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More and More Czechs Studying at Universities Abroad

21. August 2012 - More and more Czech students are headed abroad to gather experience. Following their school leaving examinations, or during university studies, they are choosing study abroad opportunities at prestigious universities in foreign countries. Germany and the U.S. are among the most popular destinations. Dozens more young people every year hope to write Oxford or Harvard in their résumés.

The American dream has literally come true for Marek Svoboda. He was one of only a few Czech students admitted to the prestigious Columbia University in New York. He has already spent two years studying neuroscience there. According to him, it was not easy at all to pass the admission tests. “A good level of English is expected; it is examined in U.S. tests and also TOEFL tests. Then, of course, knowledge tests in various subjects, then, again of course, some additional things such as an essay, recommendations and, naturally, high school results,” comments Marek Svoboda. This 21-year-old student is financially supported at the foreign school by a private Czech grammar school and the Foundation that runs it. Marek Svoboda would recommend international experience to everyone. “Because it’s a very enriching experience, broadening your horizons, because it was only outside my country that I’ve found how closed-up Czech society is, bordering sometimes on xenophobia, etc., which you have no chance to see or identify when you live in this country. And of course, cultural enrichment is another aspect,” he says. The Fulbright Commission, which is a binational organization, also offers scholarships and internships at American schools to Czech university students. Scholarship program coordinator Andrea Semancová notes that interest in the U.S. is enormous every year. “Fulbright grants are intended for students who have acquired at least a bachelor’s degree at a local or other school by the deadline for applications. The Fulbright Commission can help by financing the stay in the U.S., both the subsistence costs and, potentially, a part of the school fees. We can also help with the completion of the application form and preparations for various tests that are required for enrolment,” she explains.

International experience opens up career paths

More and more Czechs are studying at schools abroad every year. This is borne out by, for example, the statistics of the National Agency for European Educational Programmes. While in 1998 less than 900 young people went to European universities through the Erasmus program, the figure was more than 5,000 last year. International experience opens up future career paths, says Pavla Šabatková of the Agency. “When you look today at university graduates’ résumés, almost all mention an internship abroad. And students can probably place well on the labor market only with difficulties without an internship abroad,” she says. Czech students mostly opt for universities in Germany, France, Spain, and the U.K. “It appears to me that I could learn something there that’s relatively unknown in the Czech system,” explains Jan Chalupný, a 19-year-old student with an extensive educational track record. He had straight A’s in the national school leaving examination. But these A’s did not help him open the door to a prestigious university abroad. The International Baccalaureate did open that door. The Open Gate grammar school offered him an IB Diploma program during his studies there.

The IB International Program

An international field of study is still a rarity in the Czech Republic; only six other schools, all of them private, offer it. They are, for example, Gymnázium PORG, The First International School of Ostrava, and the English College at which Colin Beet focuses on the IB program. He has noted that the IB program encourages students toward independent thinking, communicativeness, argumentation, and debate and, in addition, to being creative, sympathizing with others, and developing an international view of the world. This is why the number of students and teachers turning to IB is rising in many countries. More than 2,300 schools in 145 countries offer the program.

(Author: Petra Benešová, Klára Bílá, Eva Presová, excerpt from the text)

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