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Blog: The foreign language grocery game

Daniel Neumann, an undergraduate student in the McCombs School of Business, blogs about his experiences while studying abroad at the University of Economic in Prague.

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Blog post from McCombs BBA Study Abroad Students.

Unfortunately, while the big experiences of studying abroad (the arrival, the first day, etc.) are the most staggering, I’ve become dull to them rapidly. Stepping foot into Prague’s Old Town Square and Charles Bridge, surrounded by a sea of tourists and competing foreign languages, was absolutely overwhelming. However, just a week later, I can cruise around the city like a seasoned tour guide unfazed by the incredible sprawling city.

Where a foreign environment quickly morphs into a map of familiar landmarks and day to day scenery, it’s the small experiences that remain alluring and novel. Every day presents a series of new puzzles and experiences which are ultimately responsible for my most memorable experiences abroad so far.

The grocery store in a foreign land never ceases to be a fun time. Maybe I had an explicit list of needed items going in, but I can always be sure that going out I have a few items I think may be what I want. I mean, “Putata Chips” sounds awfully close to “Potato Chips” so it’s a reasonable gamble. On my first trip to the grocery store, I wanted some sugar for my tea. After scouring some aisles, I came across a small sack with a picture of fine white granules and the word “Sl” floating above them. I was briefly stuck on the fence, aware that I could be purchasing salt, but the image of a cartoony smiling zebra put me over into the it’s-gotta-be-sugar camp. I hear horses eat sugar cubes and I also couldn’t imagine any animal grinning over a sack of salt. I thought I had the sugar conundrum in the bag as I walked out of the small corner store like a champ. But then I went home and made a nice, tall, unpalatable mug of green saltwater tea.

At the store today, I figured these little cereal logs were either brown because they are full of chocolatey splendor or they are brown because they are packed with a dense multigrain. I’m rooting for chocolate. Your guess is as good as mine.

Surprise! Cinnamon-flavored! I lose.

Studying abroad definitely teaches you to find amusement in life’s small things. Living in the same place for a long time leaves us unchallenged by new paradigms. Without traveling and seeing how things are done differently somewhere else, we never are able to truly appreciate what we have and how others deal with daily life in their own unique ways.