Taylor Cline - 2013 Program Participant
Typical view wandering through Old Town Square
Why did you decide to study abroad?
An international program while I was in college was always a priority for me, because I saw it as a way to broaden my horizons and challenge my perceptions while also allowing me to see some amazing parts of the world. I was also interested in a change of scenery and meeting new people from all over the country and the world.
Why did you choose AIFS?
The AIFS representative at my University's Study Abroad Fair knew her stuff. When I told her my major but said that I had no idea where I wanted to go, she flagged some of the programs that had the best courses for my major. She walked through the AIFS spiel with me, which included the fact that a flight package, international excursions, and access to on-site staff are included in the overall cost, which is something a lot of providers don't offer. She also had me fill out a card so they could contact me with more info.
As I looked through the stack of pamphlets I brought back to my dorm room, they all seemed to do an OK job of explaining the programs and answering my initial questions, but AIFS had absolutely everything covered. The AIFS pamphlet had everything from the names, pictures, and contact info of the on-site coordinators, to the breakdown of the cost and everything that it covered, to summaries of the classes I could potentially take. It was essentially the one program I felt comfortable handing to my parents and saying, "See, here's everything: what it will cost us, who will be watching out for me, and where I'll travel and when while I'm there."
What was your favorite part about studying in Prague?
I dare anyone who has been to Prague not to fall in love with it. It is an absolutely gorgeous city. It was pretty much untouched by the war so it's perfectly preserved. Everywhere you turn is a beautiful church or building, the roads are covered with cobblestone streets, and from so many points you can simply look towards St. Vitus Cathedral of Prague Castle towering over the city and feel like you're in a Fairy tale. Aside from loving what I was looking at pretty much the entirety of my stay, I loved interacting with a culture as foreign to me as the Czech culture. It was a challenge trying to balance the fact that almost everyone spoke English, but this reserved culture is nothing like The States.
Standing on Charles Bridge with the beautiful Prague Castle behind me
What makes AIFS study abroad programs unique?
Aside from the ease of the all-inclusive nature of the AIFS programs, I would say the biggest thing that sets them apart is the sense of community. There were twenty-one people in my program and four on-site staff members. All of the students all lived in a dorm together, and the four staff members worked full-time in an office about a ten minute metro ride away. The staff was always available to answer questions and provide any assistance we needed.
Almost all of the students in my program signed up for the international excursions as well, which were led by any combination of two of our staff members. Aside from living and taking classes together in Prague, we traveled and saw countless other amazing sights together.
I left the end of the semester with lifelong friends and a deep respect and appreciation for the staff members and all they did for us.
Tell us more about the local staff support you received throughout your program.
They were available in the office five days a week, and available to answer any questions on weekends. The office was always open for us to print assignments, study, or just come relax. The staff led cafe outings, tours of the city, ballet and opera shows, and all of our international travel. They debriefed us when we arrived on what to expect in all aspects of our new lives in Prague, took us to get cell phones to use during our time there, and held a whole session with tips and tricks for booking our own independent international travel.
What is your biggest regret from your time in Prague?
There were so many opportunities to attend tours of the city, day trips, operas and ballets, and to volunteer with the locals by translating war stories or helping tutor high school students in English. I didn't volunteer and I only took advantage of about half of the tours and shows, and I am still kicking myself for it. I didn't take all of the opportunities presented to me to engage in the culture and it's easily my biggest regret.
A close up of St. Vitus Cathedral, the crown jewel of Prague Castle (which took 500 years to build)!
Describe a day in the life of an AIFS student in Prague.
A typical day consisted of getting up and going to class, then coming back to my dorm and grabbing lunch to either go to another class or to a cafe either alone or with friends to study. Food is exceptionally cheap in the Czech Republic, and so it was easy for me to either eat out or make food at my dorm. Relaxing with friends, either in each others' rooms or out at a bar, was pretty common too, and if it was a Thursday night (we didn't have class on Friday's) we would go out and explore the city.
What was your favorite part of the program outside of the coursework?
The international travel was by far my favorite. Because we didn't have class on Fridays, these trips started Thursday evenings and stretched through Sunday evening. We always traveled as a group by bus and stayed in hotels together, which was incredibly fun and fantastic bonding. I saw some amazing cities but my best memories are of the people I shared those experiences with.
What kind of housing did you have? What did you like most about it?
I lived in a suite-style dormitory. There were two rooms side-by-side with a shared kitchenette and bathroom. I will admit the kitchen and bathroom situation was a little cramped, but all-in-all I loved that I was living with girls in my program with the rest of our friends right down the hall.
How has studying abroad in Prague impacted your life at home?
I think about my international experience every day. I miss the city, I miss my friends, and I miss the way I felt while I was there. Aside from those feelings, I feel as though it has had an undeniable impact on who I am. It opened me up to new experiences and ways of thinking that I wouldn't have had if I had just stayed in the U.S.