Pensive in Prague: Examining Identity Abroad


Typing from a body still trying to get over jetlag – long layovers do not come recommended – I am filled with elation at the opportunity to be a summer blogger for the Harvard Independent. As a low-income, first generation Latina who has never traveled abroad before, I am very excited to be able to share my experiences during my first time in another country.

For me, being in Prague isn’t just my experience – it’s a joy that I get to share with my mother and her husband, with my older sisters and their children. People who in all likelihood will never get to experience what I have the privilege of doing; who will likely never get to visit another country, never live in a furnished apartment in the company of peers from an Ivy League school, going onto excursions paid for entirely by Harvard. This fact makes me sad, but also instills in me an even greater sense of responsibility to spend the time I have here well. Eight weeks of buildings that my family will never see, streets that my family will never walk, and food they will never get to eat.

Yet, when I go home, I have the honor of sharing tales of my travels with them, of showing them all of my pictures and bringing them souvenirs. While in all likelihood they will never get to share my experiences, for a moment, I hope that the memories I share with them will make them feel as if they’ve walked in my shoes.

Many people try to diminish the impact our identities have on the lives that we live and the way that we experience things, but I don’t know of many people whose families will be with them in mind and spirit through every step of their journey, whose life is lived not just for themselves but for the people they love. Throughout the entirety of my summer blog, I hope to examine how my experiences here have been and will continue to be a journey not just for myself, but a journey for the people I love who are just as deserving, but a lot less fortunate than I am, and how what I experience abroad is shaped by my identity as a low-income, first generation Latina.

  • Richard Straka

    As your Geometry teacher in high school, I am also walking in your shoes through the country of my grandparents. My Bohemian family also was poor although my father had a good factory job as a machinist at Western Electric, maker of Bell Telephones. As long as I can remember he worked 56 hours a week to support my mom, sister and me. I too was the first in my family to attend college and have a career. In 1993 I was able to travel to Slovakia and Prague to chaperone my son’s select ice hockey team…my first and only trip to Europe. I have been able to give my son more than what my parents were able to give me. It’s the reason people immigrate to America. Congrats to you, Gabby. You are living the American Dream. Those who work hard have the opportunity to do better than our parents and give even more to our children, no matter what country our families came from. You are also correct to take full advantage of and not waste that opportunity. I am happy for you and proud of you. Keep up the good work.