Nick Kobel, Class of Spring 2010

"I fell in love with the city and came back as soon as I graduated, teaching English for a year. One thing I loved most was my ability to curb my consumption. For example, in the US, I would exit my detached single-family home to drive to the grocery store to buy a loaf of bread double-wrapped in a plastic bag. In Prague, I could walk from my small apartment to a potraviny (or take the tram to Tesco) to buy a loaf of šumava without packaging. My carbon footprint was much lower, and it made me feel better about living life. And I never felt that my quality of life was limited in the Czech Republic, and actually I feel it was greatly enhanced. I've never felt more free than in Prague, and that was one shocker I wasn't expecting given the American narrative as the "land of the free."

And of course, it made me question a lot of policy choices we make in the US. I'm now an urban planner at the City of Portland, and I look to Prague and other European cities for guidance on making walkable urban spaces. I think, if Czechs can manage to get around on public transit and live a modest lifestyle but meet most of their needs, then Americans can surely find ways to live more sustainably. It has helped arm me with examples for breaking down the preconceptions we have about density, multifamily housing, car ownership and a lot more.

I was touched by the passion of some of the professors. They challenged me to gaze upon the world through a different lens, and I grew enormously as an individual. I became more acquainted with one professor, whom I would grab coffee with now and then when I came back to Prague the second time. We are still in touch."