Dobrý den! Hello from Prague!
My name is Alex Swilley, I am a junior pursuing a marketing degree at Auburn University’s College of Business, and currently, am studying abroad for four months at Anglo-American University in Prague! I’m so excited to
have the opportunity to share a little bit about my favorite experiences abroad, why I think traveling is one of the most important things people our age can do, some background about me, and my thanks to Pi Phi for selecting me to share this story!
Studying abroad is hands down, the best decision one can make while in college. Whether you go alone, with a friend, with a boyfriend, or in a group, the possibilities for learning and opportunities for life experiences are endless. Below are some pieces of advice that I have for those interested in studying abroad supported by bits of information from my journey thus far!
Pieces of Advice: 1. Choose a school or program completely different from your home institution.
Anglo-American University (AAU) is the oldest private university in the Czech Republic and is totally different than Auburn. The classes are intimate because they’re quite small in size, and they’re filled with people from all over the world (Russia, Azerbaijan, Moldova, and Kazakhstan are just a few of the places some of my class and group mates I’ve had the opportunity to work with are from). It has been such a culturing experience to share classes with people where the only common trait that links us is that we are learning our class material in English. I love being surrounded by international students and hearing them speak their mother tongue during our class breaks!
2. Study abroad in a country that doesn’t speak English as its first language.
One of my most favorite things about being abroad has been being able to incorporate a new language into my life for four months (and a language that is SO foreign to me, at that)! You hear about people studying abroad in parts of Italy or in Barcelona, which are amazing locations and some of my favorite places I’ve seen during my time in Europe, however, I am beyond grateful that I chose to be in Prague. I can now say that I have bits and pieces of the Czech language under my belt! “What even is the Czech language?” I used to think before coming here… And I’m sure most of you reading this are thinking the same. However, that’s exactly why it has been so cool to be here, and why my time here has been that much more interesting.
In essence, my overall piece of advice is this: pick a place that’s unique (and maybe even unknown to you). Prague has been the perfect choice for me for many reasons. It’s unbelievably inexpensive, the perfect size, there are many places to escape to (away from tourists) and the language is so cool!
3. Take a language class tied to the country you’re studying abroad in.
Taking a class for the native language of the country you’re living in will benefit you so much and bring you an immense amount of fulfillment while abroad. You’ll be the ruler of your friend group being the only one able to communicate at restaurants and it’s so satisfying to walk the streets and understand what’s going on around you.
My 2 favorite feelings from abroad:
1. By the time I leave Europe on May 23rd, I will have seen eleven countries (and many more cities in between). With that being said, I travel A LOT. And will be happy to settle for a little bit when I return to the states. However, despite the traveling, my number one favorite feeling is arriving home to Prague on a Sunday night. There is absolutely no other feeling than the one I get walking home from the train station to my apartment and immediately being able to compare the differences from the country I just visited to Prague and the Czech Republic. The first thing that always comes to mind is, “Wow, such a different city.” The sounds, smells, people, everything rush at me and the differences are unreal. It’s the feeling that fuels me to travel every weekend and will continue to encourage me to experience unique places for the rest of my life!
2. The smell of my corner bakery in the mornings. Every single day, I walk into Albert (my mini, corner grocery store) just to smell the freshly baked pastries. IT’S AMAZING. I’d also say it’s my favorite indulgence (even if I do forego a pastry and just pop in for the heavenly smell).
Background About Me:
I’ve been asked to share some background information about myself so with that, I’ll begin by sharing my experience with photography! At age 16, I identified that a lot of senior girls were dissatisfied with their senior photos and that there was a gap in the market for a young and relatable photographer in my area. So, I decided to deliver a senior photo experience to girls at my high school! Over time, girls from other schools were requesting my services, and I soon thereafter received requests from engaged couples, families, fashion shows, weddings, professionals, and events. Feel free to check out some of my photography galleries and senior magazine here: https://alexandrajphotography.smugmug.com/browse
Over time, my business expanded to graphic design but as of recently, I’ve had a significant shift away from my photography and graphic design business. I realize that I LOVE to be social, present, and not hidden behind a lens or computer. I like to be a part of each moment, and quite surprising to most, I haven’t taken my camera to a single country while abroad. It has stayed in the same drawer I put it in on February 1 st when I arrived to my apartment in Prague. I’ve loved not feeling tied to an extra object that holds me back from moments and I realize that portrait mode on my iPhone 8 has given me just the resources I need to capture the moment! To touch on my professional experience, I leveraged my graphic and photography experience to obtain my most recent job as the Creative Services Coordinator at Scripps Networks Interactive, a NASDAQ-listed global content company that is home to many well-known lifestyle brands including Food Network, HGTV and Travel Channel. Feel free to read more about what I did on my portfolio here:
From this experience, I learned that my passion lies in learning from bigger, elite companies with some sort of creative edge, like Scripps! And this is the reason why I hardly ever pursue photography and hold photo-shoots anymore. Before I ever hold the role of an entrepreneur ever again, I want to learn as much as possible, professionalize myself as much as possible, and devote my time interning with companies that really inspire me. I’m so incredibly excited that working on 5th Ave. for Henri Bendel as the ECommerce Intern is next on my list and that I get to work extensively with the entire marketing department for its parent company, L Brands (brands including Victoria’s Secret, Victoria’s Secret PINK, La Senza, Bath and Body Works and Henri Bendel). I’m even more excited that I get to work for the same company as one of our graduated Pi Phi sisters, Christine Cameron, who is the Assistant Designer for Victoria’s Secret’s Dream Angels Collection. I couldn’t be more grateful that Pi Phi brought me the sisters I call my best friends and in this case, a sister beyond college. PPL! Thank you all for letting me share my story and as always, reach out anytime. Much love!!