My Education Abroad – Prague Czech Republic – Jack Bernetich
Type of Project: Education Abroad
For my STEP Signature Project I studied abroad at Charles University located in Prague. I enrolled in an economics course focusing on the European Union and Asia at Charles University. Along with my coursework, I traveled throughout Prague, the Czech Republic and Europe for my STEP Signature Project.
During my STEP Signature Project, my assumptions and view of the world changed dramatically. Before my STEP Signature Project, I had never left the United States. Because of this, I did not know what to expect from the world that was previously unknown to me. I believe it is human nature to fear what is unknown or different. Because the rest of the world was unknown to me, I assumed that it would be very different. The largest thing I took away from my project was that we humans are very similar in nature. Regardless of the color of our skin, the language we speak, or the god we worship, we are not so different from one another.
Over the course of my STEP Signature Project, there were countless events, interactions, relationships and activities which led to my view of the world changing towards a more inclusive stance. Throughout my travels, the relationships I formed with two people changed my view of the world greater than anything else and made me realize that each person is similar to one another. At the time, I did not think these relationships had a great effect on me. Now that I am reflecting on my travels, I am noting the differences in thought which I know believe to be true.
The first of the two relationships that I formed in Prague which changed my view on the world was with my American roommate, funny enough. My roommate’s name was Muhammad. Although Muhammad was American like me, he was not like me, at least on the surface. Muhammad had brown skin and a thick beard. He grew up in California but was born in Pakistan. Muhammad practiced a different religion than myself and at home, spoke a different language. I never knew anyone like Muhammad nor had I lived with anyone like him. At first his differences to myself stuck out but we became good friends very quickly and I did not notice them for the remainder of our education abroad. Over our month in Prague, Muhammad and I travelled throughout the Czech Republic and Europe. Because of his appearance, Muhammad had a far worse experience in airports and train stations than myself. After noting this, I asked Muhammad if the racial profiling bothered him. Muhammad’s answer surprised me and was one of the lasting reasons for why my view on the world and people changed. Muhammad believed that people were just doing their job. He said that he knew he was the same as everyone else, and despite others not differing their judgements of him, he gave it no thought because he could place himself in their shoes. Muhammad’s ability to remain calm, defer his judgments, and confidently act out what he truly believed made me take a pause and think about how we are all truly similar.
My second relationship formed in Prague that helped change my view of the world was with my economics professor, Ondrej. Ondrej grew up in Prague and was Czech Republic through and through. Having spent nearly every day in class with Ondrej, and eventually time outside of class with him, I began to see similarities with him and his people in everyday life. Whether it was Ondrej’s unique style, to his hatred of grading papers in his non airconditioned classroom, to his hobbies in his spare time, Ondrej seemed familiar enough to be one of my past professors at Ohio State. After classes, Ondrej occasionally offered to get dinner and a beer with our small class. During these trips, Ondrej took us to local neighborhoods of Prague where he explained the culture and motivations for people’s actions in Prague. Aside from the language barrier, Ondrej, the people I saw and places I went were identical to the people i’d known my entire life.
My change in perspective of the people of the world is valuable to me because I still have not seen much of the world but now I hope to. After noting the similarities in culture and people, there is no more fear of the unknown in the world. By noting the similarities, differences in culture were highlighted, thus improving my travel experience. My future personal goal is to travel more because of my STEP experience. To aid me in this, I have altered my professional goals and added a Spanish minor at Ohio State in hopes of it helping me on my path.