Adam studied in The Czech Republic on the CIEE: Prague, Film Studies Program during the Fall of 2015.
If you could give only one reason, why would you suggest other students study abroad?
The main reason I studied abroad was because everyone who went to college told me that was one of their biggest regrets. I had been wanting to study abroad since I was in high school so I wanted to make sure I didn’t miss the opportunity. Especially if you have never been out of the United States before, it is an extraordinary opportunity to step out of your comfort zone, meet new people and try new things. You also learn so much about yourself that you come back to the United States a different person than before.
If you could go abroad again, what would you do differently?
The first few weeks in Prague, it was rough for me to adjust at first. If I could do things differently, I would try to force my past self to be less depressed and do as much around the city as possible. There really is no reason to be depressed, as lonely or homesick as one may feel. You are young, living in a foreign city that is waiting to be explored and have the opportunity to meet people from all around the country and the world. There really is no better circumstance.
Aside from people telling me they regretted not going, I also saw Penn State had an abroad film program. This suited my major perfectly and what I was interested in, so I decided to apply and ended up getting accepted.
What concerns/fears did you have about studying abroad, and how did you overcome them?
I had no expectations or fears prior to going abroad. It didn’t hit me that I was going abroad until I stepped on the plane. I had been abroad before and lived in large cities prior to going abroad, so navigating a new city wasn’t a fear of mine or living alone. I didn’t start having fears until I arrived in Prague and began getting adjusted to living in the city.
What was it about your program specifically that fit your personal goals over other programs?
My program was a screenwriting program, which is what I am interested pursuing in the film major. I strongly encourage film students at Penn State to look into this specific program. There is a production track and a screenwriting track. In the production track, you produce a short film on 16mm film, which is a huge difference from shooting digitally and a worthwhile experience to have. In the screenwriting track, you are encouraged to develop and write the first half of a feature-length screenplay. That was great for me because it forced me to write over the course of the semester.
How have you used the skills you learned abroad now that you are back; either in job searching, or in other activities?
I now have that experience on my resume and employers love to see that you are cultured and have stepped out of your comfort zone. Studying abroad says a lot about a person because honestly, a small percentage of American students study abroad each year. I still talk to the friends I made abroad from time to time and overall, am just a different person than prior to living in Europe. I wouldn’t take back the opportunity for anything.
What experiences did you have while studying abroad that you feel you could not have had if you had stayed at Penn State?
When you study abroad, you are typically in a place that is not what you are used to living in America. Even though in most major cities around the world, people speak at least a little bit of English, you are forced to become accustomed to another person’s culture. In my case, I had to learn at least basic Czech to use in public places, I had to learn to respect their traditions and their culture. It is good to have those experiences and get out of your comfort zone. Studying abroad is the perfect opportunity to do that. Particularly living in Europe, you travel to so many different countries that have different languages and different currencies that you begin to be a seasoned traveler.
What advice would you give to outbound study abroad students to help them make the most out of their study abroad experiences?
Do as much as you can while abroad. Stay out of your apartment or dorm. Experience the city. Experience the culture. Meet as many people as you can. If you have no interesting stories to tell when you get back to America, you have wasted your opportunity.
Share an experience where you interacted with someone in your host culture in a way that taught you something.
What was interesting about being in the Czech Republic was that even though I was still in Europe, I wasn’t in an area of Europe that was as focused on as the Western European countries like England or France. I can’t think of a specific interaction at the moment but just going out to bars or restaurants and meeting locals was interesting and I think I fell in love with Prague and the country over the course of my semester abroad. It just felt like it was where I was meant to go.