It Is What You Make Of It Past Review

By (Middlebury College) - abroad from 09/12/2017 to 05/13/2018 with

CIEE: Prague - Central European Studies

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
Independence, a sense of self, a home base to travel all over Central Europe, tons of lifelong friends... I really could go on.

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 6 months+

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

The classes were a bit of a joke. I did all my essays at the last minute and received amazing grades. For one exam where I had to write down the president of Bosnia, I couldn't remember and I wrote down the national team soccer coach - it was marked correct. I was there for a year and I'm afraid my brain has atrophied to the point that I will not be able to function at Middlebury anymore. I was still busy because there was a lot of busywork assigned (for example, the program requires every professor to assign a presentation even if it does not fit in with the course structure) but a lot of the work I did felt irrelevant. That being said, even though the courses are not hard, I learned a lot just from talking to professors. There were some amazing people that taught at the program and they were always interested in chatting with students -at least the few of us who didn't roll into every class hungover. You don't want a super rigorous abroad program anyway since you learn so much more from traveling, talking to people and going to museums and cultural events in the city.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

Most of the administrators were incredibly sweet. I became very close to the Health & Wellness ladies and we actually became friends. There were a lot of nonsense rules and bureaucratic binds (the attendance policy is quite patronizing) but most of that came from the Portland office, not the Prague office. The housing coordinator was so bad I took off an entire star and a half just for her, but more on that in the next section.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

The first semester my apartment was great - centrally located, spacious, wonderful kitchen. The landlord was a little annoying (ex. our roommate called when our internet stopped working during finals and he laughed at her) but landlords are terrible the world over. Second semester, they pressured me into moving upstairs by forcing my Czech roommate to move. I moved in a week late because I was allowed to skip orientation, but the apartment STILL wasn't finished. The day everybody else moved in, they were still painting and carrying furniture in. The construction went on the entire time I was there with workers coming in and out of our apartment as they pleased with no warning, sometimes catching us in our PJs or waking my roommates up from naps by standing over them while they were sleeping. The elevator was supposed to be finished within a month after we moved in, but I moved out and it was still not there - we lived on a 5th floor walk-up. After a month of this, we complained to the housing coordinator and asked for at least our first months rent back since the apartments weren't ready for us to move in on time. She was rude to us and implied that we were spoiled Americans, but the director gave us some money back. A few days after the program ended, we found out that we had been illegally placed in the apartment. In Prague, it is illegal for tenants to live above the 4th floor without an elevator or in a building that hasn't been inspected by the municipality. The housing coordinator had placed us in apartments that weren't legally safe for us to inhabit, did not tell the director, and when we complained told us we were overreacting when she knew we should not be living there. The director returned our money, but that whole experience was ridiculous.

* Food:

I cooked for myself most of the time, and I'm a pretty good cook. Czech food gets a bad rap, but even though it's a little monotonous it's comforting and there's tons of good, affordable restaurants in Prague.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

It took me a while to be integrated because I came in not knowing the language and Czechs as a people are a little wary of strangers, so I was glad to have the whole year. The program has flat buddies, which are Czech students that live in each apartment or residence, and they organize events most students ignore, but if you attend them it's a great way to make local friends. I also branched out from the program by joining a local cultural organization. It's possible to integrate especially if you make an effort to join a local sports team, take a dance class, get involved with Erasmus events and generally don't rely on the program to do so.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

I had to visit the doctor more often than I liked, but there is an English-speaking clinic the school sends students to where the doctor is very kind and helpful. It is easy to get reimbursed through the program's health insurance it's just a logistical nightmare with tons of paperwork that needs to be scanned.

* Safety:

Prague is ridiculously safe beyond the usual host of creepy men. I had friends who had apartments broken into, but that's because they left the door open. It's a major city, don't be stupid, lock your doors and pay attention to your surroundings.

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

Even though the program itself was annoying and most of the people I studied abroad with were spoiled alcoholic brats, it allowed me the freedom to make myself at home in a city I adore. I wouldn't trade that experience for the world.


* 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? $50
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Don't eat out every night and go clubbing every night, for the love of all that is holy


* 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

All the classes were taught in English and the language classes offered were terrible.

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? None
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? Practice the language outside of class if you are serious about learning. Make an effort to order food and talk to cashiers in Czech, it's appreciated and it helps you practice. I went from not speaking a word of Czech to being able to calm down angry neighbors after my roommates were being inconsiderate.

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Apartment
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Local Students
  • Americans
* 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?

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • Freedom
  • Local Staff
* What could be improved?
  • Housing
  • Bureaucracy
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? Don't rely on the program to make your experience, go out into the city and make your own.

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:

Czech Advanced Beginners

Course Department: Czech Language
Instructor: Jitka
Instruction Language: English
Comments: I was placed into an advanced beginners Czech class my first semester there because I am a native speaker of a Slavic language. Only later did I realize that the curriculum was the exact same as the rest of the regular beginner classes except they made my class pay for textbooks while everybody else received workbooks for free. The professor was an absolute joke and she would scream at students for having questions. It's been eight months since this class ended and I'm still furious about how bad it was. I spent my entire spring semester warning people to avoid this class and this professor (her name was Jitka, I forgot her last name)
Credit Transfer Issues:
Course Name/Rating:

Course Department:
Instruction Language: Towards the Final Solution
Comments: This is one of my favorite, if not the favorite, class I have taken my entire college career. It covers the history of European racism and anti-semitism from ancient times to right before the Holocaust and examines how different schools of thought, from religion to Enlightenment philosophy, contributed to Nazi ideology that led to the Final Solution. The professor was incredibly knowledgeable and his powerpoints often left my head spinning with how much information he had included. It changed the way I looked at European history. The way the class was structured, one day was a lecture day and the second day the whole class was taught by students who presented on an assigned topic and then led a discussion. This exercise helped me realize I wanted to become a professor. Seriously, take this class.
Credit Transfer Issues: