Echoes: Finding a new lens

By Neil Nadpara
Blogger

It has still not hit me that I have two weeks left in Prague. Over these past few months, I have become so accustomed to the city and I truly feel at home here. I grew up in a suburban New Jersey town and TCNJ has a similar suburban environment. The transition to living in Prague has been extraordinary in so many ways. Unlike other parts of the Czech Republic, Prague is much more culturally accepting and diverse. Yet, in a smooth and subtle manner, I believe I have integrated into Czech culture in some aspects. I have ingrained several Czech tendencies in my own behavior, but in particular I have become more cognizant of noise levels.

Prauge Blog
Platform of a Prague metro (Photo courtesy of Neil Nadpara)

Public transport is very accessible, effective and popular in Prague. However, it is quite interesting how quiet it is no matter how packed it can get. People seldom talk on the metro and even when they do they use “library voices.” On my third day in Prague, my friends and I were having a conversation and joking around on the metro in our normal speaking voices. After a few minutes, an old man said something to us in Czech and motioned with his hand for us to quiet down. We didn’t realize how loud we were being in comparison to what the general standard in Prague is. There is a cultural difference in acceptable noise levels in the United States and the Czech Republic. For example, it is normal for a subway in New York City to be loud but the same does not apply to a metro in Prague.

Over the semester, I have noticed myself instinctually speaking more quietly on the public transport. It has become a part of me and my general behavior. It is interesting how easily a seemingly trivial aspect of Czech culture has become a part of me. I believe I will find it irritating how loud Americans are when I come back home and ride the New York City subway. And I would have never realized such a thing and developed such a vastly different perception on acceptable noise level if I did not come abroad to Prague.

The beauty of studying abroad and experiencing a new culture is that it allows you to view your own culture from a fresh and unique perspective. It opens your eyes to cultural tendencies and subtleties that you would have never noticed living your whole life in the bubble that is the United States. Everyone is born with a particular lens through which they view the world. If they spend their entire life living in the same area and influenced by the same culture, their view of the world will always be limited by that one lens. Studying abroad and living in a new culture offers you an entirely new lens through which to view the world and understand it further.

I am so grateful I have had the opportunity to study abroad in Prague, and my most prized “souvenir” is coming home with a new lens to view the world. I wholeheartedly encourage all college students to seize the opportunity to study abroad while it still lasts.