Czech Republic | Semester Exchanges Blog

If you’re reading this article, you are probably considering a study abroad. I remember when I was in the same position a year ago. The idea of a new challenge, an adventure, and supposedly “easier” classes for a whole semester was enticing (Easier classes? No. Less pressure? Certainly.) But like everyone, I feared the pain of losing what I knew to the pleasure of what I could gain. Thankfully, my friends, family, and academic advisor made the path easy to say “yes” to studying abroad. It was scary as heck, but I’m so grateful that Kira eleven months ago accepted the challenge of living abroad with faith, determination, and an itch for exploration.

In this post, I will share three things that I learned about “conducting business and engaging with individuals” in Prague. Really, these three tips are helpful for embracing the culture, accepting different perspectives, and building meaningful relationships.

  1. Research and understand Hofstede’s CultureDimensions
    • In my Intercultural Negotiations class this semester, we learned about cultural differences, specifically in a corporate context. The link above compares the US with the Czech Republic in six cultural dimensions. When preparing for an international trip, this tool can be useful in understanding the values and paradigms that shape the decisions of people from other cultures. For example, the US and the Czech Republic have opposing scores in Long Term Orientation (LTO) index. Reading the description below, I learned that the US has a low-level LTO index: Americans measure success on a relatively short-term basis (i.e., quarterly profit reports) and judge situations as right and wrong, good and evil. The Czech Republic has a high LTO score: Czech people value investing and thrifting and determine truth as relative in each situation. I highly recommend familiarizing yourself with this tool. Knowing our own cultural background will allow us to appreciate people from different cultures in our abroad experiences.
  2. Know what is taboo
    • In addition to knowing how other cultures think, it is important to understand what topics to promote and what to avoid. Here is a short list, specific to the Czech Republic.
      • Things the Czech are proud of:
        • King Charles IV and St. Wenceslaus (many things are named after them)
        • The word “robot” was invented by the Czech (just the word, not the technology)
        • The inventor of contact lenses, Otto Wichterle, is Czech!
        • Pilsner beer (and any Czech beer, for that matter)
        • The hockey star Jaromír Jágr, composer Antonín Dvořák, and author Franz Kafka
      • Touchy topics to avoid:
        • Referring to the Czech Republic as “Czechia” (they prefer the original and full name)
        • The old communist regime and influence of the USSR
        • The expulsion of Germans in the 1940s
        • The three emigration waves
  3. Learn the communication style
    • From my experience, Czech people are quieter and more reserved than the average American. The typical US greeting of “How are you doing?” is treated as a question and not a “howdy.” I noticed that instead of saying “no,” the Czech tend to postpone, delay, or use any other means to deny your request without explicitly saying it. They like to complain (especially about the weather). Where it is common to share your job as part of an introduction in the US, Czech people do not really care what your title or position; it is not relevant when meeting someone new. Lastly, when entering or leaving a store or café, it is expected to say hello (Dobrý den) and goodbye (Na shledanou) to the employees.

Thanks for reading my closing article. I hope I have inspired you to pack your bags and take a leap of faith to a new country. Feel free to reach out to me with questions about Prague (even if I have already graduated- I’m class of 2023) Also read my first entry on the CIBS blog and my personal study abroad blog!

Categories: Czech Republic

The train from Munich crossed over the Vlatava River at 8pm, and I thought to myself “Wow, this isn’t just a dream anymore.” After months of preparation, stress over visa application, and still not knowing what to expect, I am here, in Prague!

I have been in Prague for a week, and I am surprised at how much of the city I have already seen, like the Prague Castle and the Astronomical Clock. (I learned yesterday that Prague is known as the “City of 100 Spires” … I wonder if I can visit all 100…) The Erasmus Student Network (ESN) has partnered with my host university, VSE, to provide social events, a buddy program, and various discounts for the 200 international students. The social events they provide include touring the main sites of Prague, wine tasting tours in Moravia, brewery tours in Prague, and reserving huge club spaces for international students. My ESN buddy has introduced me to other international students and has shown me parts of the city. The churches, castles, and landmarks are stunning in their architecture and artwork.

My school routine in Prague looks quite different than it did at Texas A&M. The day begins with riding a tram for 20 minutes to the campus. There are four buildings, so it is easy to arrive to class on time. (There is no Wellborn train blocking West Campus lol.) Most of my classes occur once a week for 90 minutes. I have organized my schedule to only have classes Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday. It is a pretty sweet schedule, and I have already taken a day trip on Tuesday to a nearby village. (For reference, I am taking the class equivalents of SCMT 340, MGMT 439 & 363, and FINC 341.) Like at A&M, my professors are friendly and passionate about their discipline; their excitement makes it easy to be excited to learn. My class sizes have been relatively small, 20-30 students, and are filled with international students. Participating in the ESN events has allowed me to see familiar faces in classes and make friends quickly. I have just finished my first week of classes, and I am still determining how to balance my time between learning in school and learning through travel 🙂

Outside from the university, I have met many people who live in Prague who only speak English. They claim that it is not difficult to only speak English because many Czech people learn English at a young age. The Czech alphabet is Latin based, and after a little study of a few phonetic rules, reading Czech is very doable. With the tram, most places are about 20-30 minutes away from the student housing, and being a university student makes the tickets very cheap.

Besides the expected American and European differences (metric system, different outlets, sparkling water, etc.), here are a few of my personal “culture shock” moments that will be helpful for anyone visiting Europe:

  1. Most coffee shops serve alcohol as well. It is not uncommon to see someone enjoying a beer at a Sunday family brunch.
  2. Eggs are kept in the pantry… this is still difficult for me to comprehend.
  3. Although Czech people are very friendly, do not make eye contact and smile with people on the street. Some of the stories of friendly Americans who have not broken this habit are unnerving.
  4. Not so much a culture shock, but non-native English speakers pronounce Texas as “Tex-sass,” I pronounce it as “Tex-iz.”
  5. People on trams are very talkative. My only experience with public transport is the New York subway and Moscow metro, where it is silent.

Going on an exchange program is a learning process and has been intimidating at times. I have made many mistakes since being here, and from all, I can learn how to avoid the mistake in the future. I was hesitant about leaving my comfortable life in Texas to live somewhere new and foreign, but I am so grateful I took the leap. I’m excited to continue meeting new people, exploring the city, and traveling Europe! Cheers to many more memories to be made, ahoj (“ahoy”)!

Categories: Czech Republic

The first two weeks in Prague have flown by but not without many surprises and adjustments along the way. About 16 hours of travel from Texas, I finally landed in the Czech Republic after months of anticipation. In preparation, I watched many YouTube videos, stalked various Instagram accounts, and joined multiple Facebook groups to better grasp what this new city would be like. While I tried to prepare myself, there is nothing quite like seeing and experiencing it for yourself. Coming to this city, I was captivated by the numerous spires and causal castles in the middle of the town. Each building was so beautifully built and each door held so many stories. I was reeled in by the rich culture that oozed out of every corner of this city. With its beauty, there were also a lot of surprises, mostly because I was setting up to live in an entirely new and different country.
My first surprise was that thankfully most everyone in the city center spoke English. While I had hoped to pick up some Czech language by the end of the stay, I am more than grateful that I could communicate with ease. Along with that, locals here were extremely nice and welcoming to tourists (and students). Everyone I came across was very friendly and willing to help with directions or recommendations. The city was catered towards tourists, but during this season of life, there weren’t many tourists there. When speaking with locals, we found that this is the first time in a while that Czech locals were able to come to the city and experience that life again. With the number of tourists being shockingly low, we also happened upon some of the best weather this fall. The first week I spent being a tourist and noticed how affordable this city was. The currency in the Czech Republic is called Koruna (or Crown for short) and one US dollar is worth about 21 Czech Korunas. This meant being a student in this city was more than ideal as we could explore without fear of overspending.
Now very different from the US, there were hardly any Big Box stores, and there were a lot of small markets or specialty stores. This created a struggle when looking for dorm essentials, and left me missing my not-so-local Target. There were plenty of restaurants and pubs however, and a huge variety of food. Coming to Prague, I was worried about how my diet would change but there were numerous options available. While dining at new places, I noticed that the Czech love their beer. They consume a hefty amount of beer and often have long lunches just eating and drinking. They have a lot of local breweries and many tourist destinations showcasing their glorious pilsners. Many of the orientation week activities from the university incorporated brewery and winery tours, highlighting this aspect of their culture.
When being a tourist came to an end, jumping into a new university began. My first impression of the university centered around its size. Coming from the mammoth of a campus that Texas A&M has, this university was much smaller and closer to the city. This also means classes are smaller which makes it easier for exchange students to meet one another. Again, everyone was extremely nice on campus and there were many orientation events set up for us to participate in. While I just jumped into my courses, they often include seminars that were new for me. Going from a lecture to a seminar and sitting in three hours of content is definitely a new adjustment. The program overall seems highly focused on furthering our real-world knowledge and our participation in the subjects themselves. The professors all seem passionate about the content they are teaching, and extremely engaging which helps with those long class hours. I am eager to soak up their knowledge and take in the new learning environment this university provides.
Overall, my two weeks in this country have been amazing and full of many happy surprises. I am excited to immerse myself in this new culture and experience lessons from across the world. See you in 3 months, College station!

A view of Prague from the Petřín Lookout Tower (the mini Eiffel tower of Prague)

Categories: 2021, Czech Republic, Reciprocal Exchange

It is a bittersweet moment to say goodbye to Prague. Prague has been my home for the past five months and it was one of the hardest goodbyes I have experienced. My time in Prague truly shaped me into the person I have always wanted to be. This experience of being able to study abroad has been the best decision of my life. I have made connections from all over the globe, learned about new cultures, and experienced immeasurable happiness despite the circumstances of this past semester. I was hesitant to follow through with my abroad semester since I had never been away from home for so long and to be so far, especially with the COVID-19 epidemic. It was scary, to say the least in the beginning. However, the memories and friendships I have made during this time made this experience the best time of my life. To my best friends that I met in Prague, I will miss our daily trips to Zizkov beer garden, our walks through the snow to Flora station, our late-night wine and movie nights, and most of all, being able to spend every day together. The people that came into my life while I was in Prague truly changed my life.

To anyone who is considering spending a semester abroad, do it. My time abroad was the best time of my life so far. I felt a new sense of identity that I was not able to find back home. Even though it may seem daunting to leave home and to be gone from your current life for a while, I promise that it is worth it. The experience is unlike any other.

Categories: 2021, Czech Republic, Reciprocal Exchange

I am sitting in my dorm room, one week from departure, with a great bittersweet feeling. Studying abroad teaches you many things and allows you to experience many things you probably could not experience any other way. The feelings of newfound friendships combined with newfound love of a European city, provides for a very heartbreaking story-end. Some of my best memories include 10-hour train rides and hours of walking to explore new cities with friends, bundling up in our biggest coats just to play a few minutes of volleyball, and international dinners with an entire building of international students. If you plan to go abroad, you have to leave your comfort zone and enjoy all the moments that present themselves. Soon I will go home and continue my life, but will forever cherish my study abroad experience and will continue to use my experiences to help me continue to grow as a person. The picture I have attached to this is the friend group I made in Prague. We will have to go our separate ways but the bonds we have created will last a lifetime.

While being here I took many international business courses. I took Organizational Design and its studies across many countries, National Accounts (which deals mainly with the economics of many different countries, and Finance in International Management. The most bizarre factor that I learned in all three of these courses is that the world seems to revolve around the United States’ way of doing things, even if they do not like it. For example, in Finance, the US dollar was almost always used as a vehicle currency in equations, even though most people in the class were European. In National Accounts I realized that many countries had to make their numbers convertible to a US standard. And in Organizational Design, we almost never studied an organization’s structure, unless they were American. Many of these case studies we read about, in any class, were based out of the US. Maybe this was all just a fallacy that my university presented to me, but I genuinely feel as if international business is much more simple when you are American. Another aspect of this equation is the fact that an American can travel to almost any country in the world, and proceed to work for an American company. So my take on doing business in international markets? We simply have it easier, while it will always be simpler to do business in the area we know, we could certainly survive in international markets.

Categories: 2021, Czech Republic, Reciprocal Exchange

I only have a few more days left in Prague, and I am dreading saying goodbye to this beautiful city and the friends I have made here.

Since I last posted a blog, I have gotten to make trips to many cities within the Czech Republic, Croatia, and Hungary to enjoy both the scenery and culture of these different places. Even when things went wrong, like our train breaking down somewhere in Slovakia or walking through a blizzard for three hours because you can’t figure out the tram system, I wouldn’t have traded those moments for anything because I love to look back and laugh at all the mess ups as much as I like to remember the incredible moments like seeing all of Budapest from a rooftop bar or sharing drinks with friends on Charles Bridge.

When it came to classes, I had many awesome opportunities to work with different cultures. My favorite course was called “Dealing with Chinese Business Counterparts,” where I completed a group project about the difference between Chinese and American business culture with a team of Chinese students. I’m already considering another study abroad to China just because of this class!

Overall, studying abroad has pushed me out of my comfort zone countless times and forced me to adapt in the best of ways. I have made friends from across the world that I hope to keep with me for a very long time, and I can’t wait to make my way back to Prague.

Goodbye or Na Shledanou to Prague, but hopefully not for long!

Love,

Tatum Dotson

Categories: 2021, Czech Republic, Reciprocal Exchange

I have been in the Czech Republic for almost a month now, and it is absolutely beautiful here! This experience is the first time I have ever been out of the states, and while the adjustment was difficult, I am grateful for the opportunity to grow!

When I am not in class, I often go out with a few friends to admire the architecture and enjoy many of the beautiful parks here. The restrictions have limited how much we can do in the city, but the views themselves make up for it all. I honestly don’t know how I am going to move back to Texas after this!

In my classes, there are very little Americans, and I have enjoyed the different perspectives of my peers in class because of this. Many of my courses have group projects, so I am learning how to interact with different nationalities in a work setting.

Overall, I highly recommend study abroad to any student who has the slightest interest in meeting new, interesting people and seeing a little more of the world!

Categories: 2021, Czech Republic, Reciprocal Exchange

Dobry den!

My name is Taylor Strong and I am currently studying at the Prague University of Economics and Business in the Czech Republic. As my first month here comes to an end, I would like to share a brief snippet of what life is like here in Prague. Even though I decided to study in Europe during a global pandemic and the majority of my time here the city has been under loose lockdown restrictions, I have still managed to have the best time ever. Many people back home considered me crazy for going abroad during such unprecedented times but I have no regrets and would not trade this time for anything in the world. One way that has made this transition easier for me is that I am constantly surrounded by my friends and am able to meet new people every day. I currently live in my university’s exchange student dormitory which I cannot recommend enough. Every night there is a social gathering where residents of the dorm either play cards, share food from their native countries or party. I have been able to make so many friends here from all over the world and learn about so many different cultures and lifestyles. They have pushed me to be more outgoing and active. Every day we do something new like explore the city, go on nature walks, try traditional Czech cuisine (I highly recommend the fried cheese and potatoes), etc. Overall, I would say that my first month here has been a transformative experience for me and I have grown immensely as a person and student. As cheesy as it sounds, I truly believe that being here has shown me what kind of person I want to be and has made me realize what I want out of life after I finish my time at Texas A&M.

I would honestly say that studying abroad has been the best decision of my college career so far. I have been blessed with so many new friends that I would consider some of the nicest people in the world that I hope will remain to be lifelong friends. I have been able to learn new languages, try amazing food, learn new sports/games, and best of all experience the European lifestyle like a native. For anyone considering participating in the exchange program, do it. It is a priceless, life-changing adventure.

Na Shledanou!

Categories: 2021, Czech Republic, Reciprocal Exchange

Howdy!

I arrived in Prague, Czech Republic about three weeks ago and have been having the best time. The city is absolutely beautiful, Prague has been named one of the greenest large cities, and this is very true. My friends and I enjoy going to different parks almost daily where we can often see the entire city. I would highly recommend Prague to anyone who enjoys to walk outside and see nature, or just interesting landmarks. The city is also has very pretty architecture that you can just see for days and still be in love. Due to COVID-19, we cannot go into restaurants or shops. Even without these things, Prague is gorgeous to see and be in.

I began classes a little over a week ago, online of course, and they are currently pretty similar to classes at Texas A&M. The lectures are just like what you would expect at home, but much smaller classes. The thing that is notably different is the grades. There is just one exam in many classes, and some are even oral exams. I believe a few classes have projects and things such as that, but classes really like to focus on the final exam.

Something I completely love about VSE, is the fact that we are housed with international students (mainly in one building). This gives me the chance to make friends from every culture imaginable. I think this is a twist that I would have never expected, but could not be more grateful for. Not only am I now learning the Czech culture, I am also learning about so many other cultures.  I think this aspect of the trip, is what will cause me to be a completely different person upon arrival.

Needless to say, studying abroad is the best experience, but Prague is definitely a special place to do so.

Autumn Hambrick

Categories: 2021, Czech Republic, Reciprocal Exchange

This week concluded my exams in Liege, Belgium. The amount of studying necessary to succeed was unlike anything I had ever done before. While TAMU has made me study and prepare in advance, it does not even compare to how much studying is necessary in Europe. I prepared weeks before exams to make sure I knew the material that was taught the entire semester. It was quite the challenge, but I felt prepared for each exam and believe I did well in all of them. I am happy to be starting my final semester online at TAMU this semester!

Over the months, Covid-19 restrictions have increased in many countries, including Belgium. There is now a curfew from 10pm to 6am with penalty of a fine. Many countries have been more drastic like France or the UK. I have traveled to some countries, but many would require a quarantine so I could not go to multiple countries. While this has been frustrating, I am still very thankful for the opportunity to study here. I have learned about marketing in a new country and how different life is in Europe. It has been an amazing experience to soak up all the culture and meet so many amazing people. Even with all the differences, I have connected with people from all around the world. I am thankful for this experience that has truly changed my life.

Categories: 2020, Czech Republic, Reciprocal Exchange