One of the goals of CIEE Study Center in Prague is to provide its students with as many opportunities as possible to get immersed in the Czech society. These immersion projects are organized in cooperation with local students and families who have a strong interest in the American culture. Two examples of these successful projects are Tandems and Meet Czech Families.
One of the extracurricular programs that our students can join is Tandems. This program started in Fall 2011 and it grew out of one of our programs One on One Teaching.
For tandems, students of all programs can sign up during orientation or at the Expo. (Expo is an extracurricular fair that is held during one afternoon of the second week of the intensive Czech language. This afternoon is dedicated to all extracurricular opportunities that students can join.)
How does it work?
At the “tandem gathering”, held at a local pub, CIEE invites local people interested in tandems. The tandem gathering is a lot of fun! It is done in the style of speed dating so everyone gets to talk to each person for a couple of minutes. Students then turn in a sheet at the end with a few preferences for tandem partners listed. CIEE then matches students up based on this and they receive their partner contact information by email.
It is expected that students spend about 30 percent of the meeting talking/practicing Czech, the rest can be done in English.
If students would like to receive up to 10% extra credit towards their Czech language grade, they meet at least 4x during the semester with their tandem partner and turn in a JOURNAL or ESSAY to CIEE by the end of semester. If not, they can just enjoy the tandem.
What do our students say?
“I gained a really close Czech friend. She is my closest Czech friend. I also got to see cool places that are actually where Czech people go. She helped me avoid tourist traps. She was great! I feel like we had a lot in common and we got along extremely well. This was one of my favorite parts about CIEE.”
“I gained a new Czech friend! I learned a lot about the differences in teenage culture and also about differences in what our families do for holidays.”
Meet Czech Families
Another program that we offer for our students is Meet Czech Families. CIEE cooperates with several Czech families who are interested in meeting people from other cultures! Meeting local people is an important part of our students´ stay if they want to be more than just a tourist but may be too difficult to do on their own. Family plays an important part in the lives of Czech people and it is quite hard to penetrate the Czech culture without experiencing the family life. Family visits are a great opportunity for Czech kids to meet someone from a different culture and for the adults to show you a piece of their culture. Entering a Czech household and being part of a Czech family is an opportunity that many non-Czechs wish to have.
Students can sign up during orientation or at the Expo. Students who are interested in this program fill in a motivation letter, so do all the families. Then, they are matched up by CIEE based on their preferences.
What do our students say?
“Meeting with a Czech family was one of the most worthwhile experiences I had in Prague. Getting to know a family from a different background (cultural, political, socioeconomic, spiritual) gave me a real idea what the „Czech“ perspective is. Not to mention IT WAS A BLAST! It was like having younger brothers all over again. The best part of spending time with my family was that they walked me home, with their dog, after every visit. They also cooked dinner for me every time I visited. I would like to give everyone one piece of advice, DON’T BE AFRAID TO CALL THE FAMILIES. These families are waiting for your call and are filled to the brim with excitement to meet you.”
“Well, my start of Czech family program was same as everyone: I called and made appointment and then Zuzana gave me a map and directions. I brought flower, and felt a bit nervous before ringing the bell, but the fear soon disappeared after huge smile & cookies welcomed me:). We talked general things such as "why you chose Czech Republic" "what is the population of Tokyo" "What Czech food did you eat ", etc. and it was so much fun because they (mother and 10years old boy) can’t speak English well therefore we used a lot of body language, guessing, simple words such as 'good' or 'bad' which I knew in Czech, so no matter what topic we were talking, it became an "achievement" and we felt satisfied when we reached conclusion.”
“My family visited them when they came to Prague, it was amazing to see my mom talking with my Czech mother, dad with Czech grandpa, and all of the people ate my grandma's special dishes.”
Experience of a Czech family:
Meeting with CIEE students is a very pleasent and useful activity. I have welcomed the possibility to hear native speakers again and to be able to improve my verbal skills. My student spoke slower taking into consideration my ability to understand each word. Through discussion with her, I also found out many things from life of Americans, quite a bit of American facts and, I believe, that she also found out some details about life in the Czech Republic. I was not bored at any of our activities. Both sided exchange of experiences was very interesting. I would like to thank CIEE for this chance.
I am again interested in this program next semester. I consider meeting of people from other countries beneficial. Thank you for everything.
This is translation from feedback email to CIEE on the Czech Families program….