Welcome to the Czech Republic!
And more specifically to Klecany!
I moved into my apartment in Klecany exactly one month ago yesterday and have officially completed my first month of teaching as of today! As you might imagine, quite a lot has happened in that time.
This is my third move across the pond (I’ve lived in Hannover, Germany and St. Petersburg, Russia before now) but the Czech Republic is a completely new experience in several ways.
First (and most acutely felt): nerozumim!
When I moved to Germany and Russia I had at the very least a basic grip on the language. That was not at all the case when I first came here. The full extent of my Czech was as follows: “Hello”, “Goodbye” (which I struggle to say because it’s difficult) “Excuse me”, “Train” (Closely Watched Trains), and “What is this?”. After a month here, I realize, I do have people with whom I only speak Czech. Our conversations are short and halting as I search for words, but I can make myself understood in some situations and can understand the person to whom I’m talking if they speak simply.
This means two things:
- Immersion definitely works. Just go to a new place and throw yourself into the language. You may not speak perfectly, but you’ll learn.
- You can always learn a new language and don’t let anybody tell you differently. Listen, speak, read, write. Practice. Don’t worry about making mistakes because every one is an opportunity either to learn something else, and/or for a funny story. And overall I’ve found people here to be extremely nice and helpful in teaching me a word or two. Just making the effort to speak some Czech, even if it’s not a lot, is important and fun.
Second: I’m a teacher, not a student.
It’s different leading classes than it was participating in them and I think teaching will make me an even better student because I’m learning what makes teaching difficult. I would rather have a class full of enthusiastic kids who make frequent mistakes than a class full of smart kids who are too nervous to mess up so they stay quiet. And so, both for myself and my future instructors, I will try very hard never to let silence stretch too long in my upcoming Czech classes, even if what ends up coming out of my mouth is nonsense. Nonsense they can work with. Silence is just sad.
Also, I’m working here, instead of studying. Really what this has meant so far is that I’ve had to go to the Ministry of Interiors in Prague and will have to go there two more times. It’s like the DMV, so that’s not great, but it does give me a chance to catch up with the lovely Tereza, aka TV, (who you will meet if you come here with CIEE) and that is great!
Third: I’m an adult
I grocery shop, have to buy things I don’t want to buy (like spatulas and laundry detergent) I’m the only one responsible for making sure my living space is neat and tidy etc. All of this comes with growing up and moving out. So that’s new for me, but it's new for everyone at some point. What's specific to the Czech Republic for me is that usually when living abroad I have a host family, and this time I don’t. This has its ups and downs. I like living alone, having my own private space, but I also know that if I had a host family I would be learning Czech faster. But since I can’t learn much alone in my apartment I have to go out and explore Prague. Woe is me, right? (No, definitely not!)
Fourth: I feel like a celebrity?
One last funny new thing about teaching: I never noticed when I was a student, but everybody says hello to teachers (or is that just here in the Czech Republic?) and I now know how celebrities feel when they walk anywhere and 100 people immediately want to talk to them. Only my life is definitely cuter because I get 25 excited 3rd graders all yelling, "Hello!" and "Good morning!" instead of paparazzi trying to take my picture as I'm leaving the gym.
There are too many other new things to detail in one post so I’m going to cut myself off there, but stay tuned! I learn about a million new things every day.