Meet Kate Warren (she/her)
Program and Location:
Spring, NC State European Center in Prague: Prague, Czech Republic
Graphic Design/Business Administration
Why did you choose to study abroad?
For the longest time, I just couldn’t imagine myself leaving the country for a whole semester. I honestly had no desire to leave my comfort zone of North Carolina. While I knew a lot of people in my Graphic Design program were planning on receiving their study abroad credit during the spring semester of their junior year, I was too scared of even considering leaving. Thinking about traveling across the world to live in a foreign place for 108 days can be an intimidating thought! However, it was during the Covid-19 pandemic when I did a lot of self-reflecting. I realized that I didn’t want to miss out on an opportunity to experience something so new and potentially life changing. I realized that I craved a new perspective on life, culture, and the world. And most importantly, I realized that, if there was any time to do this, it would be now, with my fellow Wolfpack family. Ultimately, I decided to study in the Czech Republic, with the NC State European Center in Prague for the 2022 Spring semester!
What did you learn about yourself?
I learned that I had an untapped sense of independence within me that I never knew existed. I thought I was a pretty self-sufficient person, but studying abroad really helped me grow as a person in that regard. Also, despite being a very picky eater, I learned that maybe I wasn’t as picky as I thought. I was able to open myself up to try new foods and, while I didn’t enjoy everything I ate, I was proud of myself for even trying. Plus, I found some new favorite foods along the way!
What was one of your favorite parts of your program?
One of my favorite parts of studying abroad with NC State was meeting new people that also happened to go to NCSU! Being abroad in a new country is a great bonding experience for everyone you’ll meet in your program. I am so lucky to have made some new friends that I will be able to see back in Raleigh soon!
What was your experience with navigating COVID-19 abroad?
Being in the Czech Republic, more specifically Prague, while Covid-19 was still prevalent was interesting. For the first half of my study abroad experience, we had to wear KN95 masks indoors and on public transportation. We also had to show our EU Covid-Passes when we went into certain restaurants, too. However, I’d say about two-thirds of the way through the semester, the mask and Covid-Pass mandates were completely dropped, and it was like I was living in a pre-pandemic world. It was very exciting to be able to go places freely without having to pull up documents or put on a mask! The NC State team in Prague did a fantastic job of monitoring the Covid-19 situation within our program throughout the entirety of our stay. We had self-administered antigen tests before our big program trips, like our trips to Český Krumlov and Berlin/Kraków. Other than that though, we didn’t have to be tested when traveling on our own time to other places around Europe! Thanks to the hard work of the NC State European Center in Prague’s team, Covid-19 was barely a concern.
How were your classes abroad different than if you would have taken them at NC State? Did you take any field trips or do anything outside of the traditional classroom?
While the structures of my classes were the same (lectures, tests, projects, etc.), they were so much more hands-on and interactive than ever before. For example, I took a European Design History class with Professor Vojtěch Märc. Instead of him just lecturing us on the material, every Thursday he took us on a field trip to a different museum. Each museum pertained to the material that we were learning in class on Tuesdays, and it really enhanced my knowledge by being able to see European Design in real life. In another class I took, Design in a Business Context with Matej Chabera, we got to create products and designs for an actual business in the Czech Republic. We were able to visit the company’s store during class time and were able to chat with employees about the project brief.
In what ways did your identity have an impact on your experience abroad?
Overall, my hearing loss had very little impact on my study abroad experience. While I was nervous about navigating having a disability while studying in a completely foriegn place, I noticed that a lot of the things I experienced as a disabled person in the U.S. occurred abroad too. Therefore, I knew how to handle the tough situations when they did occur.
Is there any advice you would give to other students who share your identity?
For those who wear hearing aids like me, make sure you bring extras of everything you need, just in case! Since I have Phonak chargeable hearing aids, I made sure to bring an extra charger as well as extra cerustops. Make sure you bring a proper alarm that can reliably wake you up, too!
Where did you find support to navigate any challenges you faced abroad?
I am so blessed to have been able to lean on the friends I made while abroad for support. They were always willing to help me out with any challenges I faced, especially when I was having trouble hearing important things! Not only that, but the NC State European Center in Prague’s team was very accommodating as well. Because of their kindness and support, I was able to have a relatively stress free stay in regards to my managing a disability while abroad.
What advice do you have for future study abroad students?
Here are my top 5 pieces of advice:
- When you’re packing, make sure to leave some room in your suitcases! You’ll most likely get a few souvenirs from your time abroad, so it’s important to make some space in your bags to bring them home safely.
- Download Google Maps! When I first started trying to navigate Prague, it was very easy for me to get lost. However, by having Google Maps, I was able to see all the public transportation routes very clearly. Unfortunately, for both Prague and the other places that I went to in Europe during my time abroad, Apple Maps didn’t show the public transportation routes. Thus, this is why I recommend Google Maps over Apple.
- Depending on where you’re studying, learn the basics of the language! Since I was studying in the Czech Republic, the NC State European Center in Prague gave all students a quick introduction to the Czech language for a few days. During this time, I was able to learn how to properly say certain greetings, “thank you,” and more! Before I left the U.S. to go to Prague, I also downloaded the Duolingo app to get myself more familiar with Czech.
- Consider saving some money to travel somewhere else outside of the place you’re studying! There is so much to see both in the area you’re studying in as well as outside it. One of my last weekends studying abroad was spent traveling to London. While Prague is, undoubtedly, my favorite place in Europe, London is a close second! I’m really glad that I took advantage of the proximity of the Czech Republic to other places around the world that I wouldn’t normally visit because they’re too far from the U.S.
- If the school you’re studying with has organized events, I would highly recommend going to them. The NC State European Center in Prague offered a wide variety of activities, such as cooking classes, going to the opera, and a Czech-circus performance. I was able to go to all of these activities, and I’m so glad I did. Out of all the activities, I think the cooking class was my favorite. While I’m not the best chef in the world (or at all, really), I was able to learn some traditional Czech recipes, and was even able to make these foods in the NC State European Center’s kitchen!
Would you do it again?
As I’m writing this, all I can think about is going back!! I’d wholeheartedly do it again, which is such a far cry from the person I was before, who was so worried about what would happen if I traveled so far. Prague is an amazing place to study and live, and I will forever cherish the memories I have made there.