Study Abroad in Prague, Czech Republic

Study Abroad in Prague: Courses

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Course descriptions

The University and AIFS recommend students take one or two courses (3 credits each) for a maximum of 6 credits. However you may select up to 3 courses for a total of 9 credits. Students should be advised that this is a very intensive academic schedule and is not recommended. Instruction is in English. A minimum enrollment of 5 students is required for each course offered. Classes are held Monday through Thursday for four weeks. Courses are subject to change at the discretion of Charles University.

Czech Language Course

Czech Language | Survival Czech—Included for all students

In order to better prepare students for their stay in Prague, all students will participate in a one-day Survival Czech course taught by a Charles University professor. This eight-hour course with small class sizes (fewer than 13 students) equips students with the necessary language skills in order to “survive” in Prague. Students will not only learn the basics, but also go on a field trip with the professor to learn more about the city. A textbook is included.

CZE 102 (3) | Czech Language for Every Day Use - Level I

The course is designed to teach students basics of the Czech language and, at the same time, to extend their knowledge of Czech culture and everyday life. The communicative approach and everyday vocabulary are emphasized, students are supposed to communicate in various situations of everyday life (introducing oneself, asking about directions, shopping, restaurants, daily routine, likes and dislikes). Various linguistic skills should be developed in balance: knowledge of grammar, comprehension, speaking, and writing.

Courses taught in English

ART 301 (3) | Czech and European Art and Architecture

Provides a general overview of the Fine Arts development in Europe with a special focus on Central Europe and monuments in Prague. The course covers the Medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque periods up to Modernism and the Contemporary art scene. Special attention will be paid to the unique characteristics and developments of art (e.g. Prague Castle, Baroque churches, Czech cubism) and to the most glorious periods in the history of Czech Lands. The course will also focus on important artists and movements that illustrate typical features of a certain time period. By studying detailed information about a particular piece of art, students will develop insight about the history of Fine Arts as an academic discipline. The class is divided into two parts; a lecture in the classroom and a field trip to a local museum or other monuments or buildings in Prague.

ART 305 (3) | Jewish Art and Architecture

The Jewish nation is spread over centuries in multiple parts of the world. Therefore, it is uneasy to talk of specifically Jewish art. Only a synagogue developed into a typical Jewish form of architecture. In the Middle-Ages, Jews were often inspired by existing architecture that they adapted to their needs and thus a specific form was created. The Jews of the Eastern Europe developed their own architectural concepts especially between the 16th and the 18th centuries. The course examines architecture of synagogues in the Ancient world, the Middle Ages, Renaissance and Baroque period is as well as in the contemporary era, alongside with the introduction into the Jewish history, tradition and beliefs. Students learn about the specific features characterizing different architecture styles over centuries and symbolicism of architecture used in Jewish prayer rooms. Classroom lectures are combined with regular field trips and two one-day trips. There is the oldest functioning synagogue in Europe dating from 1200´s in Prague. Rich collections of the Jewish museum in Prague house a number of synagogue curtains, silverware and other liturgical objects esp. from the baroque era and the 19th century.

ART 321 (3) | Art Photography and Genius Loci

Combines theoretical aspects of photography and its aesthetic as well as its cognitive value as a unique art form with practical exercises and authentic experiential outdoor activities. Though not primarily conceived as a course in the history of Czech Photography, it does provide a basic orientation to Czech photographic art of the 20th century. The focus of the course is not so much on photographic techniques, but rather on visual styles and how photography as an artistic medium expresses (or at times suppresses) the individual bias, aesthetics, period style, and societal and cultural boundaries. The course also marginally examines the of photography. Students are expected to use a digital camera of any quality for class assignments (cameras are not provided by the university, each student has to bring his or her own; no cell-phone cameras, please). No special technical expertise is required.

ECON 310 (3) | Economic Affairs: European Union and Asia

The class aims at current stage and basic trends within the development of the world economy with a special emphasis on the comparison of economic systems in Europe and Asia. It makes students familiar with principal actors of the global economic system (i.e. states, international organizations, transnational corporations, regional integration agreements and sovereign wealth funds) as well as with their mutual interconnections. Brief description of the European integration and its main attributes is also provided. The crucial part of the course is dedicated to introduction of the European and Asian economic systems and discussion about related problems.

Film 370 (3) | Picturing the Nation: National Filmmaking and Visual Culture in 20th century Central Europe

The growth and development of cinema as an art form during the 20th century led to the creation of the concept of "national cinemas", where films produced in a given country represent an essential part of a nation’s culture. This course will focus on three of the main "national" cinemas which have been influential in Central Europe: Czechoslovak, Czech, and Slovak. There will also be a final series of lectures devoted to how these national cinemas changed in the course of dramatic upheavals of national boundaries in the late 20th century such as the dissolution of Czechoslovakia. In the course of the semester, we will examine approaches to the concept of national cinemas, how to read national cinemas in terms of nationalism and ethnic identity, and how to navigate the problems with this approach. In addition to watching films, we will also be discussing sociological and cinema theory and approaches to "reading" films, not only as movies, but also as multi-faceted cultural artifacts with an emphasis on the social and theoretical implications. To this end, our readings will contain primary source materials on cinema history, historical research, film theory, and literature intended to broaden our understanding of national cinematic cultures.

Film 380 (3) | Jewish Images in Central European Cinema

This course examines the portrayal of Jews and Jewish themes in the cinemas of Central Europe from the 1920s until the present. It considers not only depictions of Jews made by gentiles (sometimes with anti-Semitic undertones), but also looks at productions made by Jewish filmmakers aimed at a primarily Jewish audience. The selection of films is representative of the broader region where Czech, Slovak, Polish, Hungarian, Ruthenian, Ukranian, German, and Yiddish are (or were historically) spoken. Although attention will be given to the national-political context in which the films were made, most of the films by their very nature defy easy classification according to strict categories of statehood—this is particularly true for the pre-World War II Yiddish-language films. For this reason, the films will also be examined with an eye toward broader, transnational connections and global networks of people and ideas. Primary emphasis will be placed on two areas: (1) films that depict and document pre-Holocaust Jewish society in Central Europe, and (2) post-War films that seek to come terms with the Holocaust and the nearly absolute destruction of Jewish culture and tradition in the region. Weekly film screenings will be supplemented by theoretical readings related to the films or to concepts associated with them. In addition to close examinations of the film scheduled for each week, class sessions will include viewing and discussion of clips from other, related films. Discussion will touch on issues of ethnic representation, agency, and memory.

HIST 205 (3) | Shaping Central Europe

Focuses on the history of Central Europe through the study of the major phenomena that shaped it. The main themes considered in the course are the impact of the Habsburg dynasty on the region’s politics and culture, the rise of nationalism in the 19th century and its consequences for post-WWI Central Europe. The impact of World War II on the region is analyzed as well as the disappearance of Central Europe as a political and cultural entity under Communist rule and its rebirth at the end of the 20th century. Jewish history and its significance for the region are also explored. Each theme is illustrated by a field trip and/or a documentary.

LIT 314 (3) | Reading Prague: Literature, Architecture, and Cultural History

Surveys Prague’s history, focusing on the lives and aspirations of its multinational inhabitants as they metamorphosed over the course of the last twelve centuries. The course proposes to read the city as a text and to treat literature and architecture as both expressions and symptoms of its evolution. Throughout the course, literature and architecture are explored through a critical reading of the motivations, techniques and achievements which are at play therein.

LIT 324 (3) | Literature of Central European Coffee Houses

“It’s a coffeehouse, take it as it is! Never will you ever come upon such a place again!” Alfred Polgar. This course aims to introduce students to the coffee house culture and related literary and artistic life in three cities – Budapest, Prague and Vienna. At the end of the 19th, and beginning of the 20th century, coffee houses and literary modernism grew into an inseparable entity. Under specific social and economic conditions, coffee houses became places of meeting and intellectual exchange. Places, where for the price of a cup of coffee one could spend hours reading European newspapers and magazines, write, edit, translate, sign manifestos, plan revolutions, linger, rub elbows with the intellectual elite – or, be part of it – and, potentially, save on heating in one’s modest sublet. Assigned readings will be related to several renowned coffee houses in the above mentioned cities. We will visit some of these coffee houses, and try to track their history, dating back to the final days of Austro-Hungarian monarchy. Film screenings and visits to related exhibitions will be an integral part of this course.

POL/ECON 308 (3) | International Affairs: European Union and Asia

Focuses on the European Union as an actor of international relations and analyzes relations between the EU, EU member states and different regions of Asia. The course provides an introduction to the EU’s foreign policy priorities and instruments as well as its interests in Asia in the fields of economy and trade, politics, security and development. Case studies of the EU’s approach towards selected countries of Asia illustrate the main issues and dimensions of the EU’s global conduct, including energy security, soft power and agenda setting.

POL 306 (3) | Central Europe 25 Years After: Heading for another Fundamental Change?

A quarter century after the fall of Communism, some Central European countries seem to be standing on a crossroads again. Hungarian PM Viktor Orbán has already announced a regime change in his country, stating explicitly a shift away from liberal democracy. This is not something merely verbal, as the new Hungarian constitution and some related changes have shown. Poland seems to be taking a similar path after the 2015 election, and the new governing party is known to be inspired by the Hungarian scenario. In the Czech Republic, another type of political change appears to be taking place. A shift from parliamentary to semi-presidential regime is accompanied with the change of the country´s once stable and robust party system. This special course will focus on the recent changes in three Central European countries. The work will be based on text reading, in-class discussions and students´ research.

POL 316 (3) | Modern Czech Politics Across Various Political Regimes: Never-ending Transformation

The transformation of Czechoslovakia (and later of the Czech Republic) from a communist satellite state into a European Union member state is an exciting story but it also contains an intellectual challenge. The transformative process encompassed a profound change of political, social, cultural and economic structures while at the same time caused radical changes in people’s lives. The course starts with a short introduction to Czech pre-communist politics and regimes. Then a survey of communist rule follows, concentrating on the role of the party, propaganda and political life, looking also at daily life under communism. Next, two radical political changes are discussed: The Velvet Revolution of 1989 and the “Velvet Divorce” of 1992-1993; these will be taken as models of change with much larger implications for the whole of Central and Eastern Europe. The focus is on the discussion of key political institutions and parties in comparative perspective.

SOC 345 (3) | Contemporary Czech Art, Culture and Literature: Urban Semiotics

The course will acquaint students with the contemporary Czech art scene, its “roots” and transformations from three different perspectives. First, the course will pursue how Czech art and music are connected with activism, minority groups and mainstream culture. Second, focus will be placed on how to “read” contemporary urban performances, literature and works of art. How and why do performances address and fascinate their readers? What value-hierarchies and culture-changing signs do they produce? Third, the course will familiarize students with the notions of performance art, digital media, counterculture, mass culture and show their impact on Czech individuals and society.

SOC 355 (3) | Selected Topics in Social Psychology: Soft Skills

Soft skills have a great impact on our success and satisfaction in life. The concept of soft skills consists of both intra-personal and inter-personal aspects. This course presents a well-balanced practical overview of the soft skills world. The content of the course will be adapted according to the students enrolled, possible topics are social perception, stereotyping and prejudices; effective communication principles; coaching; self-management; presentation skills; assertiveness and manipulation recognition; resolving conflicts; teamwork and group problem solving; stress management; authenticity and values; and creativity. Self-experience is one of the most important outcomes of this seminar and therefore active learning methods will be used in every session (discussion, role-play, simulations, exercises, art, reflective journal, peer counselling, etc.). The whole class is more practice-oriented than theory oriented.