THESE ARE THE DAYS OF OUR LIVES // Bendigo, Australia

Groovin’ the Moo – a day of excellent music, food vans, questionable fashion sense, and all around good times. But posting these measly few photos from a couple of weekends ago has spontaneously gotten me thinking of far deeper themes then a carefree day at a music festival!

The fact that Chris and I were able to have a weekend away (albeit, camping in a caravan park with numerous other festival goers) to attend such a festival is one of those memories that makes me so appreciative of where my life is at right now. Chris and I both work full time in respectable jobs that we managed to get straight out of university. We live in an adorable cottage in a wonderful city. In three weeks we are going off overseas for a short holiday, and we have so many wonderful memories from other trips. Our families are supportive. I feel really quite content.

I am fully aware of our privilege within society, and I am truly appreciative and grateful for all the support and opportunities I have had. I have been working on expressing my gratitude more, and writing it down seems to make it more solid – even if it is on the internet on my little blog!

So apologies for the random *feelings* contrasted with photos of a music festival.

But exciting news – Chris and I are off to Singapore and Indonesia in two weeks for a short trip AND I just bought myself a new camera. Expect an overload of photos after the trip. Stay tuned!

– Reanna

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THE YEAR THAT WAS // Prague, Czech Republic

Warning: philosophical musings about my life ahead.

I know we are now a week into the new year, but as I mentioned the other day I felt like this past year deserved a bit more reflection than some fuzzy photos of fireworks and a few tired words thrown together. I have also thrown in a few photos from the start of the year in Melbourne for good measure! I think it is safe to say I am feeling a bit nostalgic.IMG_2532

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I don’t want to spend too long mulling over all my feelings about the year 2014, but I would have to say that it has probably been one of the greatest years of my short life to date. Sure, it has had its share of ups and downs, but it has been a year of so many experiences I could have only imagine, a year of growth, and a year that has seen the development of a better outlook on the future for me. The start of the year was hard at times, due to the long hot summer and lack of fulfillment over the long university break. But once the semester started up, everything fell into place. Chris and I had such an amazing time celebrating our 21st birthdays with family, friends, and each other. First semester was crazily busy, but Chris and I both thrived under the conditions. We both studied hard, worked and saved a lot of money, and participated in numerous volunteering roles. Exchange also became a definite reality as we were accepted into our respective institutions and bought flights. We also began to really find our feet in Melbourne, as we discovered the joys of riding our bikes everywhere, spontaneous date nights, Lentil as Anything (far to frequently most likely) and breakfast out on Centrelink day.IMG_3115

I also began to feel more certain about what I want to do once I finish my Bachelor of Arts. I finish at the end of this year, and that is coming around far too quickly! My initial idea of pursuing law fell on the back burner, but I have become enthused about the idea of completing a year of honours in either Psychology or Criminology, and applying to do a PHD in an area that combines the two. I would also love to incorporate my new found passion for women’s rights into my research. Following such a path would see me work in either a research institution or continue onto academia at university. It is so empowering to actually have a more solid idea about what I want to do!

Everything moved along very quickly at the end of the semester, as we packed up our life in Melbourne and shifted everything back to our hometown and hung out with our families in the month before we left for exchange. You know the rest of the story from there. Exchange isn’t over yet (you can expect another some more philosophical dribble once it is!), but the whole experience of being in Europe has certainly sparked a feeling of wanderlust in both myself and Chris. Travel is definitely something we see becoming a more prominent part of our future. Who knows, maybe we will even return to Europe to work (or study, because lets be honest I will probably be at university forever!).IMG_3273

I am so excited for this coming month, as I pack up my life here in Prague and spend my remaining two weeks in Europe traveling with Chris, and finally return back to Australia. We have been on the hunt for apartments back in Melbourne, and it is all far too exciting! I am not really one for new years resolutions, but I do have some ideas about what I want to achieve this year and I am so excited for all that is to come!

All the best for the coming year.

– Reanna.

CURRENTLY: EDITION 2 // Prague, Czech Republic

I was perusing through my blog archives looking for a particular post, when I came across this post from a few months ago. Basically, I was checking in with how I was feeling in a few basic areas of life. Today I thought I would do so again, and see how life has changed since then!

These photos are from a walk I went on yesterday up Petřín Hill. It is a beautiful area – though incredibly steep to walk up!

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(Memorial to not only the victims of communism, but everyone who was impacted by the regime)

Housing: This is well and truly not an issue now! Back when I wrote my initial reflection post I was enduring the hell that was student dorms, but as I have mentioned previously I have escaped to a much better life. The location is great, I have my own kitchen, and I live right near the tram. Sure, it is a bit old and the internet can be frustrating when trying to skype, but I like it!

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University: I am so utterly disappointed with Charles University. I cannot express my excitement to get back to my beloved University of Melbourne and reigniting my passion for learning. Registering for classes probably cut two years off my life due to stress, and the classes themselves feel like they have been thrown together on the side without much care for exchange students. Professors don’t answer their emails and there is little guidance with some of my assessments. I am really struggling with a lack of motivation that has ensued from my despair. I am currently trying to nail out my final pieces of assessment, but I am finding it hard to concentrate on something I have no invested interest in. I know facing challenges was a whole part of exchange, but it has been really, really hard. While it has made exchange a bumpy ride at times, it certainly hasn’t detracted dramatically from my overall experience.SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

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The city: My feelings are pretty much exactly the same as the initial post – sometimes I forget to stop and appreciate this beautiful city. Going for this walk yesterday provided me with a refreshing view of it all. I am also looking forward to having Chris, some of my family and a friend visit me in the coming days, so I can show them around!SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

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#Feelings: A bit up and down lately, as I struggle to put together these assessments for uni and battle a lack of fulfillment I often feel (due to not having work, volunteering, etc). I did recently help organize and run a quiz night for the Amnesty International English Speaking Group in Prague, which was quite fun. Being involved in the group (even if it is only an hour or so a week) has been a fantastic experience, and I have met a lot of great people through it. Traveling with Chris has always been fantastic, and I am so excited for friends and family to visit! Chris arrives tomorrow night, so I don’t have many days of solitude left. The cold weather has also been quite hard to deal with, as some days it is painful to be outside for too long, and being locked up inside all day doesn’t make me feel too great. But overall, I am doing well!SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

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And that is all I think! I have also had some great dinner parties and coffee dates with friends, and I am getting ready for Christmas. I will probably have a bombardment of photos coming up soon when everyone arrives in Prague, as I imagine there will be a lot of sight seeing!

– Reanna.

FIRST SNOWFALL & ACCEPTANCE // Prague, Czech Republic

After waiting and waiting, my dreams were finally fulfilled: it snowed in Prague! On Monday afternoon I was leaving a cafe after coffee with friends and found out that it was a lovely -2 degrees and quite dark outside at 4pm. It had started raining by the time I got home, and a quick weather search online alluded to possible snow. Needless to say, I was looking out my window every ten minutes to see if it had started, but I eventually gave up and went to bed.

But then I woke up to this out my window on Tuesday morning!

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESI promptly lost my mind with excitement, but didn’t run outside as it was far too dark and cold. When I did eventually emerge I thought the scenery around me was beautiful. Sure, it was only a very small layer of snow, but it completely changed the look of everything. I don’t think every else was too impressed though, as the freezing conditions had resulted in the entire tram network being shutdown for the first time ever.

I opted to walk into the city rather than navigate the horror that is replacement buses, and found the snow became less and less as I neared the city centre. Unfortunately the snow had pretty much melted again by the next day, and it is completely gone this morning.

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I have been walking on the latter half of this post for a few days. It is a bit long and personal, so if you aren’t into that stuff then feel free to comeback later when I have more pictures and less words on offer!

As a look at my calendar these days, weekends are filling up with trips, people are coming and going from Prague, and exams or term papers have deadlines looming. It all seems to have come about so quickly, but when I think about it, it has now been over three months since I left Australia, and over two months since I have been living in Prague. Before I know it I will  (hopefully) be spending my last weeks in Europe travelling with Chris, before embarking on the dreaded day long journey home.SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Thinking about all this time and how quick it has flown by has resulted in a somewhat pensive mood on my behalf. Most days I often find myself thinking about what I have done since being overseas, and what I still want to do. Some days I feel content with all that I have experienced, but then other days I feel like I have also missed out on a lot, especially when I observe what other exchange students have done. There seems to be an eclectic mix of students here in Prague, with some people jumping on a plane or train every weekend to see a new country, while others have hardly left Prague at all. There is quite a culture among Erasmus (an exchange program ran by the EU) students of partying and drinking and staying up until ridiculously late, which doesn’t really interest me too much. Sure, I have the odd night of drinks with some friends, but when I speak to other students they seem to being doing something every other night. Again, this can sometimes make me feel like I am doing exchange “wrong”, or that I am missing out.

But when I really sit down and put some thought to it, and look past the generic ideal of what being on exchange means to a lot people, I am really happy with how my experience has gone. I have travelled a lot, and I still have more planned. I have met some lovely people: sometimes people I also see once, other people who have become good friends over the semester. As much as Charles University has annoyed me in a bureaucratic and academic sense, it has also been a blessing in disguise in allowing me to enjoy my experience without the pressing burden of hard university work. And above all else, exchange has also made me appreciate what I already have. I go to university at one of the top universities in the world in the most liveable city in the world, I have a wonderful family back at home who supported me in even coming here, and I know that I have a wonderful life to go back to living with Chris in a little apartment in Melbourne. SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

So yeah, I guess the conclusion of this was that I am accepting that even though my experience of exchange might be different to others, as is what I hold ideal, and I am very grateful for this experience that I have had (and am still having!).

Also, I hope it snows again soon!

– Reanna

MLUVÍM TROCHU ČESKY // Prague, Czech Republic

Today I am finally delivering on my continual promise to write up a post about the Czech language. As I mentioned a little awhile ago, I initially was only planning to learn Czech for a bit of fun. I wasn’t even planning on taking the Czech language class at university, but when everything went to hell with subject registration I decided to enrol. And I am glad I did! I have honestly been really enjoying it. Sure, during class I often feel overwhelmed with the content and crazy linguistic concepts (conjugating whaaaaat?), but after a bit of study it usually comes together. I have even somehow managed full marks on both our mini tests so far! Maybe there is hope for me becoming a polyglot after all!SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

My only experience with the Czech language prior to coming to Prague was through a friend of a family member who I had met with once, and a language computer program I bought and subsequently failed to fully utilise in the months leading up to leaving for Europe. It is not an overly widely spoken language – it is only spoken within the Czech Republic. So it’s fair to say I had no idea what was going on during my first weeks in Prague! I haven’t really be exposed to enough foreign languages to compare it to anything, but think lots of Z’s.

Pronunciation is quite difficult for me. The ‘r’ in Czech is slightly rolled, like in Spanish, and I physically cannot pronounce it. And just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse, the Czech’s have a unique sound found only in their language – ř. It is a combination of the rolling ‘r’ and a ‘zh’ (like the ‘s’ in ‘measure’, ‘leisure’, etc). My Czech teachers try to make us all feel better about this by saying a majority of Czech children have to go to speech therapy to learn to pronounce this sound. Yeaaaaah, no, that didn’t really help.29412365

What’s more, the Czech’s are also notorious for their lack of vowels in some words. There is a famous tongue twister to demonstrate this: ‘strč prst skrz krk’ (the č being pronounced ‘ch’), which translates as ‘stick your finger through your neck’. And no, I have not even attempted to say it!

I am very lucky that due to the vast tourist industry in Prague that most people here at least have a basic grasp of English, or at least the English necessary to serve you in a restaurant, sell you a ticket, or what have you. Whilst travelling through various countries before settling in Prague I used simply ask people if they spoke English, in English. Here, I have been trying to get myself to ask in Czech: ‘mluvíte anglicky?’ The first few times I think people had no idea what I was saying, but as my pronunciation is improving I am generally understood. My other most used phrase is equally as depressing: ‘nemluvím česky’ (‘I don’t speak Czech). I have often had the awkward experience of an elderly Czech lady making some comment to me on the tram, or someone asking for directions, and me having no idea what they are saying! bexcuppccaauequ-large

Whenever I go to the supermarket it is generally a pretty pain free experience. Customer service here is a far cry from what it is in Australia. Having worked in customer service since I was 15, I know the pain of forced smiles, over the top ‘Hi! How are you today? Nice weather isn’t it?’ and cheery goodbyes. Here, you merely get ‘dobrý den’ (good day), the price of you groceries, and ‘děkuju/na shledanou’ (thank you/goodbye). Sure, it took me awhile to get used to, but it has certainly made it easier for me when I am still learning the language!

I think that is enough Czech insights for now! Maybe I will update you all on my progress when I can actually string more than 4 words together to form a sentence! I am actually going to London in a week (sooooooo excited), so it will be a strange experience to be immersed back into an English speaking country.

– Reanna.

“UHHH, DO YOU SPEAK ENGLISH?” // Prague, Czech Republic

Being in Europe has completely changed my perspective of languages. I’ll be honest, prior to coming here I always thought learning a language was something I didn’t need to worry about, that I could better invest my time elsewhere. When I began planning exchange I decided to have a go at learning Czech, but more for a bit of fun and a challenge. Then I actually arrived.

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It feels like everyone I meet can speak at least two languages here. Admittedly, I have often been in touristy areas where there is a need to cater for visitors. But even so, pretty much everyone has a basic grasp of English. Here at Charles University, I am often the only native English speaker in a class. It’s amazing that all these students are here learning the same content as me, but in a second language. I cannot even fathom how hard that must be. My tour guide in Luxembourg told me that most primary school children learn French, German, Luxembourgish and English. Talk about me feeling inadequate! SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

I have had numerous conversations with people I have met here about my feelings of remorse about only speaking English. Most people are surprised about language learning in Australian schools, or lack of. Sure, I learnt Indonesian for seven years in primary school (satu, dua, tiga…), and there is definitely a bigger emphasis on having fun than legitimately learning the language. I guess it harps back to Australia being so isolated. In Europe you can drive two hours and jump out in a town where they speak a completely different language. If I drive that far in Australia I am merely travelling between Melbourne and my hometown.

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I have certainly been inspired to persevere with learning Czech while I am in Prague, and I would be open to learning more languages in the future! Learning a new language is hard though, I won’t deny it. Studying developmental psychology, and hence language acquisition, at university has reminded me that I am well past my language learning prime. Furthermore, my lack of knowledge about the structure of language itself (verbs, adverbs, suffixes, conjugating whaaaaat?) has proved to be another setback. Despite these obstacles, and Czech having quite a reputation as being a difficult language (I will write a post soon dedicated entirely to that subject!), I am enjoying it!

These photos are some awful snaps I took during a stroll along the river tonight. Apparently night photography is an art in itself!

– Reanna

ON MOVING, LESSONS LEARNT & OTHER THOUGHTS // Prague, Czech Republic

Can you believe that on this day two months ago I was wandering around Munich in my first day of Europe? It only just hit me when I was walking back from the shops yesterday that it has been two whole months of being on this side of the world. Two months. 61 days. One sixth of a year. Which ever way I think about it, it still seems surreal.

The other day I briefly mentioned that I was moving out of the wonderful hell hole that was Hvezda dormitory. Without going into all the boring details of it, I present to you my new, temporary room. I say temporary as on the first of November I will be moving once again, but to a better room in the same building. Please ignore the mess, it is hard to be motivated to put everything in a proper place when you know you will be moving in a week!

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SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESAs you can see, it is quite old, and the furniture is as well. But I am happy here never the less. It is so much quieter, the neighbourhood is prettier, and I am a lot closer to the city.

Also, here is a random selfie as proof that I am still alive.

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SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESThe rest of these photos are from my expedition yesterday afternoon around my new part of town. Unfortunately, there is still not a great deal around here, being largely residential. There is certainly no shortage of “potraviny” (minimarts/milk bars). However, I can forgive all for the proximity of my flat to Vyšehrad citadel. I have been there before, but even so since moving I have already been up there another three times. It is such a wonderful place to walk and take in views of the city.

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SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESI have now started five out of my six classes at university. The system is here is certainly quite different from my beloved Melbourne University, and is honestly making me appreciate it a bit more. While I wouldn’t say Charles University is a bad university, it has made me better understand why Melbourne University is one of the top 50 in the world.

While all my classes seem interesting, I often feel like the content is a lot slower and less stimulating than back home. One does have to take into consideration though that the teachers are often Czech, or Turkish in one of my classes – so English is not their first language. Furthermore, most of the other exchange students are from European countries and are not native English speakers as well. In some classes I am often the only native English speaker, and even so I think people can’t understand my Australian accent half the time! So this does result in content delivery accommodating for this. I was talking to Dad about this yesterday, and he made the point that exchange is not so much about what I am learning in the classroom here, but rather what I am learning from interacting with so many different cultures, visiting numerous historical sights, and being exposed to different cities.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES(My new flat is one of the first buildings on the left of the street in the main view of the above photo. This photo was taken from Vyšehrad!)

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESThat’s not to say all my courses are easy though! My Czech language course is far from it, particular for someone who has never learnt another language before! I am the only native English speaker in the class, so everyone can speak at least two languages already. My Australian accent once again hinders me in my terrible pronunciation of Czech!

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SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESIn other news, the weather has certainly taken a drastically colder turn here. I used to be content wandering around with a jacket or a thick cardigan, but now it is time to layer up and pull on my winter coat nearly everyday. And Prague isn’t even at it’s coldest! It is getting to about a maximum of 12-14 degrees a day at the moment, but google revealed to me that I can expect a crisp top of 2 degrees in December. God help me.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESAnd on another completely different note, I went to an Indian and Pakistan film festival with a friend the other day. I have never seen many foreign films, so I found the experience quite enlightening. We saw a “Lollywood” (Pakistan) film called Zinda Bhaag, which was a drama film depicting life within Pakistan. It has inspired me to attempt to watch more films from other cultures, as not only the content is new to me, but also the way in which the films are made is slightly different to your usual Hollywood gig.

– Reanna.