Week 6: Traveling to the Czech Republic

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Sunday, July 6, 2014


Benjamin Perez

T.S. Elliot once said "We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time." This quote resonates with me and why I have wanted to travel around the world. I believe Elliot is trying to tell people that one cannot understand where they come from until they know where others come from. By seeing how other cultures live, their food and customs, people acquire knowledge they won’t receive sitting on the couch at home. A person must be willing to seek new understanding about the world and everyone who lives in it. Only then will a person be able to come back home and know where they started from.

The reason I bring up travel and exploration this week is because I received an amazing opportunity to travel to the Czech Republic and present a poster at an international borate glass conference with a group from my school. I was over there for a week, and this trip was an eye-opening experience. I learned about the Czech culture, their history, tasted delicious food, and learned about borate glass. I can’t wait until the next time I can travel around the world and experience a different culture.

Pardubice was the first city I had been too as a person who didn’t know the native tongue. I resorted to playing charades with various employees at different establishments to communicate what I wanted. They probably saw me as a crazy American dancing around like a lunatic, but that was the only way I could talk. It was quite amusing to my friends I was with and they teased me the rest of the trip about it. Jokes aside, I can see how hard some people have it in America when they can’t speak English. There are language barriers that arise when talking to someone who doesn’t know your language and I experienced a few while abroad. It was interesting being on the other side of the issue for a little bit and seeing the role language plays in our everyday lives.

Luckily for me, the conference was held in English so I could understand the words the scientist were saying; as for the material, I understood roughly 40% of the research presented. Overall, it was a very well-run conference. I got to meet the faces behind articles I read last summer and see the rock stars of the borate glass community. They had plenty of snacks and refreshments between each sessions so people could discuss the recent talks and digest what they heard. My favorite part of the whole conference was the final reception at Pardubice Castle. They had a three course meal for the guests; composed of local Czech dishes, roasted veal for the main entre and a chocolate fountain for dessert. After dinner, they opened up a glass art exhibit for people to mingle around and discuss. I think it was a nice way to end the journey and give the guests a nice way to relax after the intellectual stimulation of the week.

We even added a couple days at the end of our trip to see Prague. I probably walked twenty hours in two days exploring as much of the city as I could. I couldn’t believe the beauty of the buildings and how each style of architecture blended with the others because of the development of the city over the centuries. In addition to the sites, Prague also had great food that I got to sample while there; the dishes were mostly meat and potatoes or Italian food, but were cooked so well every bit melted in my mouth. I loved everything about Prague, and I want to go back to see more of the city. The only thing that I wish I could have changed would have been staying over there longer.

Being that this was my first trip overseas I have nothing to compare it to, but I do think it was one of the best experiences I have had. I got to witness a culture first hand that was not one that I grew up with, saw historical places I had only ready about, and learned about a country I was not too familiar with. Although I only stayed for a small amount of time, I received a brief look into the Czech people’s way of life and that added to my personal perspective of the world. As I returned to America, I came back with a new look at our country. I appreciated my upbringing that much more, the opportunities I have received, and the people in my life. I would have never seen where I have come from until I went on that journey. I believe Elliot was right in saying you can’t know where you are from until you come back again. I can’t wait to travel more and continue my exploration through life and science. There is so much in this world to see and explore and I only hope I can explore as much as possible until my last day.

Benjamin Perez