I first went to Prague two years ago to spend the spring semester of my sophomore year studying abroad. I remember landing and wondering what I was thinking when I decided to spend four months in a country I hadn’t even remembered Googling prior to arriving.
I had selected Prague somewhat randomly – it hit the narrow criteria I had for my study abroad location: (1) Go somewhere in Europe; (2) Go somewhere I haven’t been before (this eliminated Italy, England, and France); (3) Go somewhere that has enough classes for me to take.
Now when I think back to selecting this place and this program, I thank my sophomore self for making a decision that would prove to be so important and extend far past that single semester. Prague became my home in those four months and changed me in ways I could have never imagined.
Working as a global ambassador taught me how to articulate my own experience in practical ways, explaining on resumes and in interviews how the challenges of a semester abroad make me unique and well-equipped.
Upon returning, I became obsessed with sharing my experience and encouraging others to (quite literally) leave their comfort zone and engage in international immersion. I discovered a passion for promoting international education and connecting with prospective, current, and alumni study abroad students when I became a global ambassador in PLNU’s Office of Global Studies. I was blessed to work alongside a team of professionals who prioritize the value of cultural exchange in students’ college experiences.
As a global ambassador, I had the opportunity to encourage, advise, and support students preparing to embark on their own study abroad experiences. Exploring programs, selecting classes, and sharing travel tips with students was so reminiscent of my own experience and always made me a bit jealous of the adventure they were going to have. Additionally, working as a global ambassador taught me how to articulate my own experience in practical ways, explaining on resumes and in interviews how the challenges of a semester abroad make me unique and well-equipped.
The idea of returning to Prague was something I had only dreamed about. When I heard that the program I had gone on two years ago (CEA Study Abroad in Prague) would be hiring a summer on-site ambassador to work in the office, I worked tirelessly on my application and was absolutely thrilled when I was chosen. I was going to spend two months working in Prague immediately after graduation.
I kept imagining what it would be like to be back in the place that had been my home two years ago. Would it be the same? Would it be just as amazing as I’d remembered?
I graduated from PLNU and a week later hopped on a plane to the Czech Republic. Once I arrived in Prague, I couldn’t stop smiling because of how familiar it was. My experience looked radically different this time around, but the city held the same wonderful magic that two years’ time had only made more beautiful. Some of the challenges I faced looked quite similar, like trying to greet, purchase, then bag all of my grocery items without getting yelled at in Czech by the cashier, and some looked quite different, like living by myself, not being a part of a group of students, working instead of studying, and finding community in my own way. Nevertheless, I saw the ways I was growing on a daily basis. Returning to Prague with my own study abroad experience and my global ambassador training behind me allowed me to recognize the ways I was challenged and changed as they were happening.
When I arrived in Prague, I was hit with the reality of true independence. Aside from my hours at work, my days were mine to fill. I experienced moments of joy and moments of loneliness. In both, I found myself seeking God more and more.
I felt more equipped and empowered to observe and analyze how different cultures and different people value different things. As a recent graduate, I am entering the working world and have some control over what my work-life balance and new lifestyle will look like. By talking with my Czech co-workers and meeting people from other countries in my travels around Europe, I noticed a significant difference in cultures’ perspective on work. Many Europeans work to live, seeing their job as simply the means to support their family and what allows them to engage in life – hobbies, activities, travel, etc. – outside of work. By contrast, I feel that many Americans live to work. We build our identities around our jobs and often let them consume so much of our time, not leaving room for much else. Outside of our work, spending time with family, having diverse interests, and taking time to volunteer in our local community are just a few of the ways we can lead balanced and well-rounded lives.
I also experienced the challenge of taking charge of my own faith. Attending PLNU, going to chapel, being surrounded by believers, and talking about Christ on a daily basis had been my life for the past four years. When I arrived in Prague, I was hit with the reality of true independence. Aside from my hours at work, my days were mine to fill. I experienced moments of joy and moments of loneliness. In both, I found myself seeking God more and more. I wanted to thank Him for the incredible moments, and I wanted to find comfort in Him during the tough moments. Because I was so far from family, friends, and any sort of community, I found myself clinging to the One who promises to always be with us. I felt like I was rediscovering my relationship with God and redefining my need for His presence on a daily basis.
During my two months living in Prague and traveling around Europe, I challenged myself to view every day and every task as an opportunity to learn something. I knew how quickly my time would go by, so I did my best to cherish every moment. Not only did I study abroad in a fantastic place, but I also had the opportunity to return. I worked with a wonderful and diverse (culturally and in personalities) team and did some serious self-reflection and growth.
Our experiences are something we take with us wherever we go. My path led me to Prague twice, and I know that I will take all that I experienced and all that I learned with me into this next chapter of my life, no matter where that will be.
Eliza Jason graduated from PLNU in 2019 with a degree in media communication. Immediately after graduation, she returned to Prague, Czech Republic, to work for two months with the company she studied abroad with. Currently, Eliza is applying for jobs in film and television entertainment and plans to move to the Los Angeles area. She sees media as an opportunity to connect diverse audiences on a fundamental level, and she wants to be a part of telling stories that create change in our world.