to say that we would have just sat there online if the wifi was great, but I think the fact that we didn’t have that option made the decision to explore Fes a little easier.

Overall, transitioning to a life with less technology has been a little tough, but I think it’s a good change to make. By unplugging, I’ve had more opportunities to build relationships, become familiar with my new surroundings, and immerse myself completely in the culture here.

Postscript: If you study abroad and you feel like technology makes your experience better, please use it! Technology is great and if you love it, then embrace it during your experience – it’s just that the absence of technology has enriched mine.

Lost in Translation: Barriers and Breakthroughs

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I’ve mentioned this before, but I pretty much decided to study Arabic because, like any nerd, I love a good academic challenge. And boy, did I get one. I’m sure everyone knows this already, but Arabic is hard. Like, really hard.

At Temple, the Arabic program centers around “FusHa” or “Modern Standard Arabic” (MSA for short). MSA is the best way to learn Arabic because it’s relatively universal (it’s the style used in the Quran and in Arab media like newspapers and broadcasts) but it’s also the hardest version to learn. Although MSA is understood by most Arabic speakers, it sounds a little strange when spoken. My IES professor put it like this: Speaking MSA instead of a dialect is a little like if someone walked up to a modern American speaking like Shakespeare. It’s very formal and rarely spoken in lieu of dialects.

So here I am, in an Arabic-speaking country, knowing MSA and not the Moroccan dialect. I can have conversations with Moroccans, but they are definitely a little strange because I’m not speaking Darija (the Moroccan dialect) yet. I’m taking a class on the dialect while I’m here, but as of right now I can only string together a couple of words and phrases in Darija, which makes day-to-day interactions a little difficult. I’m learning more everyday, though.

Arabic is pretty tough. I encounter a lot of barriers throughout my day, but I can overcome most of them with my knowledge of MSA (side note: if there was a country that only spoke MSA, I think I’d be more than fine right now, but unfortunately this is not the case). Moroccans learn Darija first, then study MSA in school, and then learn French – most of them don’t get around to learning English. Sometimes my struggles are when the 4-year old I live with is rattling off sentence after sentence at the speed of light, and he just ends up yelling “La! La! La!” (“No! No! No!”) at me. Other times, it’s when I realize my vocabulary just isn’t extensive enough to express a particular thought, which can be frustrating because I have such good ones! (:

However, for every difficulty I encounter, there’s some sort of equal reward. They’re often small, but they encourage me to persist in the language. I like playing with the babies in my house because I can speak to them in very simple sentences and not worry about them judging me. Similarly, my host parents speak to the four year old with a lot of commonly-used commands and phrases (“Give me that,” “Bring me…,” “Come here,” etc) that I can now pick up on and use for myself. Today I had maybe the most successful lingual accomplishment yet – I bought water from a vendor and spoke only Darija! It sounds so small, but being able to converse with him and make a little small talk while he counted change really made me feel like I belong here and that all my hard work with Arabic is starting to pay off.

As my mind has been wrapping around Arabic for the past week or so, I’ve been thinking a lot about second languages. This morning, it occurred to me that I will be incredibly relieved to go back home and not worry about how to communicate during my next interaction, or even to just understand every sign I see. At the same exact time, it occurred to me that many people (namely immigrants and refugees) are unable to experience such relief because they are unable to return to their home country. At home, I’m privileged in many ways, but having English as my first language is not a privilege I often thought about, and my study abroad experience is deeply impacting my views on language in the U.S. In Morocco, I can’t describe how relieving it is to see English, whether written on a sign, menu, advertisement, or other (although I don’t see it often). I don’t see why we shouldn’t do the same for lingual minorities in the U.S. It wouldn’t kill us to add Spanish to maps or signs, and it would certainly make life easier for those who are ESL (English Second Language) speakers. When I return to Temple in the fall, I’ll be interning for Nationalities Service Center’s English as a Second Language Team, so hopefully I can make a real impact on this issue by helping immigrants and refugees learn English. I’m glad that, for now, I’m getting a taste of what their language experience will be like.

This weekend, my program is taking us on a field trip to the cities of Fez and Meknes, so hopefully I’ll return with some good stories from my visit! Maa Salaama! (Goodbye!)

My First Days in Rabat: Impressions

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My First Days in Rabat: Impressions

Here I am! After a spring and summer of preparation, I have finally made it to Rabat. My last two days here have been filled with excitement and exhaustion alike, but before I get into the nitty-gritty, here are some of my smaller observations thus far:

  • Cats are everywhere, and 99% of them are sleeping.
  • It’s hot as heck! The dress code for women here is particularly cumbersome when you have sweat running from head to toe.
  • Being here for Ramadan is really special because iftar (literally “break-fast,” when Muslims break their day-long fast) is a HUGE and DELICIOUS meal. A paradise for a food lover such as myself.
  • Can’t understand the 4-year-old you’re living with? No problem, high-fives are a universal language.
  • Apparently two-handed high-fives are also a universal language.

Those are just some little things I’ve noted throughout my two days here. More will surely come, but now for some bigger picture stuff:

We did a Greatest Hits of Rabat-esque tour today and saw some really beautiful sights. We got to see the Moroccan equivalent of the Washington Mall and the White House (except it’s very private here – only tourists and employees are allowed on the grounds). We also visited the Hassan II Mosque, one of Rabat’s most famous landmarks. Apparently during Ramadan, the king visits the Mohammed V Mausoleum across from it every day, but we had to leave before he came. The views were still incredible without royalty. After that, we went to the Kasbah des Oudayas (has someone already made the “Morocck the Kasbah” joke?), which was probably my favorite part of the tour. Although it’s mainly residential, “Kasbah” means “fortress,” so we ended up standing over a powerful view of the ocean and Rabat’s neighboring city, Sale. I’ll definitely be back to the Kasbah soon with my DSLR camera to take some better photos!

After our tour, we all met and were sent off with our host families. I’m with a lovely couple which has a four-year-old son and two one-year-old twins. My host mother and father are both incredibly sweet and their rapport reminds me a lot of my own parents (Mom and Dad, if you’re reading this, don’t get jealous!). Their son is an absolute riot – although I don’t understand much of what he’s saying because Moroccan Arabic (Darija) is so different from the Modern Standard (FusHa) I’ve been learning, I do understand how to play with a little kid. We had some fun once his mom explained that he was asking me to pretend to be Godzilla and chase him around! I’m very lucky that both of my host parents know English pretty well because Darija is turning out to be a lot different than I had thought it would be. For now, it’s a little awkward when I don’t know how to ask for simple things or I’m blankly staring at one of my host parents, who has repeated the same word slowly five times, but once Darija classes start I should get the hang of things.

Even though I’m still fighting culture shock jitters, I think this is shaping up to be one of my best summers ever. I can’t wait to share the rest with you all – hopefully by the next time you tune in, I’ll have a couple of good stories! Maa Salaama! (Goodbye!)

 

Reflections on Study Abroad

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It’s hard to reflect on studying abroad in a concise, understandable way–there’s just too much to say, too many of them things that you won’t understand until you do it yourself.

I’ll start with the most important and obvious part: this has been the best experience of my life. I didn’t have any expectations going in because I knew that I couldn’t possibly have a concept for what it was going to be like until I did, but if I would have had expectations, they would have been surpassed. I can see the differences in myself so much more clearly now that I’m home; I am more direct and confident and optimistic, my priorities are aligned and clear, and the world feels so much smaller.

Some things are specific to my experience, and don’t necessarily apply to everyone who studies abroad. I had a language barrier, with a language that I literally knew one (useless) word in. I cannot emphasize how incredibly strange this feels, how alienating it can be, and how much of an idiot it can make you feel like. You learn to avoid the need to speak to people, you pick up on the cultural mannerisms and behavior, you learn the necessary phrases: what people are going to ask you and where, how to answer, how not to appear lost and confused and stupid. Another important, specific factor: cultural attitude. Czech people, at least in public situations, are not conversational or friendly or welcoming. I have met some of the best individuals, who are warm and kind and talkative, but as a whole, in public, the cultural attitude is individualistic and independent, pessimistic, and very quiet. I learned this quickly, and adjusted my behavior without even realizing it (making eye contact with people in public feels foreign to me now, let alone having conversations with strangers). This actually made it easier for me as someone who didn’t understand Czech–I didn’t need to speak nearly as much as I would have had to in America. The point is: you learn. When you are completely immersed, you learn quickly. And, even though it can be difficult, this is an invaluable experience. I emphatically believe that if everyone experienced this first hand, the world would be a kinder, more tolerant, and more empathetic place. It is without a doubt one of the most fundamentally important and formative things I’ve experienced.

Another amazing aspect of studying abroad is the ability to travel. Personally, I traveled a lot–you could travel less than I did (or more!), or just explore your home country; whatever approach you take, traveling is not just really, really, fun, but makes you better at dealing with problems in life by expanding your perspective. Some problems are urgent, and when they are, you deal with them. Some aren’t. And you still deal with them. But learning how to deal with high stress situations not only equips you to deal with other high stress situations–it gives you the perspective to determine what actually is a high stress situation and what isn’t. Plus, the more sights you see and people you meet and languages you hear and food you eat and ambiances you absorb, the better off you’ll be for the rest of your life.

To sign off what has the potential to be a much longer reflection, I’ll just say this: if you are considering studying abroad, do it. If you are not considering studying abroad, do it. If you’re nervous or scared or hesitant, do it (do not ever make a decision based on fear, especially the decision not to do something). You are stunting your own growth and preventing indescribable amounts of future happiness by staying in the safe lane. I’ve spoken about how much living across an ocean helps you grow and learn, but the most important thing, to me, is how much happiness it brought to my life. If your experience is anything like mine or the dozens of people I’ve spoken to who’ve done the same, you will feel more happiness than you even knew you could feel. It will enrich your life with so much joy that  you won’t even be able to put it into words. So please, please just do it.

(Me, at the beginning)

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(& the end)

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Ready for Rabat!

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Ready for Rabat!

Marhaban (“Hello”)! My name is Alex Ennes and I’m a rising junior at Temple studying English with minors in Arabic and Criminal Justice – I’m also blogging for Temple during my summer in Morocco! I leave in just a week and I can’t wait to get on my plane. This summer, I’ll be living in a homestay in the city of Rabat and I’m itching to meet my host family. Although I’m excited, I’ve recently felt a little nervous about speaking Arabic on a regular basis. I’ve had great prep (four semesters worth!) but it’s intimidating to commit to living in a country where it’s spoken on the regular. I’m nervous about learning Darija, the colloquial dialect in Morocco, but I’m sure the transition from FusHa (modern standard Arabic) will be easy enough. All of my thinking about using Arabic this summer has led me to remembering why I chose the language in the first place…

If you’re a Liberal Arts student at Temple, you know the three-course language requirement for a liberal arts degree very well. I took Latin in high school and thought about continuing in college, but I figured I would start new. I didn’t really have a reason for choosing Arabic. I thought it looked and sounded pretty, and I figured it would be useful in a professional environment. I knew it would be hard, but I love learning languages and I figured that Arabic would present a good challenge – turns out, I was right!

Even though I didn’t have much of a reason for choosing Arabic, I absolutely fell in love with the language. I’m so grateful that I chose to learn this language, not only because of the incredible professors I’ve had, but also because it has opened my knowledge about Middle Eastern and North African culture. This last semester (Spring 2017), I took a class on the intersection of art and uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa, particularly during the Arab Spring. I absolutely loved that class because it taught me so much about the art and culture associated with the region. If you had asked me in high school, I wouldn’t have cared much about Middle Eastern and North African affairs, but now I find myself researching them regularly and consuming as much literature, art, and film I can find on Arab culture!

Culture may be what I’m most excited for this summer. I’m an English major, so it would have been easy for me to study abroad in England, Scotland, or Ireland where I could have learned about British literature or done some work on my poetry concentration, but I wanted to push myself outside of my comfort zone and explore an entirely new culture. Because of how different American culture is from Moroccan culture, I expect that I’ll learn a lot and grow more as a person by stepping outside of the “Western” world. Even though immersing myself in an entirely different language and society is intimidating, I’m excited to start my journey. Hopefully I’ll return with a brand new understanding of the Arabic language and Moroccan culture.

My next post will be coming to you straight from Rabat, so get ready for a summer full of fun (and lots of hummus)! Until next time!

Final Consensus on Being Vegan in Prague

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As I’ve spoken about before several times, I’m vegan, and therefore have a different perspective on cities and their food. When I was planning to come to Prague and when I first arrived, I was nervous that I would have an extremely hard time maintaining my veganism with ease. However, after living in Prague for about half a year and traveling to various other cities in Europe, I can make a pleasantly surprising verdict: Prague is a very vegan-friendly city. From the incredible number of fully vegan restaurants (many even have entirely raw menus, or sections that are completely raw, including soups, appetizers, deserts, and main courses, NOT just salads), to vegetarian/vegan restaurants, to restaurants of ethnicities that lend themselves to being vegan friendly, to vegan grocery stores and markets–Here are just a very few of my very favorite places to grab a vegan meal or snack:

Vegan’s:

This is a great, cute vegan restaurant on the hilly side of the river–it has a full restaurant upstairs, and a cute cafe on the ground floor. If you can make it all the way up the hill and then up about 10 narrow flights of spiral stairs, you’ll be rewarded with delish vegan food, everything from Indonesian inspired bowls with rice and tempeh, to amazing veggie burgers, to vegan lasagna, to several veganized traditional Czech foods like svičkova and gulaš. At the cafe downstairs, you can find coffees and teas made with plant-based milk, deserts, sandwiches and salads, and vegan snacks like date bars and chocolate.

Herbivore

Herbivore is an adorable vegan restaurant/grocery store, without a traditional menu (aside from the smoothies, acai bowls, and beverages), instead offering a range of buffet style dishes that change daily. I can’t recommend this little place enough–the people are lovely and the food is AMAZING.

Maitrea

Maitrea is a slightly more upscale vegetarian/vegan restaurant, right off of Old Town Square. The interior is breathtaking, especially when you go downstairs (another Prague spiral staircase); it looks like you’re stepping into Alice and Wonderland. It’s cavernous, and has pink walls and enormous lighting fixtures that look like real flowers hanging from the ceiling–seriously just go for the aesthetic. The menu is large and varied, and I’ve never been disappointed.

Lemon Leaf

Thai is my absolute favorite food in the world, and I’ve actually struggled to find a Thai restaurant in Prague that rivals my favorite from home. Lemon Leaf, a beautiful, open Thai restaurant, is a great option. As is common with Thai, it’s incredibly easy to find vegan dishes, and their food tastes amazing and is obviously fresh and high quality.

Lovin’ Hut

Lovin’ Hut is another vegan restaurant and grocery store. Their selection is great, and you can always count on a fresh bottle of Nemleko–a local Czech brand of almond and poppyseed milk with the purest ingredients list you’ll ever find. It’s a great place to stock up on your vegan essentials, if you like to branch from normal whole foods into fancy specialized stuff, or treat-yo-self snacks.

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Spring in Prague

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IMG_8213.JPGIMG_8212.JPGAfter an extremely long, freezing, and draining but beautiful winter, spring is finally upon us in Prague. Because I’d only known Prague in the winter, I didn’t realize how beautiful it could be (and how much easier life could be when you don’t have to worry about freezing to death!). Although it is a very winter-ey city, Prague really shines in the warm weather, and there are so many great things to do and see that are even more fun in the sunshine. Here are a few of my favorites:

  1. Petrin Hill

Petrin Hill is a beautiful hillside on the castle-side of the Vltava River, which runs through the center of Prague. The hill is covered in meadows and flowering trees, and has many winding paths to lead you to the top. It’s a popular place to lounge in the sun or picnic, and you’ll often find couples or groups of friends with wine and snacks dotting the hillside. It also has spectacular views of the entire city, so it’s a great place to rest after a hike to soak up the orange roofs.

2.  Charles Bridge at Sunrise

Although Charles Bridge is beautiful, and a definite must-see when visiting Prague, it is absolutely packed with tourists almost all hours of the day; most locals and people who live here know to avoid it when possible. However, I highly recommend walking the bridge when it’s empty, as it really allows you to appreciate the views and the bridge itself. A great time to do so is early in the morning, not just because it’s empty, but because Charles Bridge is one of the best locations in Prague to watch the sunrise. The sunrise in the winter is great (bonus points because it isn’t until 8 am…), but the springtime beauty more than makes up for the earlier call time. You’ll really feel like you’ve stepped back in time if you’re able to experience an empty city.

3. Jogging

Running in Prague can be tricky if you’re not used to cobblestones (correction: walking in Prague can be tricky if you’re not used to cobblestones), but if your foot and ankle muscles have gone through a strength and balance bootcamp like mine have, Prague is a great place to enjoy a morning run. I definitely recommend jogging in the morning or late evening, when the crowds have thinned, but there are also some great parks that are run-able whenever’s convenient for you. Running also gives you a great appreciation for the accessibility of the city; Prague is a very manageable, walkable city, and going for a jog is a great way to get your bearings for sight seeing later in the day. I love to run from my apartment to old town square, across the Vltava, along the river to the lesser town, back across the river and back again. You can also take advantage of the massive, Budapest-esque hills, and get some extra leg action by incorporating them into your route.

4. Picnics

In the warm weather, a great lunch or dinner option is grabbing some fruit and hummus and picnicing in one of Prague’s beautiful parks. Petrin Hill, that I mentioned before, is a great option (you can also work up an appetite on your way up), but there are also several other parks dotted around the city. A favorite of mine is right across the Charles Bridge on the Vltava; it’s also where you’ll find the giant-faceless-baby sculptures. There’s also a beautiful one on an island in the river, easily accessible from the center of the Legion Bridge.

5. Markets

On Easter weekend, Prague explodes with markets in every square and park, and many stay throughout the spring season; grab a trdelník, beer, or sausage, and experience the festival culture in Prague.

Documentation: Visual

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As you may know from my bio, or the photos I attach to my blog posts here on Temple U Abroad, I’m a photographer. I study film cinematography at home, and my passion for visuals and life documentation translates itself into photography naturally. For me, traveling presents the perfect opportunity for me to just go crazy with my camera; everything is so new and beautiful that I just never want to put it down (and rarely do).

Having this as a hobby/artistic passion isn’t just fun for me–it’s really convenient. I get to spend time in a beautiful place doing what I love, while at the same time capturing moments and memories that I can keep forever, and share with friends and family (and you!). I thought I’d take these next two posts to discuss documentation of travel and life, both if you naturally enjoy the process and if you don’t (but still want to make sure you’re documenting)–starting with visual documentation.

If you do enjoy taking photos (I don’t mean just fancy, artistic photos–phone photos are fine!), a great way to make sure you’re both living in the present moment and documenting is to pace yourself. If you’ve just arrived and are exploring for the first time, especially if you’re with friends, take pictures sparingly, and only of things you know you’ll care to look at later. There’s no need to take up every ounce of phone/camera memory and totally overwhelm your future self with pictures of every little detail; plus, this takes your attention away from the experience in the moment, and puts it on the picture.

When you get home, go through your pictures, see what you like and what you don’t, and use the pictures to help you decide what your favorite areas of the city are. After you’ve organized your preferences mentally, you can make a point to return to those places alone, with the specific intention of taking photos.

One of my favorite things to do is take a weekend day to purposely get lost, giving myself the challenge to only photograph things from a unique, deliberate perspective. This forces me to really see and appreciate my surroundings and the nuances of the city; it’s also really fun and creative. It’s a great way to force yourself to go out and deliberately appreciate where you are. Plus, the photos you get will be so much better than the ones you arbitrarily snap as you’re walking with friends or distracted by conversations.

If you don’t like taking pictures, but still don’t want to come out of the experience with no records, a great way to make sure you’re preserving memories is to just rely on your phone. So many people invest in a new camera before they travel, and for some people, this is great. But, if you know you’re uninterested, or if you feel like it will just weigh you down and be another thing you have to worry about, don’t bother. There’s nothing wrong with slightly less artistic pictures–whatever helps you remember your experience in the most convenient way possible is what you should do.

When you’re out and about, just try to be aware of your thought processes. Whenever you gasp, gape, or swoon over something, that’s your cue to take a picture. I know how common it is for people to return from a trip and only then realize they have no pictures–if you just try to consciously be more aware of your thought processes, associating awe with preservation, it will be easier to remember to just whip out your phone and snap a photo every once in a while.

Also, use social media to your advantage. Many people are quick to snapchat their days to share with their friends–if you take a snapchat, save it. It’s a perfectly fine way to help yourself remember your experiences later.

Make your documentation process as fun and doable for yourself as you can–don’t underestimate how much you’ll value the memories captured for the rest of your life!