Whether you are still just thinking about studying abroad or are right in the middle of getting ready to head to your abroad experience, you are surely curious about what to expect. You can for sure expect things to be different culturally: food, transportation, public behavior, language, leisure activities, and inside the classroom. You maybe haven’t thought about it, but the classes you will be in while studying abroad may very likely be different from what you are used to in the United States. I hope that by explaining some of the differences that I have experienced in Prague, Czech Republic will help you be more prepared for potential differences on your experience.
1. Small Classes
The first thing that was a shock to me was how small the classes were in Czech University. The small class sizes may simply be because I am only in class with other foreign students, so there aren’t necessarily that many English speaking students here to take classes with. However, with the classes being so small it is actually nice I think, because it is easier to ask questions and get to know everyone in the class, including the professor.
2. Mandatory Attendance
Along with small class size comes the raised expectation of class attendance. Here in the Czech Republic attendance is taken and required in all classes. There are two absences allowed, but after that your grades will be lowered by a letter grade. So make sure you aren’t planning too many (if any) weekend trips that force you to miss classes. With keeping in mind that only two absences are allowed you may want to save at least one if not both of those for in case your alarm does not go off, or you accidentally turn it off without getting up, as I did once already.
3. Bilingual Professors
The professors at your university abroad may very likely speak English as a second language, in which case you must remember that they won’t likely speak as quickly as you are used to and they will likely speak it with their accent as well. This can be hard to get used to right away, but it is important not to be annoyed by it and to pay attention the whole time anyway. I was lucky enough to have experience with different cultures and accents even during high school so this adjustment wasn’t too bad for me, but in talking to others in my program I know they sometimes struggle. Don’t worry about it too much though, point four is partially why.
4. Emphasis on Reading Assignments
There are a lot of readings assigned as homework here in the Czech Republic. The readings are assigned as homework instead of various written assignments as is common in the US. These readings are also what are often talked about in class, so if you are having difficulty understanding what is talked about in class you won’t be behind as you will have another way to learn the material.
5. Essays are Preferred Over Tests
Essays are also more common instead of tests here in the Czech Republic. This may be a good thing or a bad thing depending on your personal preference, but be prepared to do more writing of essays instead of studying for test. The only tests that I have in classes are some midterms and some finals. The classes with a midterm test often have an essay as the final and visa versa. It is also common to have short essays assigned as reflections of in class activities.
6. Purchasing Textbooks Isn’t a Thing
The last major difference of Czech universities and US universities is perhaps my favorite difference. You don’t have to buy textbooks for your classes here in the Czech Republic. The readings that professors assign are PDF articles that they provide for you or, for literature classes, you are provided with a physical printed reader for free and short novels are loaned to you.
Now that you know some of the difference that you can expect in your foreign university, hopefully you will be more prepared and ready to jump right into the new experience. Be ready to adapt to whatever is new with your university abroad, and do your best not to jump to conclusions and judge the differences. One of the sayings that I heard while here, and that I really like, is that “differences in culture aren’t good or bad, they are just different.”