Students rest their heads before a presentation at the military academy in Vyskov.

1. People get jet lag due to lack of sleep.
With four airports, multiple layovers, and an eight-hour flight over the Atlantic, my iPod was probably better prepared for this trip than I was. I decided to make a playlist with my favorite travel-themed podcasts, including “How Jet Lag Works,” from Stuff You Should Know.

From the research I’ve done, here’s what I understand: Jet lag doesn’t have anything to do with not getting enough sleep on the flight over, or sleep at all. Jet lag is all about your circadian rhythm, which sets your biological clock’s cycle for releasing hormones and chemicals that keep your body’s sleeping pattern in check. Your circadian rhythm is set by the light you see, rather than the sleep you get.

So when you arrive in the Brussels airport at 12:00am EST, and 6:00am local time, your body ends up confused, and side effects such as abnormal eating patterns, stress, and anxiety can follow. That being said, I think you can imagine the fun times that followed us that day when we arrived in Prague.

Professor Candace Bowen stops to take pictures around Prague Castle. This trip is Bowen’s third time visiting the Czech Republic.

2. Try to look like a local.
Let’s be honest, I could see your fanny pack from the other side of the Charles Bridge. Your camera has been glued to your face ever since you stepped foot in the city, and your money belt is hanging out of your shirt. And you know what? That’s okay.

You don’t need to try to dress like a local or try to hide that you’re not Czech because loads of people in this city aren’t (and those who are locals can see your fanny pack, too). Walking the streets of Prague, you can see people from all over the world. Part of living in a city so large and so historic means lots of tourists, and the people of Prague are completely aware of that.

That being said, you should still be knowledgeable about their culture. You are a visitor to their home, and you should show that you respect them.
You see, some people think that…

Bibiana Hakosova gives directions to Professor Candace Bowen. Hakosova works at Anglo-American University, and is assisting the group of Kent State University students during their two weeks in Prague.

3. You don’t need to learn the local language – everyone will speak English anyway.
Based on the 2012 European Commission Eurobarometer report, 51% of Czechs said they are unable to speak a foreign language. Of those who do speak another language, English is the most commonly spoken, with 27% of the total population speaking English as a second language. In Prague, it is common for people to know at least a few phrases in English, but charades seems to be a popular second language as well.

A professor at Anglo-American University teaches Kent State University students a few phrases in Czech in order to help them navigate through Prague.

Getting around language barriers is manageable, but knowing a few Czech phrases always seems to come in handy. Even a simple “Děkuji!” (“Thank you!”) is a polite gesture. Some will say this is unnecessary (because they clearly know you’re a tourist so you shouldn’t bother trying), but I promise that every single time I have used a phrase in Czech, the local I’m speaking with grins from ear to ear and responds in Czech! To show how important this is, I  find it worthy to note that “no” means “yes” in Czech. I’ve been here two weeks and I still find it confusing when people try to confirm directions by saying “no.”

It is difficult to remember the vocabulary, and on your first few tries you may be embarrassed about your poor pronunciation, but as you work through it things get better. In the end, you will feel accomplished, and they will appreciate that you made the effort.

4. Everyone is trying to steal from you… or steal you.
This isn’t the movie “Taken,” and you don’t need Liam Neeson to help you in order to make it back from Europe. I often hear words of warning about people stealing from me, but according to a TripAdvisor survey, only 12% of travelers surveyed have been pick-pocketed. This is about one in ten people, but with common sense you don’t need statistics to make you feel safe.

Prague was listed as the third most prevalent city for pickpocketing, according to the same survey. It’s easy to be paranoid as you start reading the horror stories online, but I promise that not everyone is out to get you. There are families on vacation, locals with great sightseeing suggestions, and your fellow travelers all in the same boat as you!

I understand that it’s easy to be distracted by all that’s going on in the city, but I’ll list a few tips here for how to avoid such a scary situation:
• Always seal your bags, and keep them close when possible.
• Enjoy what’s around you, but don’t get distracted.
• Try to keep smaller bills with you, and use the hotel safe to lock up the rest.
• Keep an eye out for your fellow traveler! Being with a group means watching out for one another.

5. You can control what happens on your trip.
A professor once told me that the best travel stories start when everything goes to hell. So far, the only consistency I’ve found in my travels is that if it can go wrong, it probably will go wrong – and this is where travelers must find their strength.

What are the most memorable moments of my trip? Well, there was the time we got caught in a huge storm with winds strong enough to shatter the windows around us, and we ran through the glass-covered streets to the Charles Bridge in a torrential downpour. I’ve been here for almost two weeks and I still can’t figure out how to use the shower. We went to a military academy and it was hotter than hell. I leave in two days and my biggest contact literally wrote me back hours ago. I went to an interview today and ended up talking to someone who speaks almost no English.

Yet, I can’t help but look back on all of these moments fondly. Our first night running through the storm was a bonding experience, and we saw just how kick-ass our host Bibiana is. The amount of inside jokes we made about the heat at the military academy would be too many to count. Tomorrow I will achieve my dream of meeting with a dissident, and the interview today ended up being a wonderful experience because I made two new friends.

Though I heard a few people say after our first night’s mishaps that they just wanted to go home, we’ve all made it to the end of this journey. The mishaps have just been part of the adventure, and I’d say we’re better off for powering through it.

But let’s be honest, the showers are still awful.

During a storm on their first evening in Prague, students gather to hear directions to the Charles Bridge in hopes to rush back to the hotel.

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