Rambling, Per the Usual

So, yesterday was Wednesday, AKA: a blogging day_...and I didn't post. In my defense though, it was a very "fly by the seat of my pants" type of day. Between teaching classes, a couple of my friends and I were busy booking a last minute trip to Vienna for this weekend. I also went to trivia night at a local expat café. And booked a trip to Vienna. And had some wine with my friend Jess. And booked a trip to Vienna.

Did I mention that I'm going to Vienna this weekend?

Okay...I'm done being obnoxious. I really am excited though! This Sunday is my birthday, and it's a holiday weekend here in the Czech Republic so there is no work on Monday. I'm going to be spending my 26th birthday in Austria! How awesome is that? I'm currently in the middle of doing laundry and attempting to pack. Tomorrow I teach one class in the morning, then I have to attend my Czech class. After that, I will be on a bus and on my way to explore a new place.

I originally had this super insightful (in my mind, anyway) post planned for this week. I'm not going to give the subject away because I'm sure I will use it at a later date, but when I sat down to write I just wasn't feeling it. I have been up since about 5:45am, so I don't think the philosophical portion of my brain is working at the moment.

Amidst my packing (which at the moment is consisting of staring at the drying rack, willing my clothes to not be sopping wet anymore), I am watching Pitch Perfect 2 and catching up with some people from home via Facebook chat. I still can't wrap my head around the fact that this is the first birthday I will not be celebrating with my family and friends in the states. It has been a year since I celebrated my 25th birthday in Atlanta. In some ways, I can't believe it has already been a year. In other ways, I am feeling very, very far from the person that I was when I turned 25. I have done so much growing as an individual this past year, and I can only imagine how I will continue to grow as I step into the second half of my 20's.

I've decided that I'm not going to whine about the fact that I am turning 26. I will admit...it's eerily close to 30, which is that giant milestone that I never thought I would hit. However, I think that I am finally at a point in life where I am appreciating each day and experience for what it is. I have finally found the ability to go after the things that I want, and to wear my heart on my sleeve. With the way life is going right now, I have no doubt that my late 20's will be the most rewarding years of my life.

I'm going to go ahead and cut this post off before it turns into a cycle of sappiness and dramatics.

P.S. My post for Sunday will most likely not be up until Monday...since I will be in Vienna and will not have my computer. Just a forewarning for those of you who are kind enough to keep up with me. :)

Peace out girl (and boy) scouts. I leave you with the cheesiest of smiles.

Adjusting to an Alternative Work Schedule


Up until recently, I have spent my career life working a Monday through Friday, 8am to 5pm job. Upon graduating college in 2012, I accepted a generic "desk job," and became stuck in that rut for about three years. I went to work, I sat at my desk, and I typed on my keyboard and answered phone calls until I was finally free to leave for the evening. Then, I would get up the next day and do it all over again. Did I love it? Heck no. Most days I felt smothered. However, the schedule was consistent, and the work was the same every day so I knew what to expect. While it may have been boring, it was also somewhat comforting to know exactly what would be happening each day.

Over the past few weeks, I have been adjusting to a very different career schedule. Teaching English as a foreign language rarely comes with a normal classroom routine. Since most people obtain jobs teaching classes in businesses, the work comes in the form of a much more "freelance" schedule. Therefore, my days now consist of rushing to every corner of the city to teach group and individual lessons to people in their offices. Then, in the free time that I'm not teaching classes, I find a coffee shop or café and lesson plan my life away.

This type of schedule can be stressful. It's all about the "go go go," and constant worry of potentially getting lost or being late. Yet...I am really enjoying it. I have the opportunity to meet and interact with a lot of really awesome people. My students are involved in a variety of careers, from meteorology to hotel management to non-profit work. Every day is new and interesting, and I tend to thrive so much more in a work schedule that involves a bit more freedom.

Still, it can be a bit difficult to figure out exactly how to stay organized and make sure that you don't forget anything. There are directions to remember, multiple lessons to plan, and what seems like millions of different attendance sheets and handouts to keep up with. I, as someone who enjoys being organized, was actually pretty excited about figuring out my "system." I thought that I would share some things that are working really well in terms of helping me stay on top of things. Stay tuned for:

3 Freelance Work Schedule Essentials
 

1. A Good Planner
Planners are really popular again, and I love it. I used planners while in college, and before I moved to Prague my mom bought me a new planner and some accessories to bring with me so I can keep organized as well as record memories. I know a lot of people prefer to keep up with things via electronic calendars or cell phone reminders, but that doesn't really work for me. I like being able to open up my planner and see the entire month in writing.

Some people think that you have to go all out and spend a ton of money to obtain a decent planner (ie: Erin Condren or Filofax), but mine is actually just a $7 planner from Marshall's...and it's awesome. It does everything that I need, and more. It has definitely been my saving grace in terms of creating my teaching schedule.

2. An Accordion Folder/Binder
When you are working a freelance schedule, you most likely have numerous different clients and projects. In my case, I teach a lot of different classes, and each class has different stuff for me to keep up with. Accordion folders are awesome because most of them have at least 12 different compartments. And, the best part is you can label each compartment so you know exactly where to look each time you open the folder. Plus, when you need to change the label, you just remove the tab and put a new one in. My personal favorite thing about using these to organize is...it's a cheap option, and you can find them pretty much anywhere.

3. A Dependable Bag
Thanks to this type of alternative work schedule, I have a lot of stuff that I have to haul around with me every day; the planner and accordion folder I just mentioned, markers, pens, a notebook, my cell phones (Czech and American), my personal items, sometimes my laptop...the list goes on and on. My original plan was to just use my backpack on a daily basis, but I found myself wanting something a bit more professional. So, when I was offered my job I celebrated a bit by buying a nice structured bag.

The one I chose is from H&M and I got it for around 999 crowns, which is about $40.00. I loved the pockets and compartments and generous size. (I also really love that it's garnet and gold, which reminds me of my university's colors. Go 'Noles!) These types of professional bags are extremely popular now days, and there are so many affordable options out there.

Well, there you have it...the three things that keep me in line on a daily basis. Going from a desk job to this type of schedule has certainly been a change for me, but at this point, I can honestly say I wouldn't have it any other way. Do you have any tips for staying organized?

Happy Sunday! I wish you all the easiest upcoming Monday possible.

The Great Gas Debacle

Obvious fact of the day:

The Czech Republic is NOT an English speaking country. 

Who knew, right? (Hopefully you knew this.)

Therefore, I, as an English speaking person did not move to Prague expecting everyone to cater to the language that I speak. That would just be silly. You can "get by" here by speaking English (mainly in the center of the city, not so much on the outskirts), but "getting by" is not something that you want to do if you are planning to stay long-term. At least it's not something that I want to do. Although I am here to teach English, I want to learn Czech so that I can experience more of the Czech culture and more of the country. I am LIVING in a place that is foreign to me, so learning the language is just the smart thing to do. 

That being said, the Czech language is not something that you pick up in a month. Honestly, I'm not sure it's something you could completely pick up in 10 years. It's difficult...full of unfamiliar symbols, and sounds that I'm still not sure how to produce. I currently know the basics (hello, goodbye, thank you, etc.) and I begin Czech classes this Friday, but most of my communication here has been done through Czechlish (a combination of English and broken Czech, created by my good friend/flatmate Ephram), facial expressions, and theatrical gestures. So, as you can imagine, the language barrier has caused quite a few awkward (and sometimes scary) situations. 

Now, let's jump into some story time: 

When Ephram and I signed for our new flat, we were held responsible for transferring the utilities (gas, electric, and internet) from the name of the old tenants into our names. Two girls from Ukraine lived in the flat before us, and they were both very nice and extremely helpful in helping us get as much of the process taken care of as possible. They were able to get us through all of the transfer of the electric and internet, but we had to go about the gas process a bit differently. Once the forms were completed, Ephram and I had to go on our own to the gas office, and get the name changed on the account. Keep in mind, our landlord told us that this shouldn't be an issue and there would be someone there who speaks English due to Prague having such a high number of English speaking expats. 

Now, in my opinion, dealing with things like this are bad enough when you are communicating with people who do speak your own language. Does anyone in the states honestly like to go sit and wait at Comcast, for example? So, it's destined to be an extra fun task when you apply a language barrier. Anyway, we arrived to the gas office on a dreary Monday morning and the lady at the greeting desk gave us a number. We waited and waited, and when our number showed up on the screen we went to the appropriate "pokladna" or service desk. The lady seemed nice enough and we exchanged greetings:

Her: "Dobry den." (Good day.)

Us: "Dobry den."

And...that was the end of our Czech abilities for the conversation. We gave her the form, and tried to explain that we need to change the name on the account. This is where the smile left her face. She then asked us in a number of different ways if we speak Czech, to which we obviously replied no, and even threw in a lighthearted "not yet." She then threw her hands up in the air, rolled her eyes, and slumped back into her chair. We moved on to trying to explain that we were told we could be helped in English, and she spewed back a stream of words that I can only describe as "very fast, angry Czech." Then she stared at us. 

Well, at this point we were at a loss for words. (Both in English and in Czech.) After a couple of uncomfortable moments, she stood up and stalked away. Ephram and I looked at each other with "I'm scared for my life" facial expressions. A moment later, she came back with another woman and showed her our form. The new woman smiled at us (thank goodness) and then asked us to explain what we need. She then looked over the form and told us that they couldn't do anything without a picture of the gas meter because the number was wrong. 

Great. 

So, we thanked the woman who helped us, and then attempted to thank scary lady #1 who just icily glared at us as we walked away. 

Fast forward to a couple of days later. We went back to the gas office after taking the picture of the meter and correcting what needed to be corrected. Our nerves were completely on edge because we were both afraid of getting the same scary lady who had helped us before. I'm fairly sure that my blood pressure when up each time a new number was announced. Ages later, it was finally out turn and we made out way to the correct pokladna, exchanged greetings, and attempted to explain what we needed. 

And what do you know...this lady's reaction was almost identical to the first lady's reaction. We got the eye roll, the frustrated hands in the air, and something new...an arm cross. She then told us that there was no one that can help us. We attempted to explain that we were helped last time by someone who spoke English, but we were just interrupted by several shakes of the head and her pushing the paper back to us. Ephram was braver than I, and tried one more time to let her know that we were helped by someone who spoke English the last time. She got up and walked away, and came back with her supervisor, and the supervisor also told us they couldn't help us. Scary lady #2 sat back down at her desk and looked at us with the "I told you so" face, and once again pushed the form back over to us. We left in defeat. 

This is going to make me sound lame, but there were tears on my part after this visit. Not giant crocodile tears, but definitely frustrated, "I'm so out of my element" tears. Most days, the cultural and language barrier issues are not a problem, but there are times that things just kind of build up and everything becomes overwhelming. I also think I may have just been a bit "hangry" at this point in time, because I got some coffee and something to eat and felt better. 

The good news is, we finally got the gas situation taken care of. Luckily Ephram has a Czech tutor that agreed to help us out by translating. I can honestly say that there are certain things I just won't attempt until I have much more knowledge of and practice with the Czech language. 

Moral of the story: Surprisingly, taking care of the mundane, everyday things, such as utilities, may just be the most stressful part of moving abroad. 

Besides the Visa process, of course. Oh, and grocery shopping...

But that's a story for another blog post. :)

As always, thank you for listening to my rambling, and I hope you are all having a great week! I will leave you with a Prague related picture that really has nothing to do with this post...but it's pretty.


So, You Want to Move Abroad?


Let me begin this post by saying that I finally have a regular blogging schedule sorted out, which means I will once again be showing my face around here fairly frequently. I will now have regular posts up on Sundays, and Wednesdays. However, if I have the time and/or want to put up anything in between, I certainly will. I'm feeling confident about this. Plus, I'm more than excited to be writing regularly again.

Moving on...

When I was still living in the U.S. and talking to people about my upcoming move to Prague, there is one question that consistently came up in conversation:

How do you know this is something you definitely want to do?

There are SO MANY different answers that I could use to respond to this question, but here is the main thing that it comes down to: I am NOT the type of person who does things without thinking them through. Especially giant things like moving to a foreign country. When it comes to major decisions, I research. I look into every single detail. Therefore, before I even announced that I was moving to Prague, I had an idea of everything that I was going to have to go through to make it happen. I knew what TEFL program I was going to use. I knew all of the basics about the Visa process. I knew all of the basics about the cost of living. I knew that I was going to go through a lot of mental change. (Culture shock, homesickness, etc.)

I knew all of this. I considered everything, and I accepted that it wasn't going to be easy. And, even after looking past the fun aspects of possibly moving, and coming to terms with how difficult it would be, I still wanted to go. This was all in addition to deciding exactly where I wanted to go (ie: Prague), and researching everything about it as well. At the end of all of the research, I was confident that I could handle it, and I was even a bit excited to go out an conquer the tough things.

I have been living in Prague for about a month and a half now, and since I have been here, I have been receiving another question from people quite often:

I would love to do what you are doing. How do I decide if moving abroad is the right decision for me? 

Now, I by no means want to come across as an expert on this subject, because I am still very early into my own move abroad. However, I have had enough experience to know that this was definitely the right decision for me. Yet, I also know that it may not be the right decision for everyone who wants to do it. Therefore, I have come up with:

3 Questions to Ask Yourself While Considering a Move Abroad

1. Where will you go? 
This is probably the most crucial thing to decide. What country do you want to go to? Would you prefer to be somewhere that is English friendly? Are you open to learning a new language to survive? How simple is the Visa process? Is it somewhere you will be comfortable? What will you do for work? (In my case, I am teaching English, so obviously a non-English speaking country makes the most sense here.) How much money will I need to make this happen?

Each country is so different, and Visa requirements for each are going to vary. Plus, it is almost impossible to get a Visa to live in certain countries. (The Czech Republic has a fairly easy process.) You need to make sure that you are willing and able to adapt to the language and cultural differences. In a nutshell, you need to make sure that you are going somewhere that you will enjoy living. Have an open mind, and find somewhere that speaks to your heart.

2. Why do you want to move abroad?
This question is exactly what is sounds like...why do you want to go? Why leave the comfort of your home, and go to somewhere that may be completely unknown? Are you following a lifelong dream? Are you looking for a major change? Are you going for work? Do you have a thirst for culture? Do you want to travel and experience the world in a new way?

There are so many different reasons that people have for moving abroad. For me, it was about dreams, travel, and experience. There are a million different reasons you may come up with. The main thing is you need to make sure your reasons are valid. You need to make sure that you are ready and willing to stick things out. There are some reasons that may mean you are better suited for long term travel, instead of a move abroad. An international move requires full commitment, and isn't always about "having fun." (Even though the experience itself is quite rewarding.)

3. Are you willing to completely change your life?
This is the grandfather of all questions. Are you in a position to completely alter everything about your life? Do you have anything holding you back? Do you have the freedom to make this decision? Are you willing to put in the work to make this move happen? Are you willing to adapt to all of the changes that will come your way? Are you willing to leave your friends and family? Basically, are you willing to sign up for the biggest commitment you have ever made?

Even after I made the decision to come to Prague, I still struggled with whether or not I was doing the right thing. I left a comfortable job and a comfortable apartment. I sold almost everything I own. I am thousands of miles from my friends and family. And...it's still hard, but I can also honestly say that I currently feel more happy and fulfilled than I ever have. There is absolutely no way this was the wrong decision for me, and I have worked my butt off to get to this point. At just a month and a half in, my life has completely changed.

So, if you are thinking that a move to another country may be in the cards for you, I recommend asking yourself these questions. Think things through. Dig deep inside yourself and discover some things that you may not even know. I encourage you to do the research, and make what may be a life changing decision.

Plus, if you ever have any questions or need any advice, just feel free to contact me. :)

I wish you all a Happy Sunday, and wonderful upcoming week!

5 Simple Things I Love About Prague

This week has probably been the most mentally challenging for me since my move to Prague. Over the past few days, I have really just been feeling the weight of the cultural and language differences. It's probably because this has been the week that a lot of adult things (ie: setting up utilities, etc.) have had to happen. Needless to say, the experiences have been interesting...AKA stressful. However, that is a blog post for another day.

In order to combat some of the more negative emotions I have been overtaken by this week, I made a list of the little pleasures in Prague that I adore. Introducing:

5 Simple Things I Love About Prague

1. The Flower Shops (Or, "kvetinarstvi," in Czech)
In Czech culture, it is customary to take flowers to a person when you go to visit their home. Therefore, there are flower shops everywhere...on the corners, at the metro entrances and exits, in the squares, at the supermarkets...EVERYWHERE. It's something I find quite pleasant, and I also really like the tradition. I see so many people every day that are carrying bouquets of flowers, and I always wonder who they are going to see. Plus, some of the flower shops even have super cute helpers...


2. The Public Transportation 
Between the metro, the trams, and the bus, you can get anywhere in the city...efficiently, cheaply, and easily. (Once you finally figure out how to properly use the system, of course.) I travel all over the city to teach English classes at different businesses, and I have absolutely no issue getting there because of Prague's amazing public transportation. You can buy a 30 day pass that allows you unlimited use of the tram, buses, and metro for around 650 crowns, which averages to about $26 or $27 American dollars. This is so much cheaper than what you would pay to drive a car monthly, and I can definitely get used to that.


3. The Carbs
On average, I'm pretty sure I eat about one pastry/croissant/other type of bread every single day. I know, this sounds terrible, but I have actually lost about 15-20 pounds since I have been here so I'm going to give all of the credit to the fact that I do so much walking/hiking...and continue to eat the carbs. Pastry shops are just like the flower shops...they are everywhere. Plus, in the supermarkets there are bins and bins full of freshly baked pastries and breads. If you love carbs, it's like heaven. And, to make the situation even BETTER, you can buy said croissants/pastries for about 12 crowns each, which is a whopping $0.49 in American currency. That's pocket change...so what is a person to do? Buy the carbs, obviously. 


4. The Bookstores (Or, knihkupectvi, in Czech)
I'm not sure that I have ever seen a city that has quite as many bookstores as Prague does. They are all over the place, so if you're a book nerd like I am, this is your dream. Plus, they are super easy to spot because the majority of them have giant KNIHKUPECTVI signs that you can't miss. There are some stores that have English books, but the ones that sell Czech books are just as awesome to browse. 


5. The Architecture
Let me begin my saying that there is absolutely nothing "simple," about the architecture itself in Prague. The majority of the buildings are so unique and detailed that I can stand in front of them for a solid 5 minutes trying to fathom how much work was put into each corner and crevice. Therefore, wandering around and looking at buildings has become one of my favorite things to do. The architecture of Prague is really what drew me to the city in the first place. I have never seen anything quite like it, and it is truly what sets European cities apart from American cities. 


Have you ever been to Prague? What are some of the little things that you love about it? What are some simple things that you love about your own city? 

Hope you are all having a great week!

Prague: One Month In

Hello!

It has certainly been a while. Well, I guess it has only been a few weeks, but there is still so much that has changed since then! 

Here's what you may have missed: 

*I am officially a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certified English teacher!
*I signed a contract for my first European flat!
*I landed a job with a language school here in Prague!

Therefore, I am just over a month into my move to Europe, and things are continuing to fall into place quickly. I am thrilled about this because it only confirms that this giant change was the right decision for me. I cannot describe how happy I have been here over the past few weeks, and although I do get a bit homesick from time to time, I can't say I have not regretted the move a single time. 

The TEFL course itself was one of the most wonderful experiences of my life. It was A LOT of work packed into a very short amount of time, but our trainers were phenomenal and getting to actually teach classes of Czech students was very rewarding. My classmates were also amazing. I have made friends that I know I will keep in touch with for a very long time!

Living in Prague is something that I can't even really describe. The city has an undeniable charm. The architecture is so beautiful and full of historic value that you could spend multiple days just wandering around and admiring the buildings. How lucky am I to be able to call this city my home? There is so much more to discover here, and so many other places that I will be able to easily travel to from here. There is no way that life is going anywhere but up from here!

I have so many blog posts planned. Now that I am getting more settled into my new life, I feel more confident about writing regularly. I have so much new inspiration, and loads of new motivation. For now though, I will leave some pictures to give you a little peek into what I have been experiencing here over the past few weeks. Hope you like picture overload!