Orientation to Prague
As soon as students land in Prague, we start orientating them to their environment. This term, orientation, is appropriate, since it is not a process of mastering or being completely comfortable with your surroundings, but rather just being able to know where you are and why. Orientation is an important time for students. It is when they gather their first impressions of the city, staff, fellow participants, and buddies. As we all know, first impressions are important.
Our orientation lasts for about three weeks, going through several stages, but at the beginning the most important thing is to force students to recover from jet lag as soon as possible!
We have three programs here in Prague, and each program’s orientation is a bit different. Some activities are done together, some are done separate.
Central European Studies Program Orientation
Each semester we review and improve our orientation programs. This semester our orientation was our best yet!
The first day is arrival and students are taken from the airport directly to their housing. Students receive introductory information from their Charles University student buddies or Czech host families.
On Tuesday, students meet all staff for the first time and sessions start. We cover the basics: housing, safety, survival Czech, local transportation and we give cell phones to our students. The whole day is topped off by a welcome dinner and students can try typical Czech cuisine.
This picture is from the first session of the day, held in a large lecture hall at Charles University. Students stumbled in, tired and excited, at 11:00 for the session. Other sessions were in small groups in classrooms throughout the Faculty of Arts building.
On Wednesday and Thursday, students are divided into groups and they switch for sessions. We present sessions all day, but students either have do sessions in the morning and have free time in the afternoon, or vice versa. The activities that we cover are sessions about the local culture, events and activities for the upcoming semester and an orientation walk through Prague with our buddies.
Students being oriented to the famous Charles Bridge in Prague.
Friday is dedicated to our academic sessions where students learn about our academic program and find out for which courses they are pre-registered. Students also work on setting their goals for their study abroad semester.
These sessions are potentially the most important, but they are not as visually attractive, so we do not provide any pictures of these!
Communications, New Media and Journalism Program Orientation
Compared to our big brother Central European Studies, CNMJ is a much smaller and tight-knit program, so it is precisely during orientation when we form our bonds and set ourselves apart from the other programs.
Orientation for CNMJ is held over a three-day period. We cover the same important topics, such as safety and housing, but with additional sessions fundamental to our niche program. For example, students learn the ins and outs of academics and how to balance three different schedules from CIEE, Charles University/Faculty of Social Sciences, and FAMU. Additionally, we prepare them for their upcoming internships and the much awaited interviews which start immediately the week after orientation. These first busy days are concluded with a tour of Vyšehrad and Prague Castle, plus a welcome dinner at CIEE staff’s favorite local restaurant. All and all, not a bad way to settle into Prague and to start the semester!
CNMJ Orientation session
CNMJ Tour of Vysehrad and Prague Castle
Similarly to Communication, New Media and Journalism program, Film Studies is a program with limited number of participants (the maximum of 6 accepted into the Screenwriting track and the maximum of 16 accepted into the Production track). FAMU is a quite selective institution, so we currently have 14 students enrolled in the FS program (4 screenwriters, 10 filmmakers) on site.
Film Studies courses are designed and held at FAMU (except for the Intensive Beginning Czech Language course), therefore we try to divide orientation sessions between FAMU and CIEE buildings. This way students get acquainted with their host institution and have an opportunity to use their CIEE resources at the same time. Orientation for FS is held over a 3-day period, and it includes basic sessions in-class (safety, bystander intervention, housing, how to deal with bureaucrats, academics, extracurricular opportunities, survival Czech language, goals setting, navigation in Prague and tour of CIEE and FAMU buildings) as well as orientation walk, scavenger hunt and guided tour of Prague Castle.
FS Orientation session
Smaller enrollment number allows us to make the orientation sessions more interactive
The highlight was most certainly welcome dinner which took place at U Šemíka and where students were officially welcomed by both CIEE and FAMU representatives.
FS welcome dinner buffet
Orientation is followed by 2 weeks of Intensive Czech language courses as well as Advising sessions and Story Pitches meetings for the Production track. Production students already formed 4 shooting teams this term and we are looking forward to the upcoming Film pitch session scheduled for Monday, February 23rd!
FAMU Academic Advising on elective courses was held on Thursday, February 5th, 2015. The chair of FAMU International Department, Vít Janeček, introduced both courses and professors. FS Academic Advisor Mary Angiolillo and FS Program Coordinator Ivana Skenderija were also present to answer questions concerning administrative details (such as Add and Drop procedure)
But of course studying abroad is not only about academics, but also about exploration of local culture and personal growth. In the 1st three weeks, students are getting used to co-living in apartments with one another as well as their Czech buddies. They learn how to make their bed Czech style, how to operate European style ovens, dishwashers and washing machines, why Czechs wear slippers at home, what are Czech dining habits (including differences in silverware usage and tipping) and much more. Czech buddies prepare interest groups activities throughout the whole semester.
Buddy Bára already taught FS students how to make a Czech specialities: fried edam cheese (similar to mozarella sticks) and fried cauliflower with tartar sauce and boiled potatoes – and they had a blast!