Meet Lauren, the USAC Program Advisor for Italy. Learn more about her, below!
I studied in Prague, Czech Republic during the Spring of 2020. I was on-site for two months, and then finished the duration of the program remotely from the United States.
One of my favorite memories in the Czech Republic was participating in the Masopust celebration, which can be compared to Mardi Gras in the U.S. That morning, we took the train from the main Prague station, hlavní nádraží, and then hopped on the bus to a small town outside Prague. We made our way to the town square. There were people of all ages, some dressed in costumes, others passing out homemade pastries. The celebration began with a costume contest. Then a brass band started playing and we walked a little way to a feast. Men and women were cooking and preparing delicious traditional meals. While we ate at the makeshift tables the town’s volunteer firefighters hosted contests and games. We continued walking through the town. Neighbors had their garage doors open and continued passing out food as the brass band played.
Once on the train heading back to the city, it began to fill up with other celebrators throughout each stop. Soon we were standing on the steps to the second deck because of the large crowd. Everyone looked tired but happy from the celebrations! Out of all the amazing trips and adventures throughout my time abroad, that day spent with a few hundred Czechs was my favorite experience. After that day, I started to feel right at home.
Besides Prague, my favorite place I traveled to was Ljubljana, Slovenia. I enjoyed sitting at the various cafés and restaurants near the Ljubljanica river that runs through the city. I also took a short bus ride to Lake Bled and hiked to a lookout with beautiful views.
The funniest travel memory (only in hindsight!) was when I had planned a day trip with a few friends to a small town a couple of hours outside of Prague. I had set a half dozen alarms to get up so I wouldn’t miss my early bus. Fast forward to the morning, I was sleeping and got a call from one of my friends asking where I was. In about 5 seconds I realized that I managed to sleep through all my alarms. I told them to go ahead without me since there was no way I could catch the bus in time. After a couple of minutes, I had convinced myself I could at least try. I had to leave my apartment, get to the metro, travel a few stops, and find my bus in less than ten minutes. I quickly got dressed, grabbed my backpack (with all my school supplies still in it), and RAN out the door. I ended up sprinting up the (very long) escalator and sat down in my seat as soon as the bus was scheduled to leave.
I would like to visit Lisbon, Portugal. It seems like a very inviting and friendly place to be. I’d love to explore the different neighborhoods throughout the city.
In my free time, you can find me discovering new music, in my hammock reading a book, watching Seinfeld re-runs, and practicing yoga.
Not a weird fact, but a fun fact — I have a twin!
Right now, one of my goals is to visit every National Park in the U.S. I’m especially interested in traveling to parks that are certified by the International Dark-Sky Association. These are locations with very little light pollution, meaning you can see amazing views of the Milky Way.