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4 posts from February 2014

02/28/2014

A Grand Welcome to Praha

written by Cassie Tseng (University of Southern California)

Hi all!

Oh my I have so many things to talk about already and it’s only been 3 days. ONLY 3 DAYS!?

When we touched down in Prague, I literally thought we were still in the clouds because my eyes were still kind of struggling to open after my nap and all I could see outside was a blanket of whiteness. This is what it looked like when we landed —>

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That’s right. You would’ve thought we were still in the clouds too. Apparently our plane had to circle around for a bit because the runway had to be cleared of snow. I’m EXTREMELY glad that all my flights were on time (my first 2 were both early!). I couldn’t have asked for a smoother trip. It was especially nice because I got to meet up with some of the people from the program on my flights!

Anyways, I was in AWE at all the falling snow (typical Californian speaking)! There was just so much everywhere! IT IS JUST … MAGICAL. It truly feels like winter here (or at least the winter I’ve always pictured when I listen to Christmas songs)!!!

Picked up my luggages from the baggage claim and went through “customs” which was literally just walking under the sign titled “customs” and that was that. I didn’t really mind. We were greeted by all the friendly CIEE staff in bright orange t-shirts. They welcomed us with smiles and free biscuits (if only that happened everywhere). All of them were SUPER friendly, which made me feel welcome and definitely excited for the rest of the semester. Soon I was assigned to a cab driver who was extremely friendly and even took my luggage cart and pushed it to the taxi for me. He was sooo nice! On the ride to the apartment, I’m pretty sure I looked like a broken bobble head because I just kept looking out the windows in all directions. I felt like the driver was taking the nice scenic routes on purpose, but maybe I just made that up in my head. Actually, every street in Prague is pretty much gorgeous, so… I am sad I did not try to take pictures in the car. I was just tooooooo excited. Anyways, we finally got to my apartment and the Czech cab driver was like, “I want to help you” and he helped me carry my bags up to the door. I tried to say thank you “děkuji” in Czech and I think he kind of understood me. He looked pretty happy, but it was the least I could do. He was so helpful!

I rang the doorbell and my Czech buddy, Lucie, appeared at the door! I felt SOOO BAD because she helped me carry my suitcase up a few flights of stairs (we have an elevator that we used, but couldn’t get out of using a few stairs too). She was so insistent and I kept apologizing, but she’s definitely such a sweet person. I was the first one to arrive and let me tell you, I was FREAKING OUT. The apartment is SOOOO BEAUTIFUL. I never even pictured living in such a great place. It was like a model home. HERE ARE PICTURES!!

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The front entrance/ main hall area!

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My room and Czech buddy, Lucie!

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One of the other rooms.

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Our living room where we all hang out!

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The kitchen!

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The bathroom has a bathtub and shower!

This is probably an extremely thorough house tour, but I figured you would be interested in seeing what the living quarters are like. Ours is one of the newly renovated apartments, so everything is pretty much brand new. The location is great, we’re about 5 minutes away from Wenceslas Square as well. My apartment mates (Lucie, Megan, Anna, Liz, and Kate) and I all had a meeting in the living room after we unpacked our suitcases.

Lucie even bought us these traditional Czech pastries called “koláče” and set out tea for us! It tasted great, especially since the jet lag was making us hungry at odd hours of the day.

We went out in the afternoon to walk around Wenceslas Square and explore the Metro. Came back and we all almost knocked out on the couches in the living room. No mercy from the jet lag. I’m pretty sure I got a good 6 hours sleep on the flight coming in too.

Our last stop for the day was a chic restaurant called  ”Zapomenutý čas”that was about a 5 minute walk from our apartment (I swear, our location is wonderful). Unfortunately I did not have my phone on me, but you’ll just have to believe me when I say that my tagliatelle with chicken, spinach, arugula, and parmesan cheese was not only scrumptious, but beautifully presented. 

Spring 2014, Issue I

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Greetings from Prague, Study Abroad Advisors!

We are back with some information on New Academic Developments of CIEE Study Center in Prague.

Central European Studies (CES)

The Central European Studies Program has grown recently in terms of the number of participating students as well as in a greater variety of offered courses and provision of academics.  The current offer of courses provides a complex understanding of the process and challenges of recreating a democratic government in a former communist country, and brings an insider perspective on its current challenges (including human rights, minority and gender issues, globalization, as well as social, economic, and political challenges connected to the EU). New courses include e.g.: Anthropological Perspective on the Czech and Slovak Roma, Economy of the EU, Journalism in the Facebook Era, 3rd Force Psychology in CE, and many others.

Introduced changes aim also at deep cultural and social immersion within the academic part of the program. All courses offer an in-class part and out-class activities. These include site visits, research projects, and many other activities that allow students to develop their knowledge and academic skills.

Academic MeetingCES and CNMJ students at the “Academic Meeting”: an open house of CIEE courses with professors

At the same time the program keeps its strong thematic accent in art and design, exploring the extraordinary architecture of Prague and other unique sites. Offered courses foster the understanding of the historical context of Central Europe including communism, nazism, the Holocaust and other important periods and figures from Czech and European history.

Last but not least, Eva Janebová, Ph.D., who has been working as the liaison of Charles University in the CIEE Study Center in Prague, has newly become the CES Resident Director overseeing the quality of academics. She provides faculty trainings and individual coaching to the faculty in order to align interactive teaching styles and rigorous academic standards. She has also introduced a new format to the academic meetings and works with individual faculty on responding to the needs of students provided in student feedbacks.

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Eva Janebová, CES Resident Director

Film Studies (FS)

The Film Studies Program in Prague has been offered since Fall 2008. All classes are taught solely at the Film Faculty of the Academy of Performing Arts (FAMU) and core classes are designed specifically for CIEE students so the benefits of mentor-apprentice style of teaching are maintained. FAMU has been awarded the best European (and 7th in the world) film school according to the Hollywood Reporter in 2011. The school, founded in 1946, is one of the oldest in the world (5th).

In 2008, we started with the Production Track in which students develop 5-10 minute-long 16 mm feature film in production groups of 2-3. During the past few semesters, students have occasionally struggled with finding the best way of forming their production teams. The question was whether teams should be formed based on similar perspectives on filmmaking or around specific screenplays. Either way, starting to shape the team within first weeks of classes was rather time consuming. Starting this semester, the FS Academic Advisor Mary Angiolillo and Film Studies Coordinator Ivana Skenderija came up with a new idea. Production students had a couple of meetings during their Czech intensive and pitched their ideas. Students with similar perspectives were matched and the first week of core classes was already dedicated to screenplay development. On Friday, February 28th, they had their official pitch for all the mentors, and they received feedback on their projects. After the pitch, a production meeting on realistic expectations followed.

Pitch students FS students vividly pitching their project proposal

Pitch profsFAMU mentors David JařabJaromír Šofr and Jan Fleischer providing their feedback and tips on improvement

Since Spring 2011, we were able to add the Screenwriting Track to the selection in which students develop a first draft of a half feature-length screenplay  (appx. 60 pages). This track is rather selective as CIEE/FAMU would not accept more than the 6 best applicants. Even though their curriculum strongly emphasizes writing scripts, students from past semesters have been demanding some production experience as well. And since Fall 2013, their requests have been partially fulfilled. Not only are they present at the production pitch and write a reflection with their tips on improvement as a part of their Script Analysis class, but they also partake in the production as actors and crew members. And of course, they will again have their “grand finale” just like the production students have the final screening. Final screenplay presentations are not only just a reading of the script, but also a dialogue presentation by real actors they learn how to direct!

Communication, New Media + Journalism (CNMJ) – New program from Spring 2013!

The Communication, New Media + Journalism (CNMJ) is a new niche program which started in Spring 2013. This program caters to majors of media, journalism, marketing, and communication studies; it focuses on providing students with hands-on experience through media and/or journalism-focused internships and provides students with coursework relevant to their field.

In terms of academics, students are allowed to choose at CIEE from an array of communication, media, and journalism courses taught by local and international media experts and renowned journalists, but they can also choose from specially-selected courses at FAMU and the Institute of Communication and Journalism Studies at Charles University’s Faculty of Social Sciences.

Additionally, with an internship for credit, students polish their professional skills and gain invaluable experience working in a local company or non-profit organization. CIEE helps CNMJ students with the entire process from setting up interviews to placements in prestigious organizations to monitoring students’ progress throughout the semester. Another integral part of the internship program is the internship seminar, where students have a chance to discuss their experiences, to make sense of cultural differences, and to learn how to market these experiences to future employers.

Since this program’s inception in Spring 2013, it has grown significantly. This semester we have 17 participants!

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Spring 2014 CNMJ students getting ready for their orientation walk with their buddy

Global Architecture and Design (GAD) – Brand new program since Spring 2014!

The Global Architecture and Design program connects in its concept three beautiful European cities: Barcelona, Berlin and Prague.

The program concentrates not only on history and culture of the host city, but also explores current and future social, economic, and technological trends. Cities today offer a unique setting for resources, people, opportunities, and ideas to converge and spur new paths of innovation, technology, and thought. The program´s curriculum includes wide range of technologies from BIPV (building integrated photovoltaic) skyscrapers, personalized public transportation systems, sustainable green spaces, to sewage and water treatment and reclamation infrastructure.

The Global Architecture and Design program is focused on “Future Cities” and addresses the emerging discipline of global ”urbaneering” by assembling a faculty of innovators from fields as diverse as architecture, material science, urban design, civil and environmental engineering. Using each city as a laboratory, the program´s goal is to rethink what is salubrious about the city, in both its forms and its life. The Global Architecture and Design program explores the effects of technological interventions that can have profound impacts on the planet as a whole.

It was decided that this youngest program will have a theme unifying all three cities - Water and the City. This focus is apparent throughout the whole semester including academic trips that will take students to the Berlin Summit, Moldau Cascades and other significant sites.

The program gears towards advanced students with at least two to three semesters of design studio and overall GPA at least 2.75. Students enroll directly in courses focusing on architecture and design at ARCHIP, the first international Architectural Institute in the Czech Republic and also have the option of enrolling in courses at CIEE. Students take part in projects and create presentations related to their field of study and incorporate it in the local context.

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Studio space at ARCHIP

GAD Moldau cascades
GAD and ARCHIP students visiting Moldau Cascades and its dams

02/20/2014

Castles and Churches and Bones

written by Molly Emmett (Whitman College)

Dobrý večer přátelé!

I’m pleased to tell you all I’ve had another lovely weekend. I also took a number of pictures, so I may attempt to tell the stories more through photos than through words.

Wednesday, 5 February 2014:

After Wednesday’s intensive Czech course, we were split into groups and led from the study center in Vyšehrad, across the river and up the hill through Hradčany, the neighborhood surrounding Prague Castle. We got off the tram at Strahov Monastery, where we saw a panorama of the city (below), including the castle/towers of St. Vitus Cathedral on the left. There was also a large library and a small Miniatures Museum up there, so I’d like to go back.

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We were then guided along the historic area surrounding the castle, where we sprinkled with facts about the buildings and history from our tour guide, but unfortunately I remember little more than being cold… The few things I do remember I’ve put in the captions.

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The Baroque architects of this building painted on extra windows so that both sides would appear balanced.

 

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                                         Renaissance “envelope” graffiti

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                             Renaissance…Barbie in the window?

Thursday, 6 February 2014:

Thursday we had our first Czech quiz, and then our professor took us to a mall to practice using the shopping and money and food vocabulary we learned throughout the week. I bought some fruit tea (ovocný čaj) using my Czech knowledge, but I was very obviously a foreigner trying to speak the language. Oh well. I can only get better with practice.

Once I returned home, it was such a beautiful day that I HAD to walk around some more. I decided to walk east of my apartment because I hadn’t gone too far that way. I found myself exploring the beautiful streets of Vinohrady surrounding Náměstí Míru (Square of Peace is how it translates) and the sites are astonishing. A few photos are below, but I’m sure this neighborhood will make a reappearance once I explore some more.

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                                        Church of St. Ludmila, center of the square

Divadlo na Vinohradech (Vinohrady Theatre)

Divadlo na Vinohradech (Vinohrady Theatre)

There are some realllllly great shows at this theatre currently, but I believe they’re all in Czech. Not sure if I’ll be going. (But they’re doing plays by Tom Stoppard, Noël Coward, Neil Simon…)

Thursday night, CIEE had a bowling event for all of the programs (Central European Studies, Film Studies, and Communications) and it was pretty fun. I somehow brought my game and got several strikes. When did I become good at bowling? I also met some more Charles University students who are working as Czech flat buddies in some of the other apartments. They’re great and let me practice some of my Czech with them even though it was a bit drudging at times.

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                                             Honza H., já, Tereza a Julia

Friday, 7 February 2014:

We don’t have class on Fridays (thank you, CIEE) so Julia from upstairs (and the picture above) and I went for a run on a small island in the middle of the river that we could get to from Most Legii. I don’t have any pictures of course, but we probably looked pretty goofy traveling on the metro midday in clearly American exercise clothes while everyone else was commuting to or from work. One of the few times I definitely did not blend in with the locals.

On Friday night, I went out for some Thai food with Maddie, then we joined some American and Czech students from the program at the Rock Cafe where there was a swing dance night so OF COURSE I had to go.

Saturday, 8 February 2014:

On Saturday I went on my first academic trip with CIEE to a town about an hour and a half southeast of Prague called Kutná Hora. It was once a very rich town because of a “silver rush” in the 13th century. It eventually became a royal city for several centuries and is now a great place to see architecture from several different periods. For that reason it’s actually a Unesco World Heritage site, and it was a beautiful day to visit–and therefore I took plenty of pictures.

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Did I mention that Kutná Hora is home to the “bone church”? It’s called Sedlec Ossuary, and in 1870 the family owning the monastery allowed a local artist to decorate the chapel with the bones of over 40,000 people who had been in the crypt from centuries of plague and warfare. Pretty wild.

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Remarkable bone coat of arms. (Sort of a strange sentence now that I think of it)

Kutná Hora is also home to a very famous and beautiful Late Gothic church, called the Cathedral of St. Barbara (Chrám svaté Barbory).

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                                      Julia and me in comparison to the cathedral

Finally, here’s a snapshot of the Italian Court where all those silver coins were made.

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02/14/2014

Ready, Set, Round Two!

written by Kathy Shield (Tufts University)

Today’s the day.

The day, that is, that I’d be arriving if I was only here for the Spring Semester. The day that the friends I will be making over the next four months are arriving in this wonderful city I’m currently calling home.

But today’s also the day that I wandered around (once again) and found another new spot.

On my way from my internship at Amnesty International to the library, where I am supposed to be studying for my math final on Wednesday, I decided to walk instead of taking the tram two stops. And, instead of walking down the main streets, I turned right onto a side street. And then into one of the many passages filled with cafes and stores that can be found all over old Prague. And then, when that passage pretty much dead-ended, I followed the people in front of me into a beautiful, snow-covered park consisting of benches and trees and a maze of waist-high bushes. Which I’ve never seen before, but cannot wait to see in the spring. And then I aimlessly wandered through alleyway after alleyway, passing dozens of intriguing-looking cafes on my way to my destination.

It both amazes and excites me that I can still explore and discover this city just as much as I could when I first showed up here five months ago. It doesn’t surprise me, though, because I’ve known that I’ll be finding as many new and amazing spots with my new and amazing friends this semester as I did last semester.

I just went back and re-read the very first post I wrote after I arrived in Prague, where I learned my colors in Czech, courtesy of Emma. I wrote that post because it was the only thing I could really process. I was in a completely new country, where everyone speaks a completely new language, and was about to try to conquer a completely new way of life.

Now, I could write another anecdote. Another story, about me and Emma on that same bed. I could write about how I cuddled with her and read her a book. About how she still laughs at me when I pronounce something wrong, but how I can make her laugh when I read her the fairytales (pohádky) that she and her brother love so much.

I could write another anecdote, but I’m not going to. Because the next four months will be so full of them. Full of colors with Emma and fairytales with Jachym, full of adventures and explorations all over Prague, the Czech Republic, and Europe in general. And hopefully, full of more pictures…sorry!