Archive | June, 2013

Learning to Leave the Nest…& Possibly Start A New One!

24 Jun

Ahoj new friends!

Yay! I’m so excited because a few days ago my TEFL program gave me all the names/e-mails of everyone else who will be in my August class! So, what did I do? Wtf do you THINK Jessi Graves did upon receiving the contact information of 23 potential (inevitable) new friends? I sent out a mass e-mail! And within hours a facebook group was created! I am totally having flashbacks to the summer before RWU/semester before CIEE when I hit up literally everyone & their brother haha Sorry! I am a mini Mama G! I like to organize & plan! But the more important thing here is the idea of safety in numbers.

Image(Above: Prague is so pretty!)

One of the recurring questions people keep asking me once they hear I’m doing this is: “Who are you going with?!” & I always answer, “Uh…no one?” & they’re so shocked. I don’t really understand this exchange because I am 22 years old. I am an adult, people! It would be surprising/scary if I was 15 & going alone but I am old/mature/cultured. So I can handle things like this (…maybe?)

Why is no one fearless anymore?

Not crazy/stupidly/carelessly fearless…but brave. Why is taking a plane alone a big deal (Grammy asked if I wanted Grampy to fly over with me…why? So he can just turn around to go back home? haha), why is being away from home for so long a big deal? Homesickness is rough, but it is never worth forfeiting your dreams over! I remember thinking deep down before I left for Paris “Should I do this?” then I came back to the US & realized just how much I would have missed out on if I let my fears overcome me.

My mom talks to some of her friends who have younger children & they always say “Oh my God, I would never let my child do that!” This saddens me. Why are you holding them back? Why are you not even giving them the option at all?! I am so lucky because Mama G is a cool mom. She partied & traveled up until 28 & after my dad proposed she said, quote: “Okay, but let me take one more cruise with the girls first!” I lucked out. She has always allowed me to adventure instead of just cooping me up at home all my life. I want to be the same way with my kids. I want them to go out there & find themselves. Life is scary, traveling is scary, the unknown is pretty freakin’ scary! But sitting at home all your life letting this fear of the world cripple you is even worse.

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(Above: 16-year-old me desperately trying to euro-fy my awkward stage in London, England)

So here I am, no longer that little fledgling with pre-Invisalign teeth & a trench coat going on a class trip to Paris & London…nor am I the migrating bird exploring Europe for a bit alone. I am kinda an adult bird going overseas to set up a new nest. Gulp. Well temporarily. I think? 😉 Who knows!

Note: NEST= HOME, NOT A NEW FAMILY. WHY DOES EVERYONE THINK I’M HUSBAND HUNTING 2 MONTHS AFTER COLLEGE!

But I’m glad I am not the only one experiencing all this!

Talking to everyone online via facebook is helping quell what little fear I had of going to another country alone. Most of us are in the same boat, so I don’t feel left out or overwhelmed. We’re all going through the same thing. Just like a group of gawky freshman entering college, or the small group of students moving to the City of Lights for a semester (& all being very concerned that their school didn’t come up in a basic Google search…). It’s all new! So let’s embrace it!

Let’s embrace getting lost because we cannot pronounce street names. Let’s embrace awkward exchanges with people while speaking very limited Czech. Let’s embrace the coolest way to start a new chapter in our lives!

Because, let’s face it, I am just not a cubicle girl…not for right now at least.

Can’t wait to meet you guys!

JG

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The Harsh Realities of Living out Your Fantasy

18 Jun

So, while I will try my absolute hardest to stay positive throughout this blog, I also want to be realistic. I am a practical person, not to mention ridiculously cautious. As I plan for my journey to Prague, I have had to make a list of both the pros & cons. While it’s pretty obvious what my pros would be (travel, adventure, food, fashion, men 😉 )I also want to address some of the boldfaced cons that I cannot ignore.

1. I am on my own

Although I had a blast studying abroad, one thing that really began to sink in a few months in was the feeling of isolation. I was lucky to have four great friends from RWU with me at school & just a metro ride away, but sometimes I was painfully lonely. I hate to admit it, but I am a country girl at heart. Paris was my first city experience. The first time I had to get used to the idea that each person I passed on the street could care less about my existence. It wasn’t like in Sutton where I’m surrounded by family friends or at RWU where we are all hawks. Cities are cold. Especially cities where the language, customs & culture are so different. It absolutely terrified me that if I was in trouble, no one would come to my rescue. Mama G was thousands of miles away. Yes, I had my friends, my French professors, & host family but, at the end of the day, I was on my own…completely. I know in Prague I will have this feeling of being an outsider again, but I realize it’s not thaaat big of a con. I will make new friends & connections. I will start fresh.

2. I do not speak Czech

This seems to be the cynical pessimistic remark I get from acquaintances after I tell them about this move (right after they ask me ‘Why would you ever want to go there?’), how can I move to a country when I don’t speak the language? To give myself some credit, I’m trying. Czech is a very difficult language (go Google it now), & is not at all related to French, a language I had become almost fluent in. So yeah, that’s kinda scary. I have taught myself the basics: hello, goodbye, good morning, good afternoon, thank you, please, how are you, I am American, my name is, etc. Something is better than nothing! I have also gotten various opinions from people who have been to Prague. Most say I will be able to get by with the bare minimal. But this makes me uncomfortable. In the past, before I traveled to a country, I learned the basics of the language. I wanted to seem polite & respectful, not just some obvious American blonde tourist butchering Dutch or Italian. In Paris, I learned that it’s the thought that counts! People will be much nicer to you if you genuinely try. So I’m going off this. Although I will get overwhelmed when I see these signs and have no clue what they mean…

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(Above: Yup…I am going to get lost many, many, many times)

3. I am going to be someone’s teacher?!

This is still something that makes me crack up a little bit. Like children/teenagers/adults (?) will be relying on my instruction in order to learn the English language! It’s a little scary. However, I feel like I have always been a leader, & it’s obvious I have no problem speaking in front of groups. It’s just…a weird thought. What kind of teacher will I be? A cool teacher? A strict teacher? A fantasy teacher with my hair up in pencil skirts? Um, can I be a little bit of all three? 😉 I know that the TEFL course will definitely prepare me for the job, it is just going to be a lot of work. Especially for my first real ‘big girl’ job. I don’t know exactly what age group I’ll be teaching just yet, but I secretly have my fingers crossed for little kids. Little kids & I just click. As strange as it sounds, when I was at RWU the two things I missed so much were children & animals. Why? I guess because I was just surrounded by adults who stressed me out & fellow classmates. Little kids remind you not to take life so seriously. So here’s to hoping my future students can keep me sane! & In return, I promise I will do my very best to explain all the non-nonsensical English grammar rules.

4. I am entering the adult world…in Europe

Graduating–scary. Finding a job–scarier. Finding a job & apartment in another country?! Oh God, help me. I know that the TEFL program will definitely help me with the job, & an apartment will be easy but the whole thing is stressful. I don’t know what questions to ask landlords, I don’t know what is the most beneficial work contract, heck, I don’t even know how I am going to set up my Czech bank account. Then there’s doctors, dentists, taxes, bills, work visas & all those other adult things you call your parents up for help with. Only I can’t. I can just Skype them the next day late at night & complain about it. But once again, I have to figure it out. I felt bad, because I know mothers really look forward to their daughter’s first apartment. They want to help decorated & give you housekeeping advice. I’m really sad that Mama G won’t be there to help me :/ This is coming from a girl who still needs to get reminded to make her bed & learned how to do laundry at age 18. I am not an adult yet, but I have no choice but to act like one. However, Mama G was the one who pushed me to do this. She told me I could go & that I would be just fine…but on one condition: that my future Czech husband would agree to move back to Mass so we can raise our children in America. Ohhhh, Mama G.

5. Acculturating in the Capital of Bohemia

 So, I’m not sure how much you know about Prague or the Czech Republic (not very much probably, since 85% of people I talk to call it ‘Czechoslovakia’, 10% think it’s still a communist country, & an unnamed 5% thought it was in Germany…), but it is a very colorful nation. Of course it is beautiful with castles, churches, art & just an overall Disney World architectural scheme, but first world country aside, there are some pretty weird things I need to keep in mind. First off, the Czechs are very polite & reserved. I need to take off my shoes when entering someone’s house, & understand that being trustworthy is the most important quality. Also, Czechs seem to be whimsically superstitious. There are several folklore beliefs dealing with witchcraft & pagan traditions. Christmas will be celebrated with fried carp (aka a giant fish that will be swimming freely in the host’s bathtub the night before it is eaten), & on Easter men get to beat women with willow branches in order to keep them fertile! Can’t wait! This is the exciting/bizarre part about traveling to other countries–all the different traditions. As long as I latch on to some fellow Americans to wear costumes on Halloween with & feast on turkey for Thanksgiving–I’ll be jussst fine.

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(Above: fresh carp for a tradition Czech Christmas dinner)

6. Life goes on

This is, by far, the most difficult con for me to deal with. So much, in fact, that it made me consider putting this whole adventure on hold for a bit. Before I went to Paris, Mama G & I debated a few things that I am still not sure about. She told me that while I was gone…if something happened…she wouldn’t tell me. She didn’t want me to stress out, become depressed & fly home. But I argued, saying that I wanted her to tell me. However, to this day, I am still not sure. While I was in Paris, the usually headstrong Manchild (aka my 18-year-old brother, Adam, if you’re new to my lingo) had an accident. While skating on a pond alone near our house, he fell through the ice. After screaming for help (useless, Sutton is like space–no one can hear you scream), he managed to pull himself out of the pond, limp home & pass out. My mom rushed home, but he was already going into hypothermic shock, & had a concussion from hitting his head so hard. The next day, I get a Skype call to be informed of the whole event with him giggling like an idiot. I burst into tears. My brother had almost died & here I was thousands of miles away drinking wine & eating baguettes. I felt selfish. I do not know how long I will be in Prague, but I do believe that fate decides. I made the decision that yes, this is my dream, but if something happens–I am going back home as soon as possible. While you should never live for someone else, family is all you have in life. & If something happens to mine while I am in Europe, I need to be there for them. We stick together. I could never forgive myself if I was across the Atlantic & someone I love needed me.

Sorry to be a tad pessimistic! But I guess I just needed to talk/write about some of my fears going into this whole thing. But I am an optimist & the good always outweighs the bad!

Na zdraví!

-JG

Why You Should Travel

17 Jun

Um, why not?

This journey all started when I was sitting in a Barnes & Noble nostalgically browsing through Paris travel books like I always do. Paris will always be my first love no matter where I travel/live. I first ventured to the City of Lights when I was just sixteen & my life changed forever. Fast-forward to my junior year of college & I jumped at the opportunity to spend 5 months living the Parisian lifestyle. Not only was this the best experience of my life, it was the ultimate gateway drug, yes, I had truly been bitten by the travel bug. The only remedy? More travel!

I understand that traveling is expensive, tiring, & you probably can’t take off that much time from real life, but my question for you is why not? Here’s a few reasons why I think you should hop on a plane riiiiight now.

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(Above: Giggling in front of La Tour d’Eiffel in Paris, France)

 

WHY YOU SHOULD TRAVEL:

1. YOLO

Yes, I said it! But think about it. You really do only live once & do you really want to spend day after day, year after year in the same place? Don’t you get bored, tired, restless or depressed with your daily routine? Now is the time to switch it up! The world is HUGE, and now is the time to go explore it! Not when you’re on your deathbed wallowing in what ifs. Today is the day!

2. It’s Not As Expensive As You Think

Realistically, after you decide to carpe that f-ing diem, you need to choose one of two travel paths. Luxe or frugal. Do you want to blow your life savings on 4-star hotels, gourmet food & pricey sites? Or would you rather rough it & cut a few corners to save some cash? Both are possible! Option one is a great time, but as a broke college student with no job in Paris, I had to learn to be thrifty with my cash. The best way? Do your research! Make a list of must-sees in the city you’re going to. Figure out what days there’s free entry to museums (first Sunday of the month in Paris), eat tasty street food instead of steeply priced restaurants, & avoid tourist traps! Learn to face your fears of hostels ( http://www.hostelworld.com ), & understand that planes are insanely cheap throughout Europe ( http://www.easyjet.com ), so are trains & buses ( http://www.eurolines.com )! If you spend smart then your trip won’t break the bank nearly half as much as anticipated!

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(Above: Bull-fighting is now illegal in Barcelona, Spain, but I still visited a historical ring!)

3. Life Experience/Skills

While in Paris–I grew up. I did things I never even knew were possible. Like beginning the semester nervous to speak French in front of others & ending it with being able to have political discussions in French & gain the elusive respect from locals! I also learned to be fearless. Metro broke down? Okay, I’ll figure out alternative routes. Bought tickets for the wrong Italian train? Hop on this one because it goes to nearby cities. When traveling you will experience a ton of random problems. Wallets get stolen, luggage gets lost, people bail on you. But you learn to overcome it. You adapt. You survive.

4. You Leave The American Bubble

As I’m sure you have heard, the entire world doesn’t love us nearly as much as we think they do. Most foreigners actually have rather negative opinions of us: we’re fat, wasteful, selfish, stupid, uninformed, greedy, bad dressers, loud, messy & self-absorbed…just to name a few. Being in a city who isn’t necessarily USA’s #1 fan, I had different experiences. It was eye-opening. You need to travel so you can shatter stereotypes. You need to go to countries that are “dangerous” “dirty” and “smelly” so you can be proven wrong & come back with understanding & perspective. Yes, Parisians are not very fond of Americans. But they are quiet, well-dressed, reserved &, in the most touristic city in the world, are surrounded by loud, sneaker-wearing, chubby Americans buying ‘I ❤ the Eiffel Tower’ shirts. When you travel somewhere & speak to people, you make sense of why they act they way they do. You gain knowledge.

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(Above: Being a tourist every once in a while is fine! Especially in Pisa, Italy)

5. You Try New Things

I am not the most adventurous of eaters, but I have had my fair share of ‘When in Rome’ moments. I have tried escargots in Paris, Sangria in Barcelona, fresh Olive Oil in Italy, Spacecake in Amsterdam, Fried Alligator in New Orleans, grits in Mississippi & the list goes on. When traveling, there are moments when you realize I will never have this opportunity again so, you just gotta go for it! Try local delicacies! Even if you don’t like them, you can always say you did it!

6. The Memories Last Forever

I know it wasn’t that long ago, but I cannot stop talking/thinking/dreaming about my adventures abroad. I have so many crazy stories (that I cannot all mention because this is a PG-Rated blog) & met so many awesome people! Most of whom I still talk to today! From just 5 months of being abroad, I now have people to stay with in Paris, Liverpool, the South of France, Italy, Ireland, Germany & Scotland! & You are all more than welcome to crash with me anytime if you’re in Prague 🙂 Traveling is a great experience because it’s something you’ll remember forever & can always look back on someday when you’re old & depressed with your mundane life. So why wait?

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(Above: Aside from the infamous ‘Red Light District’ Amsterdam, Netherlands is a very beautiful city famous for its picturesque canals!)

So I hope I convinced you to book a ticket right now! Yes, I know I’m young & you have kids, a house, a job, etc. blah blah blah. But they will all be right there when you get back. Use your week vacation & actually do something worthwhile! There are people between age 21-65 getting their TEFL certificates with me in Prague. Some of those people are my age, fresh out of college, & some are retired, have kids, grandkids but a dream that they never gave up on.

So, go start exploring!

-JG

 

 

& So It Begins…

17 Jun

So, I just created this blog, which I will do my best to be faithful to! I figured this was the easiest way for me to keep my friends & family connected with all my upcoming adventures in Prague!

Stay tuned for more!

-JG 🙂