When people say study abroad, they envision art museums, brunch in quaint cafes and tall men with French accents. But studying in a foreign country has highs and lows like any other experience, and it isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be.
This week, everything went wrong. I was almost arrested for riding a tram without a ticket. My debit card details were stolen and my account was drained. One of my roommates discovered a bug infestation in our flat. I lost my computer for 48 hours — this was almost the last straw.
The debit card has been the most stressful, but the tram was arguably the scariest. I’d heard from other students about how plainclothes police officers would ride the trams and randomly check tickets, but I honestly thought it was an urban myth. But one day, riding the tram home from school, disaster struck. Two police officers flagged me down, and when I failed to present a ticket, they threw me off the tram. They told me I needed to give them 1,000 Czech crowns, cash or card (roughly 50 USD). But because my bank account had been drained, I could not pay the fine. They ordered me to bring my passport to the police station, but I didn’t have my passport with me either. I asked if I could go home to get my passport, but they said no, as they “weren’t allowed to follow me anywhere,” which in my opinion is a stupid system because how am I supposed to present my passport to the police if the police won’t let me go get it? Eventually, I called my roommates, and one of them ran to where I was with my passport and $50 from my stash of American cash. I was able to leave with no lasting injuries except my wounded pride.
I still haven’t solved my other problems. I’ve been borrowing money from friends to get through the past few days. My parents sent me some cash to get me through the next couple of weeks, and I went to Western Union to pick it up, but the woman at the counter wouldn’t give me the money without a confirmation number which my dad had forgotten to send me. I couldn’t call him to ask for it — it was 4 a.m. in Texas. The teller had the receipt for the cash in front of her, and I pointed at it desperately — “Look, that says Louis Waters, my name is Sacha Waters. That’s my dad!” — but she was unsympathetic.
Living abroad isn’t all romance and sunsets and Emily in Paris — it’s rife with difficult situations thousands of miles from a support system. I’m not studying through Tufts, so I don’t have university support, and this past week has worried me somewhat. If I hadn’t made friends at my school I was comfortable borrowing money from, I don’t know what kind of situation I’d be in right now. A couple weeks ago, one of my roommates wanted to go to the hospital, and there was only one open, where we were yelled at in Czech by two security guards until we left. Thankfully, it was just a stomach ache, but if it was more serious, she could have been in real trouble. In Prague, I’m away from my family, my friends and my home, and although it’s fulfilling, it’s challenging in more ways than one.