As the capital of the Czech Republic, Prague has been a hub of culture and activity in Europe since the Middle Ages. Referred to as the “Crown of the World,” this bohemian city is known for its countless palaces, cathedrals, and long-standing bridges. Other nicknames include “City of a Hundred Spires” and “The Golden City”, so you know there’s no shortage of shiny impressions to experience. With an abundance of elite universities and easy access to all of Europe, Prague is the perfect destination to czech off a summer, semester, or year studying abroad.
Subjects & Courses
There are just as many courses and subjects to study in Prague as there are medieval universities. Because of its location, not only in Europe but on the global stage, Prague is one of the best places in the world to gain an international understanding of European culture and political relations.
Not surprisingly, one of the most popular courses of study in Prague is European studies. Students can delve into the complexities of how the Czech Republic came into being and its role in modern-day Europe. Every walk through the city is like a school field trip, with sights such as the Prague Castle, the astronomical clock, or the Žižkov Tower in Josefov (the Jewish quarter). Students who choose to explore European studies will be able to study economics as well as Czech political policies, always with special attention to the role of Soviet rule.
Two other interesting subjects that international students can study in Prague are economics and business. Economics or business minded students will particularly enjoy studying abroad in Prague because the city itself spotlights expanding knowledge of international finance from a global perspective. These courses commonly feature guest speakers and students often get to visit Czech businesses around Prague too. Some classes will even offer students the chance to intern or volunteer outside the classroom in order to get a firsthand look at how businesses function in the Czech Republic.
Then there is the ever-present choice of history classes, whether related to art, music, or even architecture. Students who study abroad in Prague will not only have a plethora of artists and musicians to examine (as an appetizer: Kafka and Mozart), the city could also very well be a living textbook of modern and historical architecture too. From the Old Town Square, across Charles Bridge, and up to St. Vitus Cathedral, students can basically take a walk through their history notes on a daily basis while studying abroad in Prague.
Life In Prague
While everyone has heard of Old Town and or seen a picture of Prague Castle, not many people really know what it is actually like to live and study in Prague. From the new, hip neighborhood of Vršovice to the late-time croons on the Jazz Dock, life in Prague is, first and foremost, never boring.
Most international students who study in Prague won’t be required to attend class from sunrise to sunset (at least we hope not!), thus they’ll likely have ample free time to explore the city. Upon arrival, students should get the famous (albeit touristy) sightseeing out of the way, so they can focus on the real deal. The café and bookstore scene in Prague is thriving, offering hundreds of hideaways for those looking to get some studying done. There is practically infinite amounts of art dotting the walls of the National Gallery and equally endless amounts of music being played at the Prague National Theater year round (not to mention the dozens of smaller, quirky venues that host anything from opera festivals to obscure artist exhibitions to pretty rad rave parties). Again, if you choose to study in Prague, life will be anything but boring.
Be warned: you might find yourself developing somewhat of a love-and-hate relationships with Czech cuisine. Mostly meat and starch, Czech food remains delicious and affordable, but not exactly healthy. After you’ve stuffed yourself with fried cheese sandwiches and trdelnik, and you’re looking for something a little more green, try grocery shopping at one of the big supermarkets, like TESCO or Bio Market. Better yet, at a local market or at one of the many organic shops scattered throughout the city’s streets.
Prague, being a major European travel hub, is a considerably more expensive place to live than the rest of the Czech Republic. However, it is still significantly cheaper than any other common study abroad city in Western Europe, and it doesn’t lack in opportunities to have a great time on a budget (considering the fact that a bottle of beer is cheaper than a bottle of water, this shouldn’t be too difficult)! When you’ve had your fill of urban exploration, try adding your own scribbles onto the Lennon Wall, discover new music at the countless underground bars, and check when museums offer free admission dates to save a few bucks.
Accommodation & Visas
Most students who choose to study abroad in Prague opt to live in independent housing via apartments or flats. Even if most of the fun is in the center of the city, Prague’s great (and highly affordable) public transportation system will always get you to class on time, so location shouldn’t be much of an issue. International students will also have the option of living in university dormitories, where they’ll be in close proximity to classes and live in conjunction with Czech students (plus, plus!). Both types of accommodations offer pros and cons, so make sure to check with your study abroad program provider or host university to get specifics and find out if your preferences can be accommodated.
Visas aren’t need to study abroad in the Czech Republic unless you’re planning on staying for longer than three months. Therefore, most study abroad programs in Prague ask international students to simply enter on a tourist visa, and then they help students navigate through the process if another visa is required. Long-term students will need to apply for a proper student visa at their local Czech Embassy to study in Prague legally, which will require proof of acceptance to a Czech university. Check out GoAbroad’s Czech Embassy Directory for the most up-to-date info on student visas in the Czech Republic.
Benefits & Challenges
One of the greatest characteristics of Prague is its social acceptance and liberal mentality. As a forerunner of many controversial issues (LGBT rights and social equality), Prague is a bubble of relief in the (rather conservative) Czech Republic. Due to its young population and high percentage of foreign students, mentalities are open and social activism is an ongoing movement. Many different ethnicities and languages mingle together, something that can’t be found even a ten-minute train ride away from the main railway station. Enjoy (and become a part of) this vibrant cultural shift to modern perspectives taking place against a backdrop of medieval architecture.
Rely on your Czech street smarts (you’ll develop them, fear not). With its increasing popularity in recent years, some people might complain that this “party city” is touristy and expensive. However, as long as you stay away from spending money in the main plaza, and instead follow the locals to their favorite hang out spots, you will see a more affordable (and authentic) side of the city. Most likely, this is also where you will find some great second-hand clothing stores, which might come in use when you discover just how freezing Prague can get after the summer months.
From castles to skyscrapers to nightclubs to breweries, Prague is an adventure around every corner. Since the peaceful 1989 Velvet Revolution, this modern hub of art and commerce has gained a reputation as the happening city in eastern Europe. The real question is: with all the social life, history, culture, elite academics, and good beer on offer, why haven’t you signed up for an amazing study abroad program in Prague yet?