Meet Skye Crawford (she/her)
Program and Location:
Summer, NC State European Center; Prague, Czech Republic
English Creative Writing, History Teacher Education, and American Literature minor
Why did you choose to study abroad?
Before studying abroad I had never been out of the country before. I knew that doing study abroad in college would give me the most financially feasible opportunity to do this, so I wanted to take advantage of it while I was still in university. If I hadn’t studied abroad, I’m not sure I would’ve left the U.S. at any point in my life!
What did you learn about yourself?
I learned that I like to stare. A lot. Czech people are starers; it’s normal in their culture to stare and people, and it’s oftentimes a compliment. As soon as I was told this by our Czech coordinator, I started staring at everyone. Coming back to the U.S., I realized just how much I’d grown accustomed to feeding into my staring urges because I’d get caught looking at someone and they’d give me the dirtiest looks. I still stare sometimes, but I don’t care. It reminds me of Prague!
What was one of your favorite parts of your program?
Being able to experience the culture of a place I had hardly considered was the most amazing part of the program for me!
What advice do you have to future study abroad students?
Take pictures of everything–even the most “mundane” of moments! As much as you’ll miss home while you’re abroad, you’ll miss the city you visited almost instantly when you return to the U.S. I think about NC State Prague almost every day, and I miss it so much. I don’t even remember the moments when I was sad; all I remember is the pure joy I felt walking the cobblestone streets with my new friends at 2 a.m. It’s an experience you will never forget, so treat it as such.
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?
All course taken at NC State Prague incorporate field trips into the learning experience. Our program was only six weeks, so we had three-hour classes twice a week for each course. However, this can get boring very fast, so it was nice to be able to get out of the classroom and explore the city. My Czech literature class did a sort of walking tour around the city almost every week, visiting graffiti sites, museums, and even Franz Kafka’s childhood home. My favorite trip was perhaps the Museum of Communism, where I learned about how communism impacted central Europe. I cannot visit a true communist museum in the U.S. because we’ve never existed under communist rule, so it was extremely rewarding to be able to experience that learning journey through the eyes of a country that dealt with its violence and repercussions firsthand.
In what ways did your identity have an impact on your experience abroad?
My identity as a Black woman impacted who I chose to spend my time with while abroad. I didn’t know anyone participating in NC State Prague prior to going, but as soon as I got on the shuttle from the airport to our residence halls, I saw other Black women and felt immediately safe. Being a minority in any place is scary, but knowing there are other people who identify the same as you while you visit an unfamiliar place is comforting. I was able to fully experience and immerse myself NC State Prague because of this, because of finding a community.
Is there any advice you would give to other students who share your identity?
Don’t be afraid to talk to people you know you share an identity with, racial or otherwise. As soon as I saw three other Black women on my shuttle from the airport, I wanted to talk to them. I didn’t initially because I was shy, but these three women came to be the people I traveled Europe with. We went to Paris and Berlin together, and I had the best time of my life. I wouldn’t have been able to explore other parts of Europe if I didn’t reach out to those people I knew I shared an identity with.
Where did you find support to navigate any challenges you faced abroad?
I tried to FaceTime my partner, friends, and family back home regularly. While the time difference certainly made this difficult, we managed. I also distracted myself from any homesickness by consistently reminding myself that this was a once in a lifetime opportunity. Just because you aren’t seeing those you love for a month or so doesn’t mean you won’t ever see them again. However, you might never see Prague or Vienna or Budapest or Berlin again, so it’s important to live in the moment. I also knew that most everyone else was experiencing the same thing as me, and even if we didn’t talk about it, we found solace in each other.
Would you do it again?
Absolutely! I’m currently applying to graduate programs here at NC State, and I plan to study abroad again while in graduate school if I’m given the opportunity!