Before I start being formal and all, here is some general information about me. My name is Emily Sujka. But, if you ever meet me face-to-face on campus, you might hear people greet me by another name: Maggie. I have just completed a semester of studying away in Prague, Czech Republic. My experience there definitely helped in elucidating many parts of life lurking in the shadows. I won’t say it has been life altering, after all, going abroad hasn’t changed the course of my life. But, all the small experiences in Prague, living in a completely different culture, with a different language, diet, set of social standards, have certainly further molded me. Recently, I spoke with NYU’s Wasserman Center about my experiences.
What is your major/class/school?
Currently, (and I say currently because it’s always changing) I am an Economics major in the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) and a part of the Class of 2016.
Why did you want to study away at your particular site?
In actuality, I had no intention of going abroad. Back in high school, I went to Spain for a month during the summer. It was dreadful. I longed for America the whole time. But, my ideas about going to study in another country shifted with my freshman year RA who had gone abroad with NYU twice and whole-heartedly endorsed the opportunity for any student. That’s when my research began…
I wanted to study away in the Czech Republic for several reasons. And no, it wasn’t because it was cheaper or because of its convenient Central European location. My reasons had to do with the culture. I love Slavic Cultures, specifically that of Poland. So, the Czech Republic isn’t Poland…but it was just a step towards a bigger goal. My motto in life is to keep moving by any means to get to where you want to be. For a semester to be surrounded by food, language, and symbols, associated with Slavic life was just such an elating idea and I knew I couldn’t let the opportunity pass me by.
What classes did you take?
In Prague, I completed Building a State: Czech and Slovak Republics, Modern Dissent, Elementary Polish II, and Architecture.
What was the most meaningful/impactful experience you had abroad?
The most meaningful/impactful experience…well geez, that’s a lot of pressure. I’ve met famous Czech politicians, volunteered a weekend at Benediktus, a volunteer community in a more rural part of the Czech Republic, hiked up Sniezka, the most prominent point of the Silesian Ridge in the Krkonoše mountains, walked along the paths of priests as St. Vitus Cathedral, and even eaten Falafel in St. Wenceslas Square where the Velvet Revolution took place- where the Czechoslovak youth expelled the Communists from their lands, denouncing fear once and for all. And that’s only the Czech Republic. I also traveled to 6 other separate European countries during my time here strolling down the Chain Bridge in Budapest, riding bikes in Amsterdam, following the Mural of Princes in Dresden, munching on macaroons in Paris, meeting famous actress and politician Mrs. Vasaryova in Bratislava, and visiting Sukiennice, for my second time, in Krakow. Being in Europe, seeing as much as I can, taking it all in, has just been a real pleasure. Borders between countries are just man’s invention. Yes, some are reasonable, political borders drawn along rivers and mountains, but others are just imaginary lines. However, you see what you perceive as commonalities. “We do that too.” “That is NOT a pancake.” Humanity ties us together no matter where you are. People help, speak, wonder, and eat no matter where you are. It’s humbling to see the world in its grandiosity and still feel connected to the world.
What have you learned from your experience that will impact your career endeavors?
I managed three internships this semester. I know, sounds crazy, but there were too many things presented to take advantage of that I just couldn’t pass up. Closely working with Wasserman, I learned how to organize an event for any occasion, including how to advertise an event and make material accessible for students. Seriously, I learned that cookies work wonders on attendance. In general, I acquired skills in working with people I never thought I’d have.
Furthermore, I also assisted in English teaching in a local elementary school. This was building on previous experience I already had, nonetheless it still allowed me to further understand people. In childhood lies the rawest state of our being. Children can teach us more than any seminar and so, even though I don’t wish to pursue education or another career path having to do with kids, I have greatly valued this experience that has allowed me to do something outside of my comfort zone while allowing me to cement this sentiment.
Another good bit of advice: Even though it’s optimal to figure out what you want, crossing stuff off this list isn’t such a bad thing either. I also helped create a survey for the Bohemia Jazz Festival, a free music festival held in the Czech Republic annually. Something that sounds so big not only took time in its creation, but it also took many edits and rewrites, tracking down the right people and being persistent. Sometimes it is not only the skills and new techniques we obtain from an internship or job experience, but also small achievements along the way.