So you’ve decided that you want to study abroad and now it’s time to choose where. If you’re anything like me and find yourself addicted to travel, you’re pretty much up for anything. There are so many beautiful places in this world and no matter where you choose to study you will definitely come home with a great cultural experience. Since I chose to study abroad in Prague, I have a complete bias towards it. However, this is due to the following 10 reasons, all of which should be enough to convince you that AIFS in Prague is the best program out there.
1. It is absolutely beautiful.
There is a distinct European charm in Prague that is evident from the cobblestone streets and the buildings, which are dotted with flowers on window sills. Every building seems to carry a story and an old history that transports you back in time. And you can’t miss out on walking down the Vltava River with the Prague Castle proudly standing on a hill.
2. The history is well preserved and, in turn, it is very rich.
During the World Wars, Prague was more fortunate than some other European cities and was not bombed nearly as much. This means many of the buildings are original to the time periods they were built in (which for some was literally centuries ago). Prague’s history was also dark and heavy at times due to the influence of communism. If you’re lucky enough to talk to those of the older generations who lived through that time, you will be enriched by hearing about the Prague of the past, and the Prague of post-communism. It is an amazing opportunity to learn about how this affected other European countries and the world.
3. The food is delicious.
While it is often fried and less on the healthy side for some traditional dishes, it is delightful! Some staples are fried cheese, goulash, and open-faced sandwiches. Prague also has pastries in every market that range from cakes to kreme rolls. Once you’re out of Prague for a few days, you start to miss the Czech food a lot! It’s comfort food in my book.
4. It is cheaper than other Central European cities.
One US dollar is usually within the range of 20-25 Kc (Czech Crowns). You can eat a decent meal for anywhere from 100-200 Kc depending on where you go, which is about $4.50 – $9.00 USD. If you really plan and budget with your meals and grocery shopping, you can eat well for cheap. Additionally, handmade items found at markets, and even souvenirs, won’t break your bank. Admission to lots of museums, churches, events, etc. are included in the AIFS program fees and with your class field trips. If there’s something additional you would like to do, it is usually no more than $5.00 – $15.00 USD with your student discount.
5. It is centrally located.
You will have the best options for excursions from Prague, both planned in the program and individual trips you plan with your new friends. Prague is in the heart of Central Europe and therefore is within an hour to an hour and a half flight of almost anywhere on the continent. By train you are four hours from Berlin, but only about two from the German border. Within a few hours on a bus you can be across the country in another part of the Czech Republic, Moravia. The Czech Republic borders several countries. Many people plan weekend trips to Vienna, Budapest, Bratislava, Berlin, and more.
6. You can maximize day trips.
The country is relatively small so it is easy to leave Prague for a day and really get acquainted with the Czech Republic. There are several easy day trips to do from Prague. It is an hour to Terezin, the former Jewish ghetto and fortification-turned-prison that was occupied by Nazis in WWII. An hour in a different direction gets you to Kutna Hora, a little town speckled with churches and cathedrals. It is home to a UNESCO world heritage site (the “bone church”) and a silver mine. Stretch your day a little longer and make your way to Bohemian Paradise for some hiking, or head out to Brno, the Moravian Capital, for some fine wine.
7. The city is accessible by the metro, trams, and buses.
All three options are also easy to figure out. You’ll catch on quick. Don’t be intimidated by the Czech language when it comes to transportation. You just have to know the stop closest to your destination and how to read the board or map for the trams/buses or metro, which is a skill you will learn from the AIFS team during orientation. Because the city is so well connected it doesn’t take long to go from one end to another and explore. Even if you are walking, there are lots of landmarks and unique buildings that make it easy to orient yourself and find your way.
8. AIFS dorms are in great locations.
Depending on your program, you may be in different dorms than past students. For my program we stayed in Prague 6, a district of Prague outside the city center. It’s a 10 minute train ride to Old Town and about 20 minutes by tram to class at the longest. The best part is that it is tucked into a more residential area so it is not flooded with tourists. If you are in the other dorming option you will still be far enough from Old Town to avoid tourist traffic and get the feel of living like a local, but will have the advantage of being near the river. Either way, the options are some of the nicest dorms available to students in the Czech Republic and have great accessibility to the city.
9. The classes will help you better appreciate the landmarks you see day to day.
Most classes offered will take you on field trips at some point, or they will talk about how things in Prague are relevant to the topic being studied. For example, in my Art and Architecture class we did lots of walking field trips to actually witness the Baroque style throughout the city. This is a very different experience than if you were to see a photo of the same thing in a textbook or on Google from your home university. This is the beauty of study abroad — getting the chance to not just learn about something, but to experience it as well. And the classes at Charles University do a great job of prioritizing this.
10. The AIFS staff is amazing.
They go above and beyond to plan cultural events and make sure the students get the best experience possible. They tell you where to go for anything, ranging from groceries to mailing your postcards. They are always around to answer your questions, too. Whether it is a city walking tour led by Z, or a story and a smile from Renata and Jenny, you always feel like you are in good hands. They really have made the experience so much better just by being wonderful planners and a kind support team for all of us.
Are you convinced? Prague is the most beautiful city in Central Europe. If you don’t believe me, you should choose it as your host city and find out for yourself.