A highlight of the trip was our visit to Vienna. While we were there we were able to visit the sight of the Vienna International Center, a main office for the United Nations. I was in awe of its size. I had known that it would be big, but I didn’t realize exactly how big the buildings were. An interesting fact about them, they were built like triangles but with the sides sucked into the center so that everyone gets an office with a window.
The first place we visited was the CTBTO. This is the comprehensive test ban treaty organization, an organization that works to monitor nuclear tests around the world. The do this through a series of monitors that have been placed around the world. These monitors detect radiation in the air, seismographs that monitor quakes in the earth, and microphones that listen for explosive noises and pressures in the ocean and on the ground. We were able to see the control center where the data from all the monitors around the world come in, and hear some stories about the information they received during the North Korean tests in the previous years.
Then we got to see several practice sites that were set up in a field on the grounds of the VIC. The CTBTO had built several ground sensors as ways to demonstrate their capabilities and practice repairs on them. One of the sensors had a room that went down into the ground, which we had the opportunity to go into. The room was small, so there wasn’t much room to stand in, but it was exciting to be able to see how much work and effort goes into monitoring nuclear test worldwide.
I loved the time I was able to spend in Vienna. It is a beautiful city, and I look forward to hopefully seeing it again.
One of the biggest concerns I had before arriving in Prague was how we would be getting around. Being lost in a strange city is always a stressful event, and even more stressful with no ticket. Fortunately we had those issues taken care of. That doesn’t mean there weren’t stories, though…
The only time we were really on our own was when we first arrived. I had done research and knew that the cheapest way to get to the airport was by bus. I made my way through the airport to the bus terminal and bought my ticket. This is where I learned the importance of having a map app on my phone. on the app I could just put in the hotel, and it told which bus to get on. Of course, it’s not a perfect plan.
Along the way I followed the directions and switched buses. My stop was after a bridge, but I wasn’t sure exactly where. As the stops went by, I started to realize I had missed my stop! I quickly got off, but this stop was far away from the tourist area. Luckily all the bus stops in Prague have bus maps on them, and using a flashlight and the app I was able to work out where I needed to go. After this hiccup I never had any more difficulty finding my way around using public transportation.
One of the nice things about the transportation system of Prague is that when you get on a bus, tram or metro you don’t need to show your ticket, you just get on. This made getting around very easy, and thanks to the two week long passes we received from the school, we were able to easily get around the city. The way that the city makes sure that people have bus tickets is by using ticket inspectors at random stations. The whole time I was in Prague I never had my ticket checked, until the morning of the very last day. Luckily I had my ticket with me, otherwise I could have been facing a large fine.
One of the best ways to get around the city is by tram. All the trams have large windows, and during the day you get an amazing view of the city, especially the ones that run by the river. Prague has a beautiful river that runs through the city and seeing the bridges that cross them is definitely worth the trip.
I did not know what to expect when I visited Prague. I had never been to Europe before, but I knew it would be beautiful. Prague was one of the few cities to remain relatively unscathed during WW2, and as such has large sections of the city that remain in the classic style with stone roads and buildings. The whole city was beautiful, and was well worth the wait to see Europe.
One of the first places I saw was the old town square. This square dates back for centuries, well before the founding of The United States. It was truly a wonderful sight. I loved seeing all the old buildings, especially the astronomical clock. Unfortunately it was being repaired while I was there so I wasn’t able to see it all, but I could still get a sense of the grandeur.
There were plenty of shops located in Prague. It was really nice to be able to walk in and see such a wide variety of different items for sale in different stores. Some stores specialized in amber jewelry, others in fine chocolates.
The food in Prague was delicious as well. Prague is quickly getting a wide variety of foods. Traditional Prague food is delicious, featuring game, dumplings, potatoes, cabbage, and many other wonderful types of food.
It also features many types of food from around the world. One of the most memorable events was eating some of the most delicious lemon pepper wings will listening to Eminem for an hour and a half straight in a small restaurant off one of the main streets. I really loved being able to sample so many different types of food, from schwarma, to pizza to creme brulee for the first time.
The main learning activities of the trip occurred at the research reactor at the Czech Technical Institute. It was here that we were able to learn the about the physics and theory behind reactors, and also perform our own experiments with the reactor
One of the most memorable experiences occurred on the first day. During my studies of nuclear reactors, I had heard about cherenkov radiation, and had always been fascinated by its blue glow. Its mystique was up there with the aurora borealis. Imagine my excitement when I learned that on the first day we would be able to witness the radiation in the reactor! When it got dark, we all gathered around the reactor pool and peered down the depths of water to the bottoms of the control rods. After several minutes a faint blue glow started to appear. It gradually grew until the bottom of the pool was glowing blue. It was an awesome experience and a great way to start off our trip.
It was an awesome opportunity to be able to watch the reactor being used in person. I learned so many different things about how it operates that I wouldn’t have noticed from readings, such as how the operators write down every rod change in a record book as a backup in case the computer system gets wiped. I also noticed how the hall had white globes placed at several locations, which I later learned was a part of the system that monitors for radiation levels in the reactor room.
Safety was a theme that I continued to see throughout my time in the many research sites we visited in the Czech Republic. At each place we went to, be it the nuclear power reactor or the fusion reactor, steps were always taken to ensure that we and the employees were safe. At the reactors, every time we left we had to pass through a radiation scanner that ensured that we had not picked up any particles that may cause us discomfort down the road.
I really enjoyed the opportunity I had to learn near and interact with the reactor. I loved being able to manipulate the control rods. Reading about how raising the rods will cause a reaction is one thing, but actually watching the levels rise while raising the rods is an opportunity not to be missed.
I have always enjoyed the planning and preparation phase of trips abroad. My first major experience was an internship in Thailand in my undergrad. I remember spending hours researching where I was going and what I would need, and cutting down my luggage to fit in just one bag. My trip to Prague was no different
Unlike Thailand, Prague in the winter is cold and icy. I hadn’t spent much time living in cold weather prior to the trip, so I knew I needed to research the best gear to take. I knew that I needed gear that would keep me warm, but also work in a professional environemnt.
Here is my greatest tip to anyone who will be traveling to prague in the winter: wear layers. Wearing layers of clothing, instead of one huge jacket, was one of the best packing ideas I used. Because I used layers, I was able to keep myself warm when it was windy, but quickly cool off if it became too hot.
My usual system of layers was as follows. I would have an undershirt with a button down shirt over that. This allowed me to look professional in any of the places we visited, while not being too “dressed up.” Over this I would have a sweater, which was useful if the place we were visiting was cold. This was what I normally wore when we were inside of a building. When we were outside, I had two jackets over this. The first was a thick wind breaker, and I usually carried a heavy waterproof jacket that I wore when it got too cold. This way, if I got over heated, I could just remove a layer and cool off.
I would also suggest bringing good winter boots. It gets icy and cold, and a good pair of winter boots can help you stay gripped on the ice and keep you feet warm.
As far as money goes, be careful of where you exchange your money at. Don’t do it at the airport. They charge too high a percentage. Your much better using an ATM, as long as it is one that is run by a bank. In the subways there were ATMs run by private companies that would charge a very high service fee.