Following a turbulent past marked by Nazi German occupation in World War II, a subsequent liberation by Soviet forces in 1945, Communist totalitarianism through the 1980s, and numerous minor rebellions and revolutions, what is now the Czech Republic emerged as one of the more successful former Soviet-bloc countries to the surprise of many onlookers. Through much of the latter 20th century, the ethnic Slovakian population made increasingly vocal demands for autonomy in Slovakia, and in 1993 Czechoslovakia was divided into the independent states of the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Now, the Czech Republic has been largely successful in establishing economic and political stability, and is one of the most popular destinations for students interested in studying in Eastern Europe. It offers a unique opportunity to study development and growth in a country still experiencing both, yet because much of the country was spared WWII destruction, also offers a rich and vibrant cultural experience.
Students interested in studying art, architecture, music or literature will find the Czech Republic to be a wealth of opportunity. Composer Antonín Dvorák, author Franz Kafka, and printmaker Alphonse Mucha are just a few of the numerous Czech artists that have contributed to making the Czech Republic a European cultural giant, especially in modern time. A tour of the Czech Republic will reveal breath-taking architecture ranging from Baroque to Art Nouveau, and perhaps give you a chance to view the famous Czech marionette or puppet theater – some of the finest in the world. In the area of music, Prague has become a lively and well-respected center for jazz while the industrial north has earned a name for its contributions to the punk movement.
In the area of business, investment and overall economic production, the Czech Republic has consistently ranked number two (behind Poland) among Europe’s new, post-Soviet economies. Over the past five years, the Czech Republic has received exponentially growing amounts of foreign investment, and in 2001 its economy was out-producing countries like Hungary and Bulgaria yet maintaining a growth rate of 3.3%. Now, as a brand-new member of the EU, the Czech Republic’s economic future looks bright. Czech political leadership is currently tackling the budget deficit in order to get the country more closely aligned with the rest of Europe’s economy. If your interest lies in business development, economics, or finance, the Czech Republic offers an excellent opportunity to discover how a country makes the transition from struggling economy to regional powerhouse.
Of course, you may find that you are simply interested in learning about and exploring another culture and country. If you study in Prague, you will likely take classes at Charles University, one of the oldest established universities in Europe, dating back to 1348. In addition to the historical interests found in the university itself, Prague has earned world-wide acclaim as one of the most beautiful cities in Europe – with its myriad of architectural styles, vibrant night and cultural scene, and location on the Vltava river.
Outside of Prague, life in the country affords students and visitors the chance to learn about Czech folklore, tradition, food and beer in a relaxed and easy-paced atmosphere. Bathe in the famous warm waters of the spa town Karlovy Vary, birthplace of the country’s popular herbal liqueur, Karlovarska Becherovka; or sample knedlo-zelo-vepro (a traditional standard Czech meal consisting of dumplings, sauerkraut and roast pork) in the historic town of Ceský Krumlov, the location of the famous Krumlov Castle, and visit the nearby monastery, Zlata Karuna, one of the oldest in Bohemia.