Horns meet World. World meet Natalie Schulte. Natalie is a December 2016 Texas Ex with a degree from the College of Education. She studied abroad during the summer of 2015 through the Accademia Italiana program in Florence, Italy. Her passion for creativity, travel and teaching lead her to move to Prague, Czech Republic, where she lives and works as a photographer and teacher. You can contact her through natalieschultephoto.com.
If college is the time to figure out who you are and what you want in life, study abroad is figuring out where you want to live it.
My six week program in Florence, Italy gave me a taste of life outside the US, and I was awestruck. While I had traveled on cruises to Disney and to different parts of the country with my family, my first time arriving in Europe was by myself with nerves and a suitcase in hand. By the end, I felt so blessed to have had such an amazing summer immersing myself in the Italian culture and lifestyle, gaining a few pounds of gelato-weight, and making unforgettable memories.
The post-study abroad blues were real. Even though I was completely out of my element in a foreign country, I also felt more like myself when I was traveling. I thrived on the challenge of figuring out what to do when I got on the wrong train and was kicked off in the middle of nowhere, or trying to communicate with the vendors at the farmers’ market who speak no English, or even trying to master the art of public transportation.
Most other study abroad-ers I met agreed that it was an experience they wouldn’t have traded for anything, but with graduation looming everyone seemed on track to start their 9-5 in the workforce…. except for me. I abhorred the idea that my only experience in travel from then on would be taking my two weeks vacation each year. But how was I going to afford to live and travel abroad in a foreign country when I don’t speak the language? Little did I know, my greatest asset was simply being a native-English speaker.
My mom first discovered The Language House through the Texas Parents Facebook page. I hadn’t heard of Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) certification courses before, so I did a little light research and realized this might be the answer I was looking for. I wasn’t 100% sold though, so I put it on the back-burner. A few weeks later, my younger Longhorn sister was accepted into a study abroad program based in Prague, Czech Republic – the same city this course was in! I took it as a sign from above, applied, and registered for the course, and promptly freaked out. On February 7th, I was leaving the country with no return ticket and no idea what I was in for.
The Language House is a 4-week, intensive teacher certification course that was more difficult than many of my senior classes at UT. Not only are you adjusting to living halfway across the world, getting to know the other people in your course, finding housing, getting your visa, and learning grammar points about English you didn’t even know existed (3rd conditional? Past perfect continuous tense?? OSASCOMP?????), but you’re also being trained for a job you likely have no experience in. It was hard, but it was the most fun I’ve had in a long time. The other trainees are your built-in support system, and at the end, you’re ready to start supporting yourself in your new home!
Prague is a historic, unique, sometimes confusing (Google “David Cerny babies” and you’ll see), and always entertaining city to be in. We boast about our top-notch public transportation system and how far a U.S. dollar goes here. The need for English teachers is large, and once you get to know them, Czechs are hilarious and adventurous people. Most importantly for me, as a female traveler, I feel incredibly safe walking the streets here even at night.
For those who are up for the challenge, moving abroad is the most rewarding, exciting, and unique experience out there. I’m now teaching with a flexible work schedule, signed up for a half-marathon in Budapest, going on a Greek Islands cruise, and meeting friends from all over Europe and beyond. I’m only a 20 euro bus ride away from places like Vienna, Budapest, Berlin, and Salzburg and I can see Prague Castle from my apartment window.