The Case of The “Buchta”
By: Katie Leung, Wasserman Global Peer, NYU Prague
Europe caught me by surprise. As someone who has never been to Europe before, I had no idea what to expect. Maybe there will be some beautiful architecture paired with sparkling rivers. Maybe there will be delicious traditional food. Once I arrived in Prague, I realized I was right about both speculations. However, what I did not see coming were the difficulties I would encounter with a population that was still emerging from the shadows of a period of darkness and oppression. Going from Nazi to Communist rule, and finally achieving democracy and freedom in 1989, Czechs initially present themselves as cold and overly direct on first contact. I found it difficult to adjust to an environment that seemed so distant and closed off from me. As my brilliant music professor, Professor Tony Ackerman, puts it, Czech culture can be compared to a “buchta”. “Buchtas” are traditional Czech pastries featuring a thick doughy outside with a small, but tasty, inside filling. Often, many people become frustrated because it requires such patience and persistence to bite through the doughy layer to get to the sweet part. I, too, initially only saw the “spiky” demeanor that Czechs offered to me. However, as my study abroad experience went on, I soon got my first taste of how “sweet” the Czech people and my study abroad experience can be.
As the Wasserman Peer in Prague, I was offered the opportunity to get in touch with and speak to many students of different nationalities, different backgrounds, and with different professional needs. This has allowed me to learn how to truly keep my mind open to new ideas and new ways of thinking. Alongside with my experience of living here in the Czech Republic, engaging with others as a Wasserman representative taught me how to best identify and relate with others no matter how different their backgrounds may be from mine. Learning how to connect with my fellow classmates and being able to guide them on the path of career preparation made me realize that a good leader can teach, but an exemplary leader is capable of truly unearthing and developing the hidden “buchta” strengths of his or her teammates.
As someone who is interested in pursuing a career in business, my Wasserman role this semester has further prepared me to be able to effectively work in a team, which often may involve many diverse minds and ideas. Having the flexibility and openness to people around me is a key to success no matter where I work, and the organizational and planning skills I’ve gained from hosting events have also been invaluable. My study abroad experience this fall will certainly remain with me for the remainder of my time at NYU, and even beyond university.
“Buchtas” are simply hidden opportunities that we may overlook everyday – but I’ve certainly gotten a taste of what sweetness awaits me if I am willing to put in the patience and dedication.