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    Albert L. Eserjose

    The College of New Jersey ‘15 
    UPCES Fall Semester ‘14
 

 

UPCES Classes:  The undergraduate classes provided by UPCES were simply amazing. With the limited size of the classes, I truly got to know the professors on a deeper level as opposed to your traditional lecture hall based classes. Never had I imagined that after taking a walking tour of Prague - an amazing class - that I would stop at a pub for cerne pivo with the professors. For those politically savvy, may I suggest Professor Uros Lazarevic’s “In Love with Power: Non-Democratic Regimes in Central and Eastern Europe After 1945”. This class not only engages you academically, as there are students from the eastern and western schools of thought. It’s essentially the most balanced Socratic seminar I’ve ever participated in during my undergraduate career.  

UPCES Trips: My favorite trip by far was Cesky Krumlov: If you have watched the movie shrek, I swear Duloc was based on this city.

UPCES Independent Housing: I loved the ability we had as students to find housing with other students. I had gone alone to Prague, so knowing this I made like-minded friends fast, and we lived actually in the city. Living in Vinohrady was a perfect combination of price, not living in a touristy area, allowing my flatmates and I to be immersed in the culture, and not living too far from Prague 1, ultimately providing what I believed to be a wholesome Prague experience.

UPCES Faculty and Staff: The UPCES Faculty and Staff were not just the administrators of my education, but also an extension of my family. I had been gone for the spring semester for college, had seen my summer days whisked away during my military training, and had taken a flight to Prague upon the training’s completion. Transitioning to Prague under the watchful gaze of this staff could not have been a more ideal situation. Although I had not seen home in quite some while, I had felt it while abroad.

Prague Highlight: There is a value in moments. Intrinsically they have a certain nostalgia associated with them. But when the highlights are consistently successive, they create experiences. Prague itself was a life-changing experience. I think the value here is not in a particular moment, but the experience itself. Going to Prague itself was a dream come true. The relative ease of the academic workload had provided the opportunity early on to explore the city, take advantage of those unlimited public transport passes. The ability to speak Czech, albeit in terrible accents, in my experience aided in everything I did, as it charmed the locals with a feeling of “Oh your Czech is terrible, but it’s cute, you’re trying.” Walking down Old Town Square was like living in an art history textbook. The Prague Castle was simply breathtaking and the Charles Bridge was a hell of a place to just take a walk. Klobasa and Goulash with every meal, and Pivo with every Klobasa and Goulash was the name of the foodie game. The Christmas markets were idyllic. The Communist Party headquarters within walking distance of the school was simply hilarious. The relative ease and cleanliness of public transportation, except at night where 40 minutes could not be any longer, was much appreciated. The people from the program were outright amazing and from different walks of life; every decision that you ever made in your life helped carve a path that, for whatever reason, got you on that plane to Prague. I boarded my plane for Prague on 8 September 2014; in a span of three days so did the other 85 students. For whatever reason that may have been we were all in Prague Fall 2014. From this group of scrappy college students, came the fondest experience of my undergraduate career. It’s funny how that works out, had I been merely a moment late or a moment early on both my figurative and literal path to Prague, the sequence of events to follow could have changed my Prague experience substantially. My Prague experience altered my life-views, challenged my pre-conceived notions, helped me develop a deeper understanding of myself, and reinvigorated my once lost boyish sense of adventure. If I were to pinpoint a single moment while abroad I would simply devalue the experience as a whole. But the experience itself, it’s once in a lifetime, and I’d do everything in my power to live that experience again.