Why did I have to come back home? Past Review

By (Music, Government, The College of William and Mary) - abroad from 08/31/2012 to 12/14/2012 with

AIFS: Prague - Charles University

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
Studying abroad in the center of the European continent in one of the most authentic, historic cities left in Europe gave me the opportunity to experience another culture that has not yet been completely Americanized (although some might say it's on its way there, for better or for worse). I'm now exploring graduate programs in Prague so I would say it was absolutely worthwhile.

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 0-2 weeks

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

Some people think study abroad is solely an opportunity to run around a foreign continent and goof off, but the program at Charles University had great classes of the caliber at William & Mary, qualified lecturers and professors, and interesting course options. Classes were either twice a week for an hour and a half each of the two days, or once a week for three hours. The three hour classes could feel a little long. All the courses had readers that could be purchased for much less than average American textbook costs. Class sizes ranged from 10 to 15. All the professors were fluent in English and able to be understood for those with concerns with foreign faculty whose native language is not English.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

There were two main administrative teams: the AIFS office in Prague and the Charles University East and Central European Studies Program office. Both were extremely helpful, offered a variety of activities and advice, and were just friendly people.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

I liked at Masarykova Kolej in the Device neighborhood of Prague 6. Honestly, I though the dorms were better there at at home at William & Mary.

* Food:

The cost of living is so much less than in America that I could eat out almost all the time. The best time to go out is for lunch when restuanrants have daily lunch specials. Also, you can't go wrong with great coffee available at every cafe. Go online to TripAdvisor to find all the good places to eat and imbibe.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

Not being fluent in Czech does of course make you feel somewhat detached from the local culture, but honestly, everybody minds their own business anyway so if you just do your own thing, not bothering other people while you do it, nobody really cares and you can feel like a local. I routinely used mass transportation to get around.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

* Safety:

I felt safer in Prague than I do on campus in Williamsburg. There was rarely an instance of violent crime while I was in the city. Also, most of the areas are well lit. The only time you need to be worried about pickpocketing or anything is on crowded tourist tram routes (tram 22), and at very late hours, or if you've had a little too much to drink. If you are smart about the decisions you make as far as going out and how you act, you'll be fine. Just know that if you act like a loud American or a tourist, you paint a large target on your back. Try to blend in.

If you could do it all over again would you choose the same program? Yes


* Money: How easily were you able to live on a student's budget?

(1 = not very easy/$200+ on food & personal expenses/week, 2.5 = $100/week, 5 = very easily/minimal cost)

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? $100
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Farmers markets are a great way to get good, quality foodstuffs at great prices.


* Did your program have a foreign language component? Yes
How much did the program encourage you to use the language?

0 = No encouragement, 5 = frequent encouragement to use the language

ECES (East and Central European Studies) required a two-week intensive Czech course for all participants in the program during orientation. They also offered additional levels you could take during the semester, which I did.

How would you rate your language skills at the beginning of the program? None
How would you rate your language skills at the end of the program? Beginner
What was the highest level language course you had completed prior to departure? 0
How many hours per day did you use the language?
Do you have any tips/advice on the best ways to practice the language for future study abroad participants? Don't be afraid to use it in public with the locals. One, they appreciate it when you try and speak their extremely difficult language, even if they might laugh at you for trying. They might even respond in English, but don't be turned off by that. Maybe they just want to practise their English like you want to practise your Czech.

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Dorm
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Local Students
  • Americans
  • International Students
* Who did you take classes with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans
  • International Students
About how many local friends did you make that you will likely keep in touch with? 0

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • the city and its cultural life
  • the ability to travel throughout the city and Europe quickly and cheaply
  • the living arrangements
* What could be improved?
  • the program could be longer
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? Nothing. I enjoyed diving into something I've never done before.

Reasons For Studying Abroad

To help future students find programs attended by like-minded individuals, please choose the profile that most closely represents you.
The Academic or Linguist
You went abroad with specific academic goals in mind; the program credentials and rigor of your coursework abroad were very important to you. You had a great time abroad, but never lost sight of your studies and (if applicable) were diligent with your foreign language study. Good for you!

Individual Course Reviews

Course Name/Rating:

“Mitteleuropa”: Germany and East Central Europe in the 19th and 20th Century

Course Department: East and Central European Studies
Instructor: Gaelle Vassogne
Instruction Language: English
Comments: While the course covered an awful lot of material, it elucidated the important events in German politics and society that brought about the major events of the 20th century, including WWI and WWII, the Cold War, etc. The professor was extremely knowledgeable. The course reader contained primarily treaties relevant to the events studied. There was a midterm, an in-class group presentation, and a final exam.
Credit Transfer Issues: