It’s easy for those studying abroad to feel limited when it comes to class selection, especially in a less mainstream country like the Czech Republic. There is the stigma that study abroad students can only choose between taking language classes and courses required for their major, but in today’s world, where study abroad is becoming more popular every day, this could not be further from the truth.
In a country like the Czech Republic, which has such a storied history, there is an unlimited amount of elective classes available for any major, so get creative during class selection time! Just because you’re an English major doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take a dance class, and if you are a STEM major you can’t enroll in an art history course. Keep your time studying in the Czech Republic interesting by enrolling in some of the following popular electives:
Studying the language of the country you’re living in is a no-brainer, which is why most programs require students to enroll in a language class. The language class of choice in the Czech Republic is definitely Czech, but students should not feel limited to only study the local language. Since the Czech Republic is centrally located in Europe, many study abroad programs also offer German, Italian, Polish, and slavic language courses. Due to its strong Jewish history, there may even be the possibility of taking a Hebrew or Yiddish class while studying in the Czech Republic. So many languages to learn, so little time!
Speaking of its dominant Jewish history, why not take a class that directly studies it? Most people only think about Germany when discussing the Holocaust, but the Czech Republic actually played a major role in the Holocaust. Students can learn about much more than just Hitler’s rise to power; think religious foundations and prejudices, politics and systems of rule, spiritual artistic expression, and Jewish mysticism. All of these topics spread much further than just the World War II era and apply to all types of spiritualities and histories. Not to mention that students studying religion in the Czech Republic will have the opportunity to venture to a concentration camp or relevant museum as many are so close, so studying it will make your adventures that much more meaningful.
Music & Performing Arts
For centuries, the Czech Republic has been a major hub of music, art, dance, opera, and theater. From Mozart’s famous tours through Prague (ahem, No. 38 in D, anyone?) to the compositions of local musicians Antonin Dvorak and Bedrich Smetana, the Czech Republic has played an integral role in the development of modern music and performing arts. Particularly in Prague, the art and music scene has always received international attention, and students can’t come to this area without appreciating the influence this region has played in the artistic world.
Today, underground music, graffiti and street art, and alternative performing arts all seem to come alive in the Czech Republic (check out the Lennon Wall in Prague if you don’t believe us), and students can truly learn about how non-conformist Czechs have learned to celebrate their identity, history, and culture through music and art.
You can’t study abroad in the Czech Republic and not take a class about writing or literature. With famous writers including Karel Capek and Vaclav Havel calling the Czech Republic home, students have a lot to learn from when it comes to reading and writing. Let’s not forget about Kafka, who is often regarded as a German writer, but was actually born in Prague and spent most of his life living in the Czech Republic. The majority of famous literary works by Czech writers harness a unique darkness, probably due to the area’s oppressive history, and make for very strong learning opportunities that will really shape the way students view the world and their own forms of expression. Whether it be poetry, short stories, non fiction narratives, or fictional novels, the Czech Republic has libraries full of its own powerful literature.
Film & Media Studies
While the Czech Republic may not be as hip as Cannes or other Hollywood-like hubs of Europe, this does not mean that it doesn’t have its fair share to offer film students. Students who choose to enroll in an elective film class can learn about the most important moments and trends in both Czech and European cinematography, and study films within the correct historical and cultural contexts.
The Czech Republic is an awesome place to learn about the impact of media on today’s societies, and truly analyze the role of international journalism, technology, and communication. This includes studying areas where films are basically just propaganda, and how the media and cinematography world is shaping the history and politics of certain regions. The best part about taking a film or media class is that your homework usually involves actually watching films, so you’ll essentially be graded on how well you can watch movies; this is likely one type of homework you will have no problem not procrastinating on!
There is nothing quite as fascinating as the mentality behind communism, dictatorships, and the state of living in a totalitarian regime. How do these forces of power even come to be? Why do people latch onto these sometimes hard to stomach ideas? What happens to someone who is born and raised in an oppressive lifestyle?
For students who were raised in a democratic world full of plenty of opportunities, so much can be gained from studying a completely different governing system and subsequent mindset. By examining the construction of collective mentality through the point of view of ordinary citizens, students can obtain a strong understanding of global sociology and the consequences of life without opportunity. The Czech Republic is the perfect place to gain an understanding of the psychology behind political transition, the traumatic influence of a totalitarian history, post-totalitarian syndrome, and potential problems of transformation.
The Czech Republic is an absolutely stunning country filled with rolling green hills, vast forests, dotted by the occasional castle, with lots of room to wander. However, it is not immune to the risks of climate change, and students should take the opportunity to learn about making our world a more sustainable and healthy place to live. Otherwise, we run the risk of all of these beautiful parts of the world being ruined for future generations.
Students enrolled in environmental studies electives will have the opportunity to examine the relationship between human society and the natural world with a focus on the Czech landscape, in addition to European and global ecological footprints and environmental ethics. Learning about these issues will hopefully make students think about their own global footprint while traveling, ultimately creating more aware and respectful travelers.
For any student headed to this country’s fairytale-like streets and steamy knedliky dumplings, czech these expert preparation tips off your list:
- Read reviews. It’s important that you choose a program that allows for flexibility in terms of course loads and classes offered. While there are many study abroad programs in the Czech Republic, not all of them have the same offerings available for international students. If you’re keen to study Jewish studies, don’t settle for a program if it doesn’t specifically offer courses surrounding the Jewish religion.
- Choose courses related to the CR. It would be a shame to only take courses that you can easily take back home! Be sure to integrate your surroundings into the classroom by studying subjects that link directly with your new environment.
- Choose some off-the-wall classes, too. When it comes to study abroad in the Czech Republic, don’t be shy about taking something that you have no prior knowledge about or a topic that doesn’t fit in at all with your major requirements. Branching out and taking a course that you otherwise wouldn’t be able to take will turn you into a broader thinker, and it’s in these rare academic opportunities where you will really find yourself.
The whole point of studying abroad is to challenge your educational background and learn first-hand about topics you otherwise would never learn about, so take advantage of the many academic offerings available to you while studying in the Czech Republic. Whether it be a class on Czech castles or Becherovka drinking culture, it is bound to shape the way you think!