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    Posted March 16, 2014 by
    Znojmo, Czech Republic
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    Why study abroad? Ask Michelle Obama

    Finding a Home Away

    I always planned to study abroad, but never had a real idea where I wanted to go. Fast forward a few months when I had to apply for programs and found myself begging my parents to let me go to Prague, Czech Republic, purely because I had a gut feeling that it was where I should be. My spring semester away from The College of William and Mary in 2012 to study Central European Studies at Charles University through CIEE was more amazing than I could have ever imagined. Besides wonderful new friends, a beautiful city, and Europe at my fingertips, studying abroad meant a new form of experiential learning that is impossible to replicate on the typical college campus or in a typical classroom. I had never academically focused on the region before, yet found myself endlessly intrigued because I was learning about where I was living.

    Now fast forward 2 years and I’m back in the Czech Republic, yet this time as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant in a public Czech high school in the South Moravian city of Znojmo. While I technically returned to the Czech Republic as a teacher, I find myself learning more from my students, colleagues, and new friends than I could have ever imagined. It’s amazing to say that I feel at home in a place where I have only been for a few months and with people who speak English as their second language. As I teach them about the English language and American culture, I learn more and more about myself as a teacher and an individual. However, what I hope to share with people back home is what I’ve learned about our country through discussions, comparisons, and perceptions that I am able to grasp through the development of personal connections with people here. These realizations are invaluable and I believe they are crucial to the future of American foreign policy.

    Studying abroad opens doors to infinite possibilities, life lessons, and new perspectives that can totally change a person’s life. I believe in travel as one of the best ways to understand the world and understand oneself. If I hadn’t studied abroad, I would never have believed I could now be starting my adult life living away from home for a year. Yet, after 7 months, I can honestly say that my experience as a teacher this year is the most valuable experience I have ever had, and one that will stay with me wherever I am and in whatever I do in the future.
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