PRAGUE – Many times in my life I have felt embarrassed of my country. Oftentimes to the extent that I could not see any of its positive sides. I was simply sure that beauty could not be found in a country with so much hate and backwards thinking.
When Youth Journalism International announced that its 2023 Global Conference would be in Czechia, I found myself feeling scared. Scared about bringing people I care about here, because I did not want to make a bad impression.
My fellow student Joanne Yau, from Hong Kong, asked me on the first day: “What is your favorite thing about your country?”
And that question sounded so foreign. Not only because you never hear anyone asking that, but also because I have never even asked myself that question.
I began contemplating my answer and ever since, I have been noticing small changes in my thinking.
Being able to share the capital of my country with people who have never been here has made me realize just how much I adore this place.
A feeling of pride has begun to grow in the depths of my soul.
With each Czech word that left my mouth – and was echoed by non-native speakers – I noticed the intricacy of my own language.
From an outsider’s point of view I was merely explaining the pronunciation, but in my mind, I was savoring each and every syllable.
I have spent my whole life trying to perfect my English for the goal of leaving my country, and in the process I forgot to notice that my own language is equally as beautiful.
It was not only the language that made me change my perspective.
When visiting the historical sites that I have been to many times before, I tried looking at them through the eyes of everyone else. I noticed different angles and small details that I wouldn’t have paid attention to if I were here alone.
In the Old Royal Palace at the Prague Castle, I was able to answer questions from other students about its history. It was their first time hearing about the famous defenestration of 1618, and they were mesmerized.
While explaining the circumstances, I found myself also appreciating the stories I have been studying since middle school.
I always thought that loving a place with many flaws is bad. How can I say I love the Czech Republic when I am so aware of all its problems?
The YJI conference made me realize that things don’t have to be just good, or just bad. They can just be. And when you take your time, there is always something beautiful to be found.
Before the conference, I mocked our national motto, Truth Prevails. I felt the politicians and people were entrapped in their lies.
But now I have decided to try and work to make my country worthy of it. And perhaps one day, truth will truly prevail.
Viktorie Goldmannová is a Reporter with Youth Journalism International from Czechia. She wrote this essay and drew the logo with the linden tree, the national tree of Czechia.
Joanne Yau is a Reporter with Youth Journalism International from Hong Kong. She contributed photos to this article.
Anne van Mill is a Junior Reporter with Youth Journalism International from the Netherlands. She contributed a photo to this article.