By Rajath Kenath
No amount of time spent in America could have prepared me for a city so hauntingly beautiful, that the moment I step outside, I am filled with instant reverence and respect. To juxtapose Prague (Praha) with a city like New York would be foolish, as the differences are so jarring one would begin to doubt that these two cities exist in the same world. In essence, Prague is a puzzle — a puzzle 12 centuries in the making. Separately, the 10 districts of Prague are brilliant by their own accord. For example, Prague 1 is the Times Square of the Czech Republic. It is the historical heart of the city: always bustling, full of lights and full of tourists. Prague 2 is a favorite amongst locals. Its tree-lined streets and large parks as well as community squares make it a hotspot for foreigners to live. Prague 3 has the most bars per capita in all of Europe. Prague 4 is where the working class of Prague reside, essentially where most of the Czech people hang out. Together all of these districts serve to form an unforgettable city full of culture and some of the most ornate architecture the world has ever seen. As far as the eye can see, there are rooftops clad in orange shingles, cobblestone roads, gothic-themed churches, and street performers of extraordinary talent.
My two weeks in Prague have been nothing short of unbelievable. Perhaps the best, and most implausible part, is how cheap this city can be. This is a city where you can find a carton of 18 eggs for less than the equivalent of $2.50. This is a city where beer costs less than water. This is a city where living in an apartment in the picturesque Prague 2 costs less than living in a dorm on campus. Here the streets have no trash or garbage. Here the public transportation system is so efficient that 20 years from now, there may be no need for cars in Prague. Regardless of where you are: on the Charles Bridge, inside the St. Vitus Cathedral, in the center of Old Town Square, next to the thousands of graves in the Jewish Quarter, or even while doing something as seemingly uneventful as waiting for the metro or shopping for groceries, you cannot help but feel a sense of appreciation for where you are now. That is what it means to be an American abroad. We are outsiders peering into the daily lives of people in cities much older than the ones we come from — cities whose rich histories fill them with life and beauty. Being abroad is an unforgettable cultural experience not to be taken for granted, and I am grateful that my experience is only beginning.