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4 posts from October 2014

10/10/2014

A Tour of Prague Castle

by Avarie Cook (Framingham State University) 

A Tour of Prague Castle

Earlier this week, Profesor Homerova took a few CIEE students (including myself) on a tour of the Prague Castle and the surrounding areas. During the tour, she gave us plenty of information about the history of Prague and the lifestyle of those in the upper class society. Here is a video of the tour with “Fall in Love” by BADBADNOTGOOD to entertain your ears while you watch. Enjoy!

Tranquility in the streets of Prague

written by Benjamin Adams (St. Lawrence University)

 

Tranquility, I believe that this is the appropriate word to begin this post with. It is the only word that comes to mind as I slowly sip on my espresso gazing across the Volta River, catching sights of red roof tops, seagulls gliding lazily around the tour boats that inhabit the river, and the gargantuan gothic architecture that is Prague castle, a behemoth of craftsmanship nestled in a baroque enclosure of Easter egg palaces. I sit and observe the scene before me, glancing occasionally at the many colorful tourists walking by with their gaping and gawking expressions. The waitress passes by, looks down at my nearly empty cup and asks if I would like another. I kindly say no, sending her on her way so as to return back to the scene which had captivated me before.

 

Reflecting on the past three weeks, it would be hard to explain every little detail that I have come across since my arrival into the city of Prague. I say this because there are so many details that by the time I was done explaining what I have seen, I would have most likely surpassed the original count and could probably publish a book on these moments. The buildings are lined with busts of Greek gods, statues of saints, and etched carvings women that most men would only meet in their dreams. Yet among all of this, the buildings themselves are seasoned with bits of street art and graffiti, giving the city a roughness around the edges but still maintaining the romanticist appeal, the very same that inspired Mozart, Kafka and the many others who have passed through its streets.

 

The rain falls harder; I lean back and watch the many tourists flock like birds to the safety of the café that I am in. The waitress passes, looks, gives a disapproving stare and moves on.

 

I turn and look down at the packet before me. The words “Modra Kniha” look back up at me. It is a work book for my Intensive Czech class. I have spent the past two weeks learning and reviewing the Czech language before the vibrant and enthusiastic Jano Cerna, a woman in her early 40s with lightly dyed red hair and a rickety movement about her. By far my favorite language teacher that I have had the pleasure to learn from, her skill has reflected on czech language skills, so I hope to keep working hard towards becoming somewhat fluent.  Though, after past two weeks of 5 hour lessons a day, it was pure bliss to allow my mind to rest for just a moment as I sipped my espresso with the waitress’s darting eyes  examining me from afar.

 

My phone beeps and buzzes and I answer. It is my Housemate Eddie. A kind and relaxed young man with the interests of philosophy, political science and literature, he has been living with me in the attic of our home-stay family. We both share a bathroom and have quaint white washed little rooms looking out onto the red tiled suburbs of Praha 4, a 20 minute metro ride from the city center. He is looking to catch the metro back at 5:30 in order to make it home for dinner at 7 with the family.  The family that I live with consists of two parents, Jirka and Lenka, and two children, Adrianno and Matiash.  Very kind and loving they are with an expressed in interest in our lives and in the progress of our Czech language skills.  I will be eagerly looking forward towards actually holding a conversation with them in Czech soon. I glance from the waitress to the streets. It seems clear enough. We agree to meet at the metro stop Muzeum, where both the A line and the C line meet. I get up, pay the waitress and walk away with two holes bored into the back of my head. I look up at the sky, analyzing the risk for precipitation.

 

The rain deceives me and I am soon standing at the street corner waiting to run underground to the safety of the metro station. Yet even while I am waiting, I still cannot help but look up at the decadent beauty of the architecture as city casts upon the unsuspecting spectator. With this, I am brought back to that state of tranquility and even as I am sitting on the metro, reading from my raindrop spotted paperback book, I can still feel that tranquility musing from inside of me.

 

This tranquility that I speak of is in a sense meditative.  The sense of confidence instilled in me while being lost in the twisting and bounding streets of Prague is comforting when acknowledging my past history of being lost.  When I was a child, my family and I went on a family vacation to Disney world, a very exciting moment in my childhood.  But as life would have it, I suddenly became that lost child in the ever flowing crowds of people looking to take pictures of the Disney Castle.  So I took my juice box and stood on a bench to get a better view of the castle, knowing in full confidence that my family would notice and come find me.

 

Thus, I find my time in Prague to be a reflection of that particular family vacation.  Being lost with no worries is a comforting notion.  Yet the city of Prague is very new and different to me and so I will be sure to make myself lost at certain points so that not only can I discover more of the city, but I will be able to enjoy that conscious feeling of meditative tranquility.  So as I reflect during my time in the chapel of bones in Kutna Hora, hiking in the bohemian paradise or spending the day examining the display of Mucha pieces at the Art Noveau Gallery in the Municipal Building, what I have gathered within my 3 weeks in the Czech Republic has been the stillness of smoke floating within the underground brick pits of local pubs, the calm sip of a Pilsner after it was poured on tap and the soft exchanging of words with a friend over a brisk walk to the next sight. Some go to nature to find the serenity of peace, but I have found it in the city of Prague.

 

10/02/2014

Fall 2014, Issue I

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The Importance of Being … Well Housed

Housing is an essential factor for a rewarding study abroad experience. Before coming to Prague, students fill out a housing survey which is crucial for their housing placement. Based on their profile and preferences, CES and CNMJ students are placed in one of the following housing options: homestay, dorm, or apartments. FS and GAD students’ housing is a little bit different in the sense that they have only the option to live in CIEE-administered apartments with other CIEE FS/GAD participants. This is due to the fact that they study outside of the CIEE Study Center (at FAMU/ARCHIP) and very often work on school projects together.

When placing students, we do our best not to place students from the same home university in the same apartment/homestay (dorm might be an exception) to make students get to know new people and not just hang out with their friends from home.

Czech Homestay

This housing option offers a truly immersive experience. Our families live in residential areas of Prague and most of them have been in the program for several semesters or even years. Homestay students have a great opportunity to get out of their comfort zone. Apart from an enriching study abroad experience, homestay students get two meals per day and a single room! They are also assigned a “homestay buddy”, local university student, who helps them during orientation and shows them around during semester.

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What do students say about their homestay?

What´s the coolest thing about your housing?

 “Home cooked meals.” (CES student)

“Amazing food and the feeling of being part of a Czech family.” (CNMJ student)

 What do you think about the buddy program?

 “I think it's a great thing.” (CES student)

“Buddies are great for showing us around the city and introducing us to the real lives of the Czech.” (CNMJ student)

 What you like about your neighborhood?

 “I like that it's quiet.” (CES student)

“It is close to the metro and very safe.” (CNMJ student)

 What advantages do you see from living with a host family?

 “A house to really call home.” (CES student)“I’m getting much more assimilated into the culture, and get great food everyday!” (CNMJ student)

Available to the following programs: Central European Studies; Communications, New Media + Journalism

Apartments

Our apartments arelocated either by the river close to the both the Study Center and the city center, or in Vinohrady, a neighborhood popular with locals as well as expats (approx. 20 minute commute to the Study Center by tram/metro). Each apartment houses two to six CIEE students (in most cases three) as well as a flat buddy. The flat buddy is a Charles University students who, in exchange for free housing, helps students during orientation, with practical issues as well as cultural immersion throughout the semester.

Students living in apartments are responsible for their own meals as well as cleaning. This housing option is perfect for independent students. Around 75% of CIEE students live in apartments.

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What do students say about their apartments?

What´s the coolest thing about your housing?

 “I love my apartment and its location.” (CES student)

 “Living in an apartment gives me the independence and responsibility of really living in the city and all with the benefit of having awesome American roommates.” (CNMJ student)

“I have thoroughly enjoyed living with a Czech student. She has been so helpful in terms of adjusting to a new city and knowing a lot about the local culture.” (CNMJ student)

”Everything. I couldn't have asked for a better flat buddy and living situation. ” (FS student)

”The apartment and the people!” (FS student)

”I have a balcony in my room, that's great.” ( FS student)

Its roomy and has great qualities of light. Also it's nice that all gear has been provided (kitchen supplies, sheets, etc.)“(GAD student)

„The apartment itself/location has been great“ (GAD student)

 What do you think about the buddy program?

 “I LOVE my Czech buddy!“ (CES student)

„It's helpful having someone available who knows the city and the language to help if I need anything.“ (CES student)

“Love having my Czech buddy around.“ (CES student)

“Having a Czech buddy is a great way to avoid touristy destinations and discover local bars and restaurants.” (CNMJ student)

“I think the buddy program is great. It provides students with the opportunity to branch out and get to know some of the locals which otherwise might be more challenging.” (CNMJ student)

“I love my Czech buddy! They all make it so easy when you have questions and they are able to show you a "real" part of the city instead of just the parts where foreigners go.“ (FS student)

“My Czech buddy is awesome.“ (FS student)

 „I think it's great! They are so helpful and it's really nice having locals to spend time with. they make it much more authentic than other abroad programs.“(GAD student)

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What you like about your neighborhood?

 “Super close to a major public transportation spot. (CES student)

“It's charming and accessible to public transportation. (CES student)

“I love living in a neighborhood where I’ve gotten to know the local shopkeepers and I can used the Czech I’ve learned on daily errands.” (CNMJ student)

“I love how quiet my neighborhood is and how I can hear someone practicing clarinet every Tuesday. The woman from the minimart recognizes me and always makes an effort to communicate and smile at me.” (CNMJ student)

“I love the location! It is so easy to get anywhere in the city. Also, we are so close to the supermarket, tram stop, and metro.“ (FS student)

“Close to both tram and metro and parks.“ (FS student)

“Everything! “ (FS student)

It's a great location to get around the city by public transit or just walking about.“(GAD student)

„You can walk everywhere, and there's so much to do.“ (GAD student)

 Available to the following programs: Central European Studies; Communications, New Media + Journalism; Global Architecture & Design; Film Studies; all summer programs

Dorm

The dorm, located within a 10-minute walk up hill to the study center, accommodates usually around 32 CIEE students. Some of the most significant advantages of living in the dorm, apart from the location, are breakfast and cleaning service Monday to Friday. Students who choose this housing option do this mostly because of location and the comfort and safety of being surrounded by other CIEE students. Five dorm buddies are placed in the dorm to, once again, help students with practical issues, share Czech culture with them and help them not get trapped in the „American bubble“. The dorm is located in a neighborhood with many nice restaurants, cafes, and shops.

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 What do students say about the dorm?

What´s the coolest thing about your housing?

 “Close to school.” (CES student)

“Free breakfast.” (CES student)

“The dorm is very nice, and is centrally located.“(CES student)

“Having my own room and bathroom.“ (CNMJ student)

 What do you think about the buddy program?

 “It was nice having a student from the Czech Republic to help us get settled and show us around.“ (CES student)

“It's helpful having someone available who knows the city and the language to help if I need anything.“ (CES student)

 “Love it!“ (CNMJ student)

 What you like about your neighborhood?

  “Nice, safe, close to school.” (CES student)

“Safe, quiet, residential. Good food options around.” (CES student)

“There are endless things to see, I could wander for days on end and still find new things.” (CNMJ student)

 Available to the following programs: Central European Studies; Communications, New Media + Journalism

10/01/2014

Karlovy Vary

written by Summer Si (University of California)

Karlovy Vary is a spa town located about 2 hours away from Prague. "Spa" immediately conjures up feelings of relaxation and soaking in a hot tub until my mind melts and washes away all my worries. Two friends and I decided to go in high aims to experience a massage or some kind of spa treatment. And so we used the Student Agency bus and booked a one night stay in a hostel. By the way, I highly recommend using Student Agency to travel. Our bus had little personal screens so you can watch a film and they serve you hot drinks (tea, coffee, hot chocolate). I ended up sleeping the whole way, but next time I'll watch a film. 

 

We arrived at around 4 PM and found a traditional Czech restaurant to eat dinner because we were famished. Afterwards, we walked around Karlovy Vary as the day turned into the evening. The night time turned Karlovy Vary into an image that will be difficult to forget because it did not look like the picturesque views we found on Google images. I grew up going to Disneyland with my family in California, and I must say, Karlovy Vary at night feels like an eery version of Disneyland at night when the amusement park is soon about to close.

 

Disneyland evokes a playfulness that the colorful buildings of Karlovy Vary also present ... but in the sunny day time. Once it hit dusk, these colors were not as vibrant and become muted. It's a similar process of turning from color to black and white, the transition between the two. The gloomy weather and cloudiness also helped with this effect. Compared to Disneyland as you exit when it gets close to midnight the Disney song "A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes" leads you out, Karlovy Vary did not have the music, just the fairy tale buildings. (look at pictures 1 and 2)

 

Nonetheless, Karlovy Vary was beautiful walking around at night. Even more beautiful in the daytime! Luckily, the sun was shining and the clouds dissipated. We woke up and went to a nearby spa and waited about 45 minutes to schedule an appointment for a classic massage. We should have called the day before, because the whole day was booked. We should have known since this is THE SPA town of Czech Republic. Looking up the numbers, 76,000 visitors come to this town each year just for the spa. We ended up walking to the Grand Pupp Hotel and enjoyed the beautiful scenario and the town where Casino Royale and The Last Holiday were filmed. (picture 3) We went to this building called Císařské lázně where it used to be a bath house but now it is being used as a place for meetings and ceremonies and is getting renovated. We sat in the metal bath tub and that was our "bath." The last picture is me and my new friend. The end!

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