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Julia Granski and Helen Gianakopoulos
Julia- BA Psychology; BA International Studies (Global Environment and Health) ‘17
Helen- BA Communications; BA International Studies (Global Environment and Health) ‘17
Hometown: Julia- Ridgewood, NJ; Helen- Columbus, OH
Affiliations: Julia- Delta Gamma, Research Assistant at the Veterans Hospital; Helen- Delta Delta Delta, More Than Me at U-M
Julia Granski and Helen Gianakopoulos are both International Studies majors who chose to study abroad together in Prague, Czech Republic. This is the story of their study abroad experience.
“During our first semester junior year we were both deciding between studying abroad in Seville, Spain, and Prague, Czech Republic. Both cities were beautiful and had a lot of the elements we were looking for in a study abroad city. After consideration, we decided to apply to the CEA program in Prague because it was centrally located and we didn’t know anyone who had ever studied there—so it was new and unfamiliar.
When we arrived in February 2016, we immediately fell in love with the city. Not only was the architecture gorgeous, but the history and culture of the city opened our eyes to different ways of life. We were pleasantly surprised when we found out we were taking classes with other students from around the world. We made friends with people from the Czech Republic, Georgia, Kazakhstan, and Spain, and it was so interesting to hear about their daily lives. For example, a classmate from Kazakhstan told us she had two passports just in case she needed to flee the country from the corrupt government. It was a complete culture shock. It took everything we had learned about in our International Studies classes at home and put it in a real life situation. Taking classes with such a diverse group of students made us so appreciative of the International Studies major at Michigan, because without it we wouldn’t have been so driven to go abroad and broaden our horizons.
When we first got to Prague, we were jetlagged, confused, and hungry and in addition, a little shocked when we arrived to our apartment. After dropping off all the other students on our bus at beautiful, traditional Czech apartments, we stopped near the mall and were told to get out with all of our luggage and walk to our apartment. The apartment was next door to the mall, above a KFC and a McDonalds, and had graffiti all over the front door. Who knew that this building would become our absolute favorite place in the world! Without the Program in International and Comparative Studies and PICS advisor, Sofia, we wouldn’t have considered going abroad and would have missed out on one of the best experiences of our lives. Every day we miss eating trdelník, a kind of spit cake made from rolled dough and wrapped around a stick, then grilled and topped with sugar and walnut mix, along the Vlatava River or relaxing at our favorite beer garden. We were so lucky to have traveled to so many different cities together, including Budapest, Amsterdam, Paris, Barcelona, Santorini, and Lisbon—one of your favorites! But at the end of the day, Prague was our home.”
Future plans: “We are still in the middle of job searches. Our study abroad program inspired us to pursue careers that will allow us to expand our view of the world. We plan on continuing our education by traveling to new places and learning about new cultures, and hopefully we will be able to visit our little apartment above KFC soon!”