STEP Reflection Laura Falb

For my STEP signature project I participated in the Prague Theatre study tour this past winter break. In 10 days we visited the historical attractions of Prague, Czech Republic and took an excursion to Dresden, Germany. While abroad I was able to attend theatre performances as well as experience exploring a new culture and take in the sights of Europe during Christmas time!

While in Prague, I found myself completely humbled by the sheer power of human beings every day. The city and surrounding areas are so incredibly picturesque and awe-inspiring. We visited countless old cathedrals, castles, and other almost inhuman architectural structures that I couldn’t even imagine being built in the present day, let alone hundreds of years ago. Walking every day in a city so full of history made me completely aware of my place in the timeline of humanity and how small I really am (in the best way possible). It’s so peaceful to be among such a different pace of life and be walking in the footsteps of incredible artists. I had so many moments of inner peace throughout the trip and I really taught myself how to put things into perspective and care less about the little things. The world is so big and there is so much we have not seen.

Every day, our group was fortunate enough to see a new part of the city (as well as nearby historical towns). Each morning we were guided by our incredible tour guide as she told stories of the different historical facts of each building, statue, street, store, etc. Standing on the historic Charles Bridge, being guided through Prague Castle, walking up the hill in the village near Karlstejn to the castle to name a few were really triggers to that deep emotional pull I felt toward the city. Additionally, seeing theatre performances in a different country was also a huge moment for me – as theatre is my major and future career, seeing how different life perspectives affect performance brought out those humbling and inspiring feelings.

One of the most important aspects of my STEP project experience was developing the relationships with my peers and professors. Before the trip this winter break, I was required to take a pre-departure course covering Slavic history spanning centuries. With the help of Professor Joe Brandesky, I was fortunate to have a background of knowledge about the sights, locations, and performances we attended in Prague before departing. Professor Brandesky’s knowledge was so expansive and fascinating, and it was so important to me to have that relationship with him before being in country. He, along with his colleague and friend Dáša Antelmanová were incredible guides, stopping to explain the details of locations we visited as we toured the city – Dasa’s enthralling storytelling and incredible kindness and hospitality allowed me to feel at home in Prague. In addition, I only knew 2 other students going on the trip prior – my high school best friend and a close friend I met while at OSU – the rest of the group consisted of students from the OSU Lima campus. Because I did not know them prior, I was a little nervous at how we would all get along. However, I was pleasantly surprised by our bond. I could not imagine the trip without them and experiencing a foreign country with new friends and acquaintances added to the experience and was very monumental in my life.

Another trans-formative experience in Prague was taking a day trip to the concentration camp Terezin. Reading about the Holocaust growing up and seeing evidence of it in person are completely different experiences. You don’t quite grasp the unbelievably sickening truth of it until you’re standing in the footsteps of it. Standing in the crematorium, seeing some of the actual tools used in the experiments – made me sick the whole time I was standing there. While it was overwhelming, I truly feel grateful to have been there. I have a new perspective on just what humanity is capable of. I felt powerless and powerful all at the same time. While brief, those few moments spent there gave me the conviction to create art aimed at the goodness of heart – and how important it is especially in today’s world to promote the goodness in humanity and never ignore the hate in people. It was so beautiful and being surrounded by my peers made the experience that much more special.

Having this brief trip to Prague has opened my eyes in so many different ways – the city itself is a work of art. As an artist, it’s so important to me to be surrounded by things that make me excited to be alive. Every detail of the city made me breathless just to walk down the street. Having the chance to be in historic buildings (including theatres) made me aware of the ability of human beings. In my career I will be constantly pushed to share the human experience with others, and what better way to see the creativity of humans than in a city such as Prague. I’m further inspired to re-visit Europe and explore what else it has to offer. It is so important to travel and gain a new perspective on life and I’m so excited to allow my experience here with OSU study abroad to continuously inspire me.

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