International perspective: an American student in the Czech Republic – Times Higher Education

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International student Steven Molchanov shares what attending university in the Czech Republic is like and what his one piece of advice would be for other international students
As a pre-law student studying at the University of Texas at Austin, I was lucky to have the opportunity to study abroad in Prague in the Czech Republic during the fall semester of 2022.  I studied at Charles University, one of the biggest universities in the country.  
I chose the university because the course selection lined up with what I was studying in Austin. A lot of my classes synced up with the sort of content I was learning back at home and I found both educational experiences meshed together well.  
When I first arrived I was surprised at how beautiful the campus was, as well as how centrally located my classes were. Unlike many American universities, there wasn’t much of a campus in the traditional sense, and instead there were individual buildings that were spread throughout Old Town, the historical centre of Prague. This meant that I’d be walking through the historical district to go from class to class.  
In terms of the process of applying and getting ready, the one key thing I would stress is to apply for your visa as soon as possible. This proves one of the biggest problems that many of us experience as we prepare to study abroad, and I didn’t grasp how much there was to do.  
From getting an official translation of all your documents to obtaining proof of insurance, a lot of paperwork needs to be filled out before you can even apply. Furthermore, the processing time often takes many months. The process was stressful for me because I only received my passport and visa four days before I was scheduled to leave. I know people who had to begin their programmes several weeks late because of late passport arrivals. Other than that, most of the process is straightforward and your university will be helpful throughout the process.
I remember first landing in Prague and feeling in awe of everything. After I dropped off my luggage at the dormitory, I headed over to a grocery store and was surrounded by Czech brands I’d never seen. There were several other differences between Prague and my home city.
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First, switching from car-centric Austin to public transport-oriented Prague changed how I moved around. Prague’s public transport infrastructure was excellent (and affordable) which made exploring much easier.  
Another big difference was the food. Czech cuisine is based around meat and potatoes, which I happen to love. Many Czech dishes such as goulash and Svíčková are not common in the US, so I made sure to eat as much local food as possible.
My favourite aspect of living in Prague was travelling. Being in the Czech Republic places you right in the middle of Europe, so it’s easy to visit other countries. By the end of my four months studying abroad, I managed to visit 14 other European countries.
This ties into my advice for students looking to study overseas – take every opportunity you have to travel. Studying abroad is a unique opportunity that I probably won’t have again. This realisation made me want to use my time abroad as best as possible, and I’d say that travelling is one of the best ways that you can spend your money.
I also loved the people I met. One common concern that I hear from people looking to study abroad is the fear of not making friends. However, I discovered that most people who go abroad are in a similar boat and are open to meeting new friends. Being able to travel with new friends you make along the way is a really rewarding experience and you get to meet people that you probably wouldn’t otherwise. 
Studying abroad is probably one of the best decisions I made during my time in college. You come back with a completely new perspective and set of unique memories. I would recommend the experience to anyone in a heartbeat.

Seeta Bhardwa

Subhas Yadav

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