Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Leave UMass, leave the country- better yet, study abroad.

If the thought of studying abroad has shot across your mind for a millionth of a second, do it! If you don’t and you suffer from fear of missing out, clinically known as FOMO, you will surely have to see a physician.

Living and studying in Prague is now entrenched in my box of memories, which I’m constantly reopening. I can’t believe my semester abroad is over and I’m back at the University of Massachusetts this fall. Don’t get me wrong, I’m pumped to be here.

I remember how anxious I was before departing last January. I didn’t know the Czech language, I had no clue what or where anything was, I didn’t have a single friend and in all truth, I didn’t really know that much about Prague. But, with anxiety came excitement. I could not wait to be walking through the alleyways and castles of which I had only seen in photographs. I was eager to study and travel with friends I had yet to meet.

Now, sitting 4,000 miles from Europe, I reflect on all the memories shelved in my mind – picnicking in Vienna, hiking through the Bohemian Paradise, walking through a damp silver mine, sitting in on Mass in the most beautiful cathedrals, dancing in Berlin, driving along the River Thames, tracing Kafka’s peripatetic journey to school with my own feet to better understand him and his labyrinth and eating delicious zmrzlina (ice cream). I was walking into castles because I felt like it, playing with royal peacocks, drinking in beer gardens, taking aimless midnight walks, spontaneously hopping onto trains leaving Prague, not being able to correctly say my street name, řeznícka (pronounced rjezneetska), dancing on tram tracks, learning history I’ve never been exposed to before, walking through Auschwitz, missing home, feeling like I’m on top of the world and swimming outdoors in Prague’s biggest pool, Podolí while it snowed.

In choosing central European and Jewish studies, I expected to learn an immense amount of modern Jewish history in central Europe – and boy did I learn. As a Judaic studies and comparative literature major, this experience abroad taught me in a way that’s impossible to learn here at UMass. Not only did I get to study in a formal academic setting, but CET brought me to Budapest, Vienna and Krakow, where remnants of what I had read in essays and books came to life. In addition to studying the Jewish past, I was granted the opportunity to participate in its present. Through volunteering at Prague’s Jewish day school, participating in Sabbath services and establishing friendships with members of the Czech Union of Jewish Students, I was able to familiarize myself with today’s community.

As I enter my senior year, I reflect on all of the courses I have taken. Although I learned a great deal at UMass, one of the most impacting educational experiences of my career as a student has certainly been with CET in Prague. Through writing book reviews, listening to my enormously knowledgeable professors as well as to visiting lecturers and touring numerous east-central European capitals, I accrued an immense familiarity with the history I had come to learn.

Previously, I had a modicum of knowledge about life in Prague. How it seated the Holy Roman Empire, when the country gained independence after World War I, how it was handed over to Nazi Germany under the Munich Agreement and how Soviet communism veiled the country for decades and about the Velvet Revolution which overthrew the authoritarian rule. After learning all of this in class, I walked the streets with my beaming professors who had lived through years of the country’s struggles and were able to present their country with pride.

Living where the history unfolded augmented my education, as my feet felt the cobblestone beneath me and my eyes absorbed monuments and evidence of a changing society.

With the encroaching Oct. 10 International Programs Office application deadline for many study abroad programs, it is wise to begin pondering which country you want to be living in next semester. The geographically comprehensive list of UMass programs is impressively long and there are also many non-UMass programs, one of which I participated in to get an even more unfamiliar experience. Though I feared the paperwork would be a complex hindrance to the actual studying abroad, it was surprisingly simple and straightforward. The experienced and devoted IPO and CET staff could not have been more helpful in making the pre-program process slide by with ease.

Unless your time sensitive course requirements must be filled on the UMass campus or your health is threatened, there is really no reason to not study abroad. If you’re eligible and love new opportunities, take a look at IPO’s offering of programs in over 60 countries.

Drink mate in Argentina, walk past the Coliseum on your way to class in Rome, take bucket showers in Ghana, snorkel in the Great Barrier Reef, hear a government address in Tiananmen Square or flirt with sexy blondes on Stockholm’s Djurgården Island. Learn a new tongue, meet new people and examine a new area of history.

Walking past the UMass pond or climbing Mt. Sugarloaf can be breathtaking if you allow it, but it’s nothing like strolling through 1,000-year-old castles and alleyways.

No matter what continent you choose to live on for a semester or two, the experience will be life defining and an ineffaceable memory. UMass will be here when you get back.

Hannah Grossman is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected]

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