Having started my university experience in the height of Covid, all the way back in 2020, I never really felt like I had experienced university to the maximum. My first year of university quickly became far from what I had heard my sister describe univeristy to be. Instead of student events, fresher’s fairs and lectures, I had online lessons, quarantine and a 10pm national curfew. How could she have anticipated that we would live through a pandemic? Nonetheless, as years went on, and we all got accustomed to Covid-19, things did get better. I had in person lectures and finally went to student events. But the feeling that I had missed out on something bigger never really left.
As I arrived in Prague and successfully overcame my initial crippling overthinking, my next opportunity for panic hit me. I was going to be sharing a room with someone. Now, growing up with sisters, I felt like I had some awareness of what its like to share, but I also knew that if things didn’t go my way, this wasn’t going to be someone I could fight with or tell on. I had to go into this like an adult, and thus my experince of sharing a room was rendered null and void. Despite this, my roommate immediately became my closest confidant on my journey through Erasmus.
I vividly recall the moment I met my roomate. She had left her luggage in the room before I arrived, so I sneakily checked the label on her chunky, bright blue suitcase. The luggage tag said she had arrived from Lisbon, Portugal. I was instantly excited. Not only had I never met anyone from Portugal, but I had forgotten that I would be sharing with someone from another country. I had lost sight of the opportunity to learn so much about a country I’d never even been to. As she arrived later that evening, we quickly exchanged basic information of where we were from and what we were studying. Although we were enrolled in different faculties and it would probably mean we wouldn’t see each other on campus, the following day, I realised that it was something we could use to our advantage. Whilst we both stood in line to receive our stuednt cards at our faculties, we simultaneously met new people and heard of some big social events that we weren’t going to miss. By the end of the first few days in Prague, we reassembled to discuss our findings, outlining a full and enticing week of activities.
Now going on a year abroad, I knew that I was going to have to socialise like my life depended on it, making sure I was making the most of this opportunity. But I had concerns of course. Growing up as a second generation immigrant, this meant that the vast majority of my family didn’t live in the UK, they lived in Eastern Europe. During the summers in my home country, I always sensed that compared to my European cousins, I was shy. It was an observation that I had made way back when I was a kid. That there was something about mainland Europeans that was different when it came to making friends, they were more confident and open than my friends and I when we were younger. Thus, during my first days in the Czech Republic, surrounded my mostly European students, the observation came back to me and although I had perfected my witty British humour, I understood that it had abandoned me as soon as I landed. I was once again my own and had to socialise like never before. Luckily, finding myself in a room of like-minded students from all over the world, I felt like I had caught up with my cousins. Everyone was warm, welcoming, and most importantly, open to making friends. My social anxieties gently melted away and I began to feel stupid for even thinking that our geographical differences would ever be an obstacle. They were a blessing. It meant that you could almost never run out of conversation topics. Finished talking about the basics? No problem, try celebrities. Try national dishes. Try anything and everything.
However, with the first blissful week in Prague coming to a close, the novelty began to wear thin. I could sense lectures creeping round the corner. So, I prepared my farewell to socialising and retrieved my pen and paper. The reason I was here had finally caught up with me and I decided there was no more time for socialising. Until I walked back into my dorm on Monday.
Now initially,I also had worries about living in dormitories. Other than the fact I was sharing a room with someone, the dormitories were about 40 minutes from the city centre. The rooms were all close together and being far from the centre it often felt like I had left Prague whenever I came home. I often fantized about living in a cosy flatshare in the city and living the perfect student life in a beautiful city. Still, coming back from my first lecture, I was greeted with the main reason I continue to stay here. I had bumped into some friends that I had made the week prior. I had no idea they were living in the same dorms and as if we had known each other for months, they invited me to the common room to hang out. Grateful for the hardcore socialising I did the week prior, I followed them into the room. As the evening grew, and more people came flooding in, I realised that a small flat share in the city could not, and would not, ever enable me to make friends like I do here. In this moment, I decided that the thing I was most worried about was now my best decision. The feeling that I had ever missed out on something bigger disappeared. Something bigger was finally here, and it wasn’t a perfect city life or the opportunity to apply my perfected British humour. It was the people.