Meet Holly Grobholz, a very positive, talkative girl with a sunny personality, coming from New Jersey. When I first met her, she just came from the airport after a 15-hour flight, and she was not tired at all! She was very excited and energetic. She was thrilled to finally be in Prague, and to know that she is about to experience some of the best days of her life!
Unfortunately, life is very unpredictable, and some things are out of our control. The program was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic, two and a half months after it started. Students had to return home and all the program went online. It was a rough path, stressful, and disappointing because of unfulfilled expectations. However, even in such unfortunate circumstances, it is possible and necessary to focus on the bright side. In our interview, Holly is doing just that and shares her thoughts and feelings after coming back home.
Can you explain in one word how do you feel now?
Grateful. Of course, I was sad and angry that the program was cut short. When I came back home, I was so disconnected from Prague, and I wasn’t sure if it was even real. However, talking about it with my friends and family, reliving my experiences made me embrace the situation more. Now I am just very grateful that I was still able to do and see as much as I could. I am happy that I got to experience it at all.
What was the biggest difficulty for you when you just came to Prague?
It was not as challenging as I thought it would be. I am already used to being away from my family because of moving to the NC State campus, so I was not too homesick. It was a little hard, however, to get used to normal everyday things like navigating the transportation system, going to school, doing groceries. The first time I went to get my groceries, I struggled with the language barrier, since the cashier did not speak any English. I was also surprised that nobody helps to bag your groceries. Also, I often get very excited when I talk with my friends, so I can become pretty loud in restaurants or trams. Czech people, however, would become very annoyed with me, since they are much more reserved than Americans. That’s why sometimes it was a struggle for me to be quieter.
What was your dream that came true during your study abroad experience?
I have always had a dream to travel, so the whole program was a dream come true to me! My inspiration was my mom, who came to study abroad in France when she was my age, so I was very excited to go to study in Europe myself. I also wanted to get immersed in the other culture and see a non-touristy part of it! For example, our cooking classes were a great way to get involved and try something new, they were so much fun.
What do you miss the most from the program?
I miss NC State building and staff. Our school is so beautiful, and it was crazy to realize that it is located right in the heart of Prague, near the Astronomical Clock! It’s like going to school near the Eiffel Tower! In general, life in Prague was very comfortable since our program was very organized and well structured. We were very welcome, and it soon felt like home.
I also miss being in the environment, exploring new places, trying new things, and food. There is so much culture to experience in Prague, and not only Czech culture! I loved going out with friends and being free. Life in Prague was very different than the one I am used to in the US.
How did this experience change you?
It increased my creativity. Before coming to Prague, I had trouble coming up with new ideas. Our studio with Matej was excellent, we did something different than we usually do at school. I liked working on type fonts. It was exactly what I needed for my projects, and my mindset is very refreshed now. I got my mind back to being a creator!
What is your favorite memory from Prague?
Going out with my friends in the new environment for the first time, experiencing the nightlife. I also have a bright memory of our first night when housing student assistants took us to the Old Town square to see the Center. It all looked like a movie set!
What do you regret not doing before you left?
When I was in Paris, my phone was stolen, and I could not restore most of the pictures. So, I regret not taking more photos and not backing them up! And in general, I wish I made more pictures of my friends and me. I also wanted to go to Italy, and spend more time in France, since it is very special to me because of my mom.
What is your favorite Czech food? Name some restaurants where you liked to eat out.
I love Czech food, and I miss it so much! My favorite would probably be “chlebicky” (small open-faced sandwiches) that I liked to get at Ovocny Svetozor, goulash, potato pancakes, and fried cheese. Restaurant Kopyto near the residence was just perfect for enjoying some of these meals. And, of course, being a true ice cream fan, I could often be found at Crème de la crème. On our last day, I found the best breakfast place near our dorm, called My Coffee Story, with a pretty garden upstairs! Also, I cannot forget about one of the best bakeries in Prague – arctic Bakehouse, we used to go there almost every day!
Photo credits: Holly Grobholz
Interviewed by Dina Shevchenko
Holly was also featured in the podcast on Spotify What’s Going On with Addy & Diego. She shares a detailed story of her semester in Prague, classes, everyday life, Czech people, culture, and cancellation of the program. You can listen to it here: https://open.spotify.com/show/0cHNh0ADq8D0lFLJd0wrvT.