Dobry den! Jak se máš? Of all the languages that I dreamt of conquering someday, I never imagined that I would one day find myself conversing in the Czech language (or at least attempting to). But you never know where life will take you and just a day after New Year’s Day I found myself with a Czech map and phrasebook in hand as I navigated my way through the cobblestoned streets of Prague, the small and quaint capital city of Czech republic. It’s hard to believe that I had made the decision to go to the Czech republic only 2 weeks before. Before that I don’t think I’d ever even heard of the Czech republic despite my engagement with plenty of history lessions about communism or European nationalism.
The fact is in September last year, I signed up to become a member of AIESEC. Aiesec (according to my always dependable professor ‘wikipedia’) is an international organization that provides students or anyone under the age of 30 with leadership training and internship opportunities at for-profit and non-profit organizations. You can either join Aiesec as a regular member in which case you get to go to informative and fun leadership conferences (or so I’ve heard). Or you can join as an exchange participant in which case Aiesec helps you find a paid internship at a company anywere in the world or you can go on a cultural excange where you volunteer with a non-profit organization anywhere in the world. When I say ‘anywhere’ I mean ‘anywhere’. My brain almost exploded everytime I looked through the list of Aiesec exchange opportunities on their website. They may be a student organization but damn it they’ve managed to invade almost every major university campus on this earth. And since it’s such an elite organization I had to endure a brutal 30 minute interview where I was assaulted with quesions about my experience in cross cultural settings, leadership roles, life goals… Psssh life goals. Like I had any idea!
Long story short at the beginning of December I wrote the final exams which put the last nails to the coffin that had been my 4 1/2 years at the University of Toronto (Absolutely hated that school). And then I started to panic. What the hell was I going to do after I graduated? I was petrified of the idea of finishing school and tarmacking (as we call it in Kenya). All I could think of was the last four years I’d spent arguing with my parents about studying political science and sociology when I could have studied medicine. So while I was frantically trying to decide what country to do my exchange, the Igx (incoming exchange coordinator) for a university in Prague invited me to do my Aiesec exchange at a childrens home in Usti nad Labem, Czech Republic. I agreed to her offer. Truthfully, I got a lot of offers to do an exchange in Russia, Hungary, Ukraine and Poland. But I turned them all down. See, I don’t think about my race or ethnicity often (thanks to growing up in a 90% black country) but there’s certain times when I’m forced to think about my skin colour and how people will react to me. Travelling is one of those cases. I figured that since Czech republic had a bit of a western european influence (being sandwiched between Germany and Austria), I’d have less of a chance of being attacked, humiliated, or mistreated because of my skin colour. I don’t think I’ll ever go to Russia. I’ve read countless stories of students from Africa being beaten up and killed while simply taking the metro home from classes. It’s rather unfair that as much as I would love to travel I have to limit myself from going to certain places because my skin colour is feared or looked down upon.
In anycase, stay tuned for the next entry about my three weeks living in Prague and a small city (Usti nad Labem) in the North of Czech Republic!