AIFS offers several programs for U.S. college students to study abroad in the Czech Republic. To give you an idea of what it’s like, Sarah P. from University of Puget Sound shared an evaluation of her experience studying abroad in Prague. She provides insight on the program site at Charles University, student accommodations, cultural aspects and general advice in the following Q&A:
How would you best describe your program site? Include information on the instructional facility (institute, university campus, etc.) and the surrounding community.
Charles University does not have a central campus the way American universities do. There are many buildings scattered throughout the city of Prague. Our program took classes in the “Main Building” of Charles University. This building is amazing. It is right on the river with the most amazing view of the Prague Castle. Walking out the doors at night after class and seeing the castle was the best reminder for me of how cool it was that I was living in Prague and having this experience.
The second building (and unfortunately the one where most of my classes were held) is the ECES building. There are 3 classrooms in this building. The classrooms are pretty basic, chairs with desks, a white board, projector, etc. The ECES building holds the office for ECES. They have three computers a printer and a table and chairs for you to study if you have time between classes.
The AIFS office is held in a separate building on the same street as the ECES building. The office is really nice and has this amazing elevator that is everyone’s favorite to ride. The AIFS office has bookshelves of travel books and leisure reading that past students have left behind. They have a couple couches to relax on and lots of computers that you can use to print.
All three buildings are in the center of downtown Prague. The Charles University building is in Old Town and the ECES and AIFS buildings are in New Town. They are all no more than a 10-minute walk away from each other.
What housing options were available to you? (e.g., homestay, apartment, residence hall) Which did you choose and why?
Our program has the option of staying in provided student housing or else you can find your own apartment. I stayed in the student housing, which is what I would tell everyone to do. Living on your own separates you from the group and you don’t get to know the people on the program very well. We rarely saw the group of guys who decided to get their own apartment. Staying in student housing was the best. You end up living with all of your friends in the same building and it’s the best way to get to know people.
What was the approximate travel time from your housing location to class? What was your mode of transportation for this commute?
It took about 20 minutes to get to class from our dorm. There is about a 5-minute walk to the Metro (underground) station and then a ten minute or so ride to downtown, and then just a few more minutes’ walk to class. Transportation was SO easy. Our dorms are right by the metro stop on the green line which is the main line that runs directly through the main downtown of Prague, basically getting you anywhere you want to go. Prague also has a tram and bus system that is also easy to use. I rarely took the bus, but you can also take the tram or walk to class if you want. The Metro is just the most efficient method of transportation.
Please comment about your housing:
Please do not expect the housing in Europe to be as nice or as comfortable as you are used to in the USA. This is a new experience, an adventure if you will, and you need to go into it with an open mind. That said, we stayed at one of the nicest dorms in Prague. For Czech students, most still live at home with their parents, so it is a big deal to live in a dorm. This is a new dorm the program has just found for us, and I was in only the second group of students to live here, but from what I hear it is a thousand times better than the old dorm. The rooms are suite style with two bedrooms (two beds each) that share an adjoining small kitchen and bathroom. The kitchen only has a hot plate though so don’t get too excited. You do however become quite creative as to what you can cook on a hotplate. The rooms are cleaned once a week by a maid (this means floors are mopped and vacuumed, trash taken out and towels replaced) and you can take your dorm-provided sheets in to be washed at least once a week as well. The rooms can be on the smaller side but include a bed, desk and lots of storage. The dorms can be kind of quirky but you learn to love them.
The dorm has free wireless internet in the lobby or you can pay for internet in your room (it’s totally worth it and not expensive); it also has two student lounges in the basement. One is like a “club” where they have foosball and play sports games on the TVs and have dance parties every once in a while. Over all the dorms are pretty nice and you have really easy access to downtown. The area we are in is also quite nice with restaurants and grocery stores and things nearby. It is also the place where you catch the bus to the airport, making it very convenient for traveling.
What was the biggest challenge you faced in adjusting to your host country?
At first it was not understanding the language. But as soon as you learn how to read and pronounce Czech it makes it 100 times easier. A big adjustment was also the way Czech people act in public. They think being loud in public is extremely rude, something that came from not trusting anyone around you during communist rule. So loud Americans can get very rude looks sometimes. Pretty often you will have a completely silent metro car, even during rush hour.
What things would you tell a prospective student about this program or your travels?
It was the most amazing experience. You learn so much about yourself, your independence, your country and the country you are in. AIFS Prague has an amazing staff that is literally there to cater to your every need. They are your best friends by the end of the program and will honestly do anything to help you have the best time of your life. They do an excellent job of providing travel opportunities for the group (you travel a lot with the program, which I didn’t think I would like at first but turned out to be some of my favorite trips). They are very laid back and treat you like adults, not like someone that has curfew and has to check in. The program also provides a ton of amazing cultural opportunities within the city that I think is a very unique aspect of our program. They get you tickets to soccer games and operas and take you to cool cultural sites you might not go to yourself. I think this was the coolest part of our program that sets it apart from other programs.
Would you recommend this program to other students? Why or why not?
I would absolutely recommend this program. I think it is a fantastic program within itself. A great setup, great housing and living and traveling arrangements, and a great staff that is there for you no matter what. The city of Prague is amazing and completely unique. It is also a little off the beaten path, which is what ultimately drove me to choose this program, it isn’t the normal European country and gives you a whole other perspective on Europe.
Simply stated, what were the pros and cons of your program?
PROS: Prague is an amazing city. The program is one of the best programs I have heard of. Studying abroad is an experience you will never get at any other point in your life. It is completely life changing.
CONS: It’s hard being away from your friends and family for a long period of time. It can also be a little hard adjusting to life in a new country and once you feel like you are getting a hang of it you have to leave. But really these are silly cons because I have zero regrets for doing my study abroad, it was the best experience of my life.
If you are encouraged by reading Sarah’s feedback, learn more about your options to study abroad in the Czech Republic with AIFS.