A: I took HIS389Y0 (The City in Central Europe: Imperial Pasts, Imperial Aspirations, Wars and Revolution).
A: What I learned by participating in this program that I would not have learned by taking the same course in Toronto is how to link the field to my research and essays. I got to incorporate my own observations of life in Central Europe right into my essays! For example, when I wrote an essay about how Mozart is still very prominent in modern day Vienna and the musical image it has for itself, my research consisted of walking around the city and noting how his face is on banners everywhere, visiting the Mozarthaus Museum and getting all dressed up to see one of his operas at he Vienna State Opera! Actually being in the city while doing research allowed me to immerse myself in my essay in a way that taking the course in Toronto would not have been able to do.
A: Participating in this program deepened my interest in my European studies major, and sparked an interest in Central and Eastern Europe that wasn’t as prominent before this Summer Abroad experience. The history of Central Europe is a very rich one that often gets neglected next to that of Western Europe, and after this course, I would love to continue learning about the region. After visiting Vienna I even decided that I want to add German to my list of languages!
A: The biggest challenge I faced during the program was definitely the language barrier while I was in Czech Republic, especially because I had a Czech roommate who did not speak English very well and I don’t speak any Czech. To overcome this, I became quite good at miming! We actually ended up having a good laugh on several occasions but we still found a way to communicate. I even downloaded a Czech translation app and learned some Czech phrases from my roommate in exchange for teaching her a few English ones!
Q: What were your highlights of the program?
A: The highlights of my program would definitely have to be the charm and beauty of Central Europe, and the amazing new friends that I got to experience that with. For many years I dreamed of visiting Prague, and even though we had torrential downpour while we were there, Prague’s incomparable beauty did not fail to disappoint. However, I think what made the whole trip really special was the friends I made on the program. Because we had to live with each other 24/7 for 5 weeks, we got to know each other really well- and luckily this solidified our friendship rather than making us sick of each other! It was a wonderful group and I feel so grateful that I get to continue seeing them frequently in Toronto. In fact, even a year later we regularly meet up and have schnitzel together at a Hungarian restaurant on Bloor street so that we can relive our Central Europe experiences!
Q: What did you find most rewarding about participating in this program?
A: What I found most rewarding by participating in this program was being able to physically go and see the cities we had just talked about in class. For example after just learning about the Prague Spring of 1968, we got to go to Wenceslas Square where demonstrations took place. This definitely made it easier to envision what it must have been like to be there at the time. Also, studying at Masaryk University in Brno and constantly being around other Czech students definitely helped me feel more international and not as “touristy”, but at the same time, the fact that it is a U of T course taught by U of T faculty still gave me some familiarity so it really was the best of both worlds.
Q: What advice would you give to a student thinking about participating in this program next year?
A: To any student thinking about participating in this program, my advice to you is to stop thinking about doing it and actually make it a reality! The Central Europe program has a staff so dedicated to ensuring that its students not only learn a lot but also have an incredibly amazing experience while there that it’s impossible NOT to have a good experience. I know a number of people who have done this program during various years and everyone has agreed that the Central Europe program makes for an unforgettable summer. I can guarantee the same for anyone who participates!