Articles| Czechs headed for the world’s elite. Philanthropists...

Czechs headed for the world’s elite. Philanthropists pay school fees for the best of the best

25. January 2015 - They meet Nobel Prize winners in the hallways on a daily basis, and the world’s greatest brains teach them. Czech students who want the best available education, and have the aptitude for it, go out into the world to enroll at first-class universities. Some 700 Czechs are studying every year in the U.S. alone. Wealthy philanthropists or governmental grants help the best of them cope with the financial side of this.

Oxford, Cambridge, Yale. Wide-ranging options open up for Czech graduates of the world’s most prestigious universities after graduation. “They have many more alternative options for what they will do with their lives. Those who have graduated in the Czech Republic are frequently limited to only this country as regards their job opportunities,” believes Jakub Tesař, Education Advisor at the intergovernmental Czech-American J. W. Fulbright Commission. According to him, graduates with experience from the world’s universities are more cosmopolitan.

There are no aggregate statistics on how many Czechs receive diplomas at foreign universities every year. Nevertheless, at U.S. schools alone some 700 to 800 students are enrolled every year. In the last school year 736 Czechs were enrolled at U.S. schools, according to the Open Doors report released by the U.S.-based Institute of International Education every year.

According to UNESCO data, the U.S. ranks fifth with Czech students, after Slovakia, Germany, the United Kingdom, and France. “However, the students have to overcome certain hurdles, the financial one being the highest of them. Thus, the number of Czech students in the U.S. depends most on offers of financial assistance and, most importantly, the candidates’ ability and readiness to win grants. It is the courage and willingness to venture into selection procedures for grants where Czech students sometimes lag behind their peers from other countries,” comments Hana Ripková, Executive Director, Fulbright Commission.

Millions to spend for the best schools
It certainly is not an inexpensive matter to go to school outside the Czech Republic. In addition to the school fees as such, the candidates have to know there will be costs of lodging, meals, transport, and life abroad in general. Total costs frequently climb to the millions.

“One-year school fees are around $30,000, and subsistence, including air fare, also around $30,000,” counts Jan Kolmas, who is enrolled in the Aeronautics & Astronautics master’s program at Stanford University in California. However, this does not mean that he pays all the costs of studies himself. “I have received a large grant from Nadace Zdeňka Bakaly [The Zdeněk Bakala Foundation]. And I meet some of the costs myself from research grants,” he explains.

Indeed, only a few can afford to attend the world’s best universities without governmental grants or support by generous philanthropists: “In my field of study, annual school fees amount to 11,000 Pounds Sterling, and subsistence costs are another 8,000. The grant that I have received from The Kellner Family Foundation covers all these costs,” says Jolana Venenyová, an Oxford student.

But there are exceptions; for example, Petr Rieger (24) is funding his Finance course at the University of Cambridge himself, without any sponsorship. He made the money for the school working as a temp at a London bank in summer. “The other item was the subsistence costs, which are much higher than in our country. My parents have helped me. My program costs some 9,000 Pounds Sterling per year. The subsistence costs are lower than in, say, London because Cambridge is a small town. In addition, the school provides lodging that is much cheaper than if I had to find something on my own,” says Petr Rieger.

You meet Nobel Laureates in the hallways every day
What is the reason for a number of young people to take the much more complicated way and seek admission to the most selective foreign universities? The students whom has approached concur in observing that the decisive factor is the school’s prestigious name and the opportunity to work with the best people in the relevant fields.
“Columbia has a huge number of excellent neurobiology and neuropathology labs. You meet Nobel Laureates and researchers whose discoveries make it into textbooks in the hallways here every day. You can consult anything with anybody here, and use state-of-the-art equipment,” describes Martin Jacko, who studies Pathobiology and Molecular Medicine at Columbia University, New York.

Rozálie Horká, an Oxford student, seconds him: “The opportunities currently provided by Czech universities cannot compare to those offered by foreign universities,” summarizes the Vice-President of the Czech-Slovak Student Society. Statistics indicate that 30 to 40 Czechs and the same number of Slovaks are enrolled at Oxford every year.

“The magic of foreign universities does not lie in learning alone. It is about all the opportunities, ranging from student societies and rowing to the chance to form your own opinions and acquire experience in the U.K. or international environment, through to the opportunities for finding your place in life after graduation,” adds Rozálie Horká.

Whether riding a snowmobile or jetski to work, graduates do not worry about jobs
What do graduates from the world’s best universities actually do with the education they have acquired? Do they go back to their home country? It depends, says Jakub Tesař. “Some of them go back to the Czech Republic, others stay in the U.S., and still others are elsewhere in the world. But what unites them is their complete lack of worries about where in the world they will live. They are only interested in finding the place offering the best opportunity to pursue their career. If it’s in Singapore, they go to Singapore. If it’s in New York, they go to New York. If it’s in Prague, they go to Prague. If the Czech Republic does not offer them work that is attractive enough, they go somewhere else,” summarizes Jakub Tesař.

Those whose education in the U.S. is funded by governmental Fulbright grants are expected to return to the Czech Republic for at least two years. The government wants to retain talented brains in the Czech Republic, and so graduates will not be granted U.S. visa for two years.
However, other students, those sponsored by philanthropic organizations, face absolutely no restrictions at all. “In the Czech Republic we still lack a mechanism or organization that would help students of prestigious schools come back here again and find attractive career opportunities,” student Rozálie Horká observes.

Jiří Jelínek of Columbia University is considering work in the Czech Republic. “I will complete the schooling in May, and one of my potential jobs is also taking contours in the Czech Republic. However, for me, where the job is is not the most important criterion driving my choice,” he says.

Thus, these graduates turn into cosmopolitans who find work anywhere in the world. “From my perspective, no national borders exist for science. I would like to continue somewhere with suitable conditions. I don’t care in which country or on which continent. All places, including the Antarctic, have something to offer. I can imagine going to work in the morning, on a snowmobile or a jetski,” concludes Martin Jacko, a future pathobiologist.
Author: Zdeňka Trachtová


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