Anastasia Shishkina is a 3rd year humanities student at Anglo-American University in Prague originally from Russia and currently studying abroad at Chapman University, California. Being involved in many student activities and taking advantage of studying in an international environment truly enriches her life that offered her countless adventurous both home and abroad. In our latest featured article, Anastasia shares for the Anglo-American University in Prague:
AAU: Why did you choose to study humanities in Prague?
Anastasia: I have always been into arts and believed that the best place to study culture is Europe because of its rich historical heritage. To tell the truth, Prague was not my first choice. I was accepted to several universities in the Netherlands and was supposed to study in Amsterdam. However, right after I graduated high school in Russia, Dutch government raised tuition fees for international students and I was forced to look for something else. Most of the application deadlines throughout European universities were over, so I was not left with much choice. My father came across Anglo-American University on the Internet and I loved it! Prague seemed beautiful and the program in Humanities, Society and Culture offered by AAU was just perfect for me. Now I can say that when one door closes, a better one opens.
AAU: How did you feel when you first came to Czech Republic? Did you face any difficulties?
Anastasia: Looking back at my first weeks in Prague, I see that time as probably the most stressful period in my life. I came to Czech Republic completely alone, I did not know a soul in Prague, did not know the language, had no idea how to get around, my first dormitory was over an hour away from the city center… On top of that, I caught a terrible fever. I have never felt that homesick before in my life. I remember thinking: “It was a huge mistake, I want to go home.” It was hard to start from a blank page and build a new life in a completely different environment. I was ready to give up, but happily I didn’t. It turned out to be the best thing that has happened to me so far.
AAU: Who helped you overcome the transition period of getting used to to new culture, environment, etc.?
Anastasia: Eventually, I started to meet people. It was easier to stick to the Russian-speaking community at the beginning. It felt safer. I met one of my closest friends. Then the school year started which lead to meeting many international students who became my really good friends, too. I was trying to meet as many diverse people as possible. In the end, it is the people you know who make your experience unforgettable.
AAU: What were your first months studying at university like and how did Prague make you feel?
Anastasia: First months were overwhelming! I really enjoyed my courses, but it is hard to concentrate on studying when it is your first time living alone in such an astonishing and impetuous city. There was always an endless amount of things to do and places to explore. Prague made me fall in love with it every single day.
AAU: When was the moment that you felt like at home in Prague?
Anastasia: I remember the night I spent on the bus to Warsaw where I went for my first Fall break. I caught myself thinking that I can’t wait to be back to Prague because there is someone waiting for me there.
AAU: How do you enjoy classes at AAU and the international environment (both student body and faculty)?
Anastasia: International environment is what I was looking for in studying abroad, and I am happy students and professors at AAU come from all over the world. Communication with other cultures on daily basis gives you a broader perspective on life and reveals a whole world of possibilities.
AAU: While studying at AAU you were active in many students clubs. Have you benefited from the participation and has it taught you anything?
Anastasia: I believe that extracurricular activity is a crucial part of a university experience. Being a member of Student Council, Program Board and AAU newspaper Lennon Wall, I learned the importance of teamwork, being responsible and the ability to step outside your comfort zone. In addition to that, my rich CV helped me to get accepted for an exchange program at Chapman University.
AAU: Do you think that extra-curricular activities are important for students and what would you recommend freshens when considering joining or starting a club?
Anastasia: I would recommend every freshman to start or join a student organization. It is a great way to connect with people who share similar interests and build friendships that will last. In the end of the day, as President Doti, president of Chapman, loves to say, it is all about the connections you make on your way.
AAU: Why did you apply to Chapman? Some might say that you are already studying abroad…
Anastasia: Having experienced life in Russia and Europe, I wanted to experience something different and this was a great opportunity. Besides, Chapman is ranked #7 in the West in the prestigious “America’s Best Colleges” listings from U.S. News & World Report magazine. Also, who wouldn’t want to live in Californian weather even if just for a semester?
AAU: Would you say that student life is different at Chapman from Prague? How?
Anastasia: Student life is very different. Chapman is much bigger than AAU and has numerous student organizations and sport teams. Various events as festivals, fairs, guest speakers, football games, or movie screenings are happening every other day on campus. Students seem to be generally more involved into student life at Chapman and more focused on studying at AAU, but I think the combination of two is what makes a college experience successful.
AAU: After studying 2 years abroad have you noticed that values in your life or your attitudes have changed? How?
Anastasia: My life has been irrevocably changed. I travelled a lot, and every person I met was like a little journey, too. I believe the more places you see and the more people you talk to, the better you understand yourself. Broadening the horizon, personal growth, development of social network – all that I got from the hard times and the happy moments of living abroad.
AAU: Prague is known for its wild nightlife and streets full of bars and pubs. How has the nightlife play on you?
Anastasia: I love nightlife in Prague! Because most clubs are open seven days a week, it can be a distraction from studying, and I have faced this problem during my first semester at AAU. However, if approached moderately, nightlife can be a great way of stress relief for college students.
AAU: And lastly, what advice would you give anyone considering studying in Prague?
Anastasia: There is a vast amount of opportunities Prague has to offer – seize them! If you are going to become a student, this is the time to try new things, meet new people and get adventurous. Who knows, where it might lead, may be, a semester in California! Keep your heart and your mind open, and don’t forget to enjoy the moment.
Interview by the Anglo-American University in Prague