The Czech Republic is becoming increasingly popular with university students from the United States, according to the latest report by the Institute of International Education, a US organisation monitoring international student exchange. While back in the 1990s the post-communist country was a largely unexplored destination, attractive mainly for its night life and cheap prices, today’s students seem to be coming here with very specific academic goals.
A new batch of US college students have just arrived in Prague, joining approximately 4,000 compatriots already studying in the country. Their numbers have risen by 15 percent since 2014, ranking Prague the 14th most popular study destination worldwide with US students and the most favoured in the former Eastern Bloc.
Jana Čemusová is the head of the Study Center of the CIEE or Council on International Educational Exchange, a non-profit organization promoting international education and exchange based in United States. It has been active in this country since 1991.
“The biggest and oldest programme [we offer] is Central European Studies. Then we provide other programmes, smaller programmes, that is Communication, New Media and Journalism, Film Studies and Global Architecture and Design here in Prague. Almost all of our courses are provided by us, but the teachers are usually from Charles University or other universities and our students are literally the students of Charles University. And all courses are approved by the Academic Board of Charles University.”
Currently around 250 US students are involved in CIEE courses in Prague. I spoke to some of those who have just arrived to begin their summer term.
“My name is Jack, I’m studying physics and economics in America but I chose the Czech Republic because I feel like in my studies in America Eastern Europe is kind of ignored, culturally, historically, economically. You don’t hear very much about Eastern Europe, so I came to Prague, I learned the Czech language a bit before I came here and I just want to experience Eastern Europe, get a sense of what I’m missing out on in America, I guess.”
Callahan from South Carolina is an International Global Studies major at Brandeis University.
“I wanted to come to Prague mainly because this is my first time visiting Europe and I really wanted to be somewhere central so that I could travel around and really get to experience a lot of places while I’m here. And I’d just heard really great things about Prague but didn’t really know much about Czech culture in general so I decided to come so I could learn more.”
Omer is originally from Turkey but studies Political Science and Economics at Villanova University in Pennsylvania.
“I came to Prague because I really want to study authoritarian regimes and the Czech Republic has a very long experience with Nazism and Communism so I really want to go deep – like at its own location, how it was experienced in Central Europe.”
“We have the flat-buddy programme, it means that the students live with Czech students mainly from Charles University. Also, we offer some other extra-curricular activities, programmes like language tandems, volunteering. We take them to unusual locations in the Czech Republic and also we have the home-stay where the students can stay with Czech families.”
The Fulbright Commission in Prague, too, reports an increase in the number of scholarship applications as well as American citizens applying for jobs as English teachers at Czech high schools. Their number has increased ten-fold compared to 2015.