Study Abroad Spotlight: Meet Katie Gray
Katie Gray is a communications major at NC State College of Humanities and Social Sciences. In her sophomore year, Katie spent Spring 2022 semester in Prague and took five classes, a total of 16 credits. Always cheerful and with a unique organizational superpower, Katie was a precious asset to NC State Prague’s communication team throughout the semester. She volunteered and created excellent content for the newly set up TikTok profile and helped it take off! Find out more about Katie’s time in Prague.
How did you prepare yourself for studying abroad in Prague?
I prepared myself by watching YouTube videos from people who have studied abroad before. I watched videos that weren’t about Prague and travel tips videos for trips to Prague and what to pack for a Prague winter. I also made extensive packing lists to help prepare myself for things I needed to buy, to help limit the number of things that I packed.
What surprised you most about the Czech Republic?
The thing that surprised me the most about the Czech Republic is the people! Once they heard me speaking English, often people asked me where I was from, what I was doing here, if I was a student, etc. They were interested in who I was and why I was in Prague. Multiple people also told me how happy they were to see the tourists back after Covid and how glad they were to see young people exploring the city. Even though I was slightly afraid of completely immersing myself in a new environment, I felt welcomed the entire time I was here, which was terrific.
What was one of the biggest challenges of studying abroad?
One of the biggest challenges was being away from home for so long while dealing with a time difference. Even when I don’t see my family for months while I am in Raleigh, I can still call them randomly without them being asleep or calling me when I am asleep. It was also hard when I was sick or not feeling well, and I was just missing home, but every time I was a little homesick, I was also having a great time. It was also hard to be in a different cultural environment where things I am used to, like casual conversation or talking to a stranger on the street, aren’t common here.
What was your favorite place(s) that you visited?
In Prague, my favorite place was around Charles Bridge on the side of the castle. I love going for walks across the bridge and discovering new areas and parks by wandering. That has probably been one of my favorite things about Prague because it is so walkable, and you are bound to find something beautiful and new to explore.
What do you miss most?
The thing I miss the most from back home, besides the people, is my car. I love the public transportation system in Europe. It is amazing how accessible and affordable it is, but I miss the relaxed feeling when driving. I also really miss Mexican food. It will be the first thing I eat after getting off the plane at home.
How did studying abroad work with your major?
Studying abroad worked with my major because, as a communications major, I am in the CHASS program, which requires a lot of GEP credits. I was able to take five classes. I took a lab course in Astronomy, which was a lot of fun. We went on field trips to observatories. I want to work with social media and public relations. On the first orientation day, I volunteered to help with social media and finally did an unofficial social media internship. For the semester, I helped NC State Prague with a student perspective of my time in Prague and launched the Tik Tok profile. Check out the content I created, such as room tours, resident/school tours, and recommendations. It was a great experience because I find it incredibly fun to do. It gave me hands-on experience in the field I enjoy while building my resume and sharing my experiences.
What is your favorite Czech word and why?
I wouldn’t say that I have a favorite word in Czech, but I have found that I enjoy the simple usage of words like “Dobrý den” and “Děkuji.” Czech is a hard language to learn. Even if you can’t speak a whole sentence, starting and ending a conversation with just a little bit of Czech goes a long way, and I feel like people have been more willing to help me when I accept their language and not just expect them to know English.
What’s a piece of advice that you’d offer to students looking to study abroad?
The essential piece of advice to give someone thinking about studying abroad is to take the risk. I know it may seem intimidating, and it’s not to say it isn’t challenging either. I don’t think I know a single person on this trip who hasn’t felt homesick at some point, but I also know that not a single person regrets their choice to study abroad either. Understanding that you are probably going to feel a little homesick at some point will help better prepare you for your adventure. You may also be worried about missing out on things back home if you go during an entire semester, but this is the kind of experience that is once in a lifetime. So, what if you miss a few football games or club events? You have seven other semesters of college at least to do all that. Take the risk, push yourself out of your comfort zone, and don’t find excuses for why you can’t do it. Maybe it is about finances? There are study abroad scholarships, and if you apply to the Prague program, you can use your financial aid. Being away from home for a semester taught me so much. It prepared me in so many ways for my future. I had to push myself to apply. Even though it is something I’ve known I wanted to do for years, I almost talked myself out of it, and I could not be happier that I pushed myself to follow through.
This post was originally published in NC State European Center in Prague.