First impressions

Fatima Ahmed
Fatima Ahmed
5 January 2023

The cold air stung my cheeks as soon as I stepped outside the airport. Instinctively, I thrust my hands into my coat pockets and hunched up my shoulders, my only defence against weather I was greatly unaccustomed to. The chaotic din of people bargaining with taxi drivers drew my attention, distracting me momentarily from the cold and suddenly, it hit
me, ‘I’m here’. What initially seemed like a far-fetched idea was finally coming to fruition. Little did I know, I was far from prepared for this incredible yet scary undertaking, and I encountered the first challenge as soon as I made my way up to my Uber driver.

‘Dobrý den!’ I chirped, hoping that I had managed to enunciate properly the only phrase I had made sure to memorize in Czech. My greeting was reciprocated and was accompanied by a rapid succession of Czech words, most of which went completely over my head.

‘Uhm… I’m so sorry I don’t speak Czech’, I replied sheepishly, having been forced to utter the declaration every local is tired of hearing.

‘Aha!’ he replied, ‘my English.. eh..sorry..not so good’.

Not knowing what to say, I smiled meekly as he popped the car trunk open and carefully placed my luggage inside. ‘This is going to be one long drive to the dormitory’, I thought. But, unexpectedly, the car ride was anything but quiet. We both found a way around the language barrier—Google translate. Never before had I ever been more grateful for the existence of this advanced piece of technology. And if we did reach a roadblock in our conversation, a combination of frantic gestures was employed along with broken sentences to make ourselves understood. That was the moment that I knew this was going to be the beginning of a new journey, one that would be teeming with countless new obstacles but also with a myriad of lasting memories. And oh, that I definitely needed to master Czech.

It isn’t easy being an international student in a completely different part of the world, but it isn’t impossible. Not only does one further their academic and professional career, but the magnitude of personal development that co-occurs is incomparable. I am so grateful that I mustered up the courage and took that leap of faith despite everything because studying in Czechia has been an experience like no other. And so, to anyone contemplating taking this shot in the dark,

‘If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them:
‘Hold on!’
— ’If’ by Rudyard Kipling