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25 posts categorized "Travel"

04/28/2014

Spring 2014, Issue II

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Ahoj from Praha, Study Abroad Advisors!

CIEE Prague programs offer plenty of trips and excursions, so we would like to focus this newsletter on these.

Central European Studies (CES)

CES academic trips are an inseparable part of the academic experience in Prague, as well as an inseparable part of the courses themselves. Each student has to go on at least 2 academic trips per semester. CIEE offers some 20 trips to various destinations, all accompanied by  teaching faculty and CIEE staff and all carefully chosen to help the students better comprehend the course topics and to provide them as much cultural immersion opportunities as possible. We offer one-day trips as well as overnight trips and show the evidence of history, the communist legacy and the transformation of the Czech society into a democratic member of the EU with its current social and economic challenges. Students can also choose from a variety of cultural sites important to historical events, literature courses, art and architecture or even current environmental issues.

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The trips provide students a unique opportunity to explore sites outside of Prague, such as concentration camps and historical Jewish ghettos, which are connected to history courses and Judaism, as well as to courses focusing on psychoanalysis – e.g., understanding Nazi propaganda and the cult of Hitler.  Students also have a unique opportunity to have a deeper understanding of human rights, national identity and sociopolitical issues by visiting socially excluded localities and discussing it with local NGO and governmental representatives. In order to explore the communist past of the Czech Republic, students can visit and learn about the communist regime, the political persecution of that authoritarian regime by visiting former work camps with former political prisoners. Dealing with the outcomes of communist environmental policies, students learn about rural landscape changes. Last but not least, there are trips connected to a cultural immersive experience, where students have the chance to spend Easter in a village with a local family and to practice traditional (quite unique) Czech Easter customs.

Many trips and sites are so popular that they are run more than 4 times during the semester. A large number of students want to go to more destinations - beyond the CIEE academic mandatory requirement of taking part in 2 trips. Some trips maintain throughout semesters 100% positive feedbacks, and according to the students is one of the highlights of their experience in CIEE Prague’s program.

 Film Studies (FS)

Despite of the fact that Film Studies students are especially busy throughout the semester, CIEE Prague believes that studying abroad is about outclass academic exploration as well. Therefore we offer a number of excursions and trips designed specifically for the FS program.

Barrandov Film Studios excursion

On Friday, February 14th, FS Coordinator Ivana took students for a tour to the famous Barrandov Film Studios. As every semester, students not only got to visit the props, furniture and costumes department, but also some representational premises for filmmakers, a stage set of Tudors show and postproduction labs were seen. Furthermore, we got access to two film ateliers with shooting in progress, so students had a blast taking pictures in a train where Donald Sutherland acted in Crossing Lines (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crossing_Lines). As always, a yummy lunch was provided. But let us share student feedback from this excursion:

 “Barrandov was truly amazing. It was so interesting and I felt like I learned a lot. I loved this excursion.”

“BEST TRIP EVER. The day was pretty exhausting, but overall it was a fantastic visit. It is a opportunity to visit the Barrandov Studios where such famous people have walked the halls. I liked the extra bit of tour that we got, thanks to Ivana. Hopefully I will be back there again one day making my own film! The lunch was fantastic, also.”

“I really enjoyed it! It was laid back enough so we could really soak it up, and we got to see a lot of the studios. The most interesting part was seeing the costumes and props. I also really, really appreciated the donuts given to us in the morning.”Barrandov 1photo courtesy of Jonáš Klimeš

Barrandov 2photo courtesy of Katie Ratcliffe

Hafan Animation Studio workshop

On Saturday and Sunday, March 1st-2nd, students split into 2 groups and each spent a whole day in Prague’s Hafan animation studio. They created traditional animated short film and had a blast!

Hafan 1

Hafan 2photo courtesy of Beth Winchester

  

Video animation students made together in 2 days

Karel Zeman Museum of Special Effects

On Monday, March 24th, CIEE 2nd cultural workshop was planned. We decided to connect it with an excursion to Karel Zeman Museum of Special Effects (https://www.muzeumkarlazemana.cz/en) which students enjoyed immensely.

  

video courtesy of Andie Eikenberg  Karel Zeman 1
on a Moon rose, photo courtesy of Katie Ratcliffe

After the excursion, we continued to Dobrá Trafika, an underground coffee place which looks like a simple news stand at first. Over a coffee/yummy milk shakes and cakes, academic, professional, social and interpersonal goals that students set for themselves during the orientation were discussed. And it was time for more fun too - students tested their knowledge of Greatest Czechs in a memory game and they all did quite good!

But hear it in their own words:

“Cool, interesting, creative excursion + great gift shop! Workshop was a nice activity - glad I knew more Czechs than I thought!“

„Very interesting and reminded me of a set on a George Méliès film.“

Overnight trip to Moravia - workshop in Olomouc, Palacký University, Audiovisual department

The weekend of March 28-30, FS Program Coordinator Ivana and Program Coordinator Eva took students on a weekend excursion to the Moravian Region. The trip started in the city of Olomouc, a UNESCO heritage site  - a local guide gave us a tour of the city center. After a yummy lunch we continued to Palacký University to join local students in the Audiovisual Department for a student television workshop. Students were given a simply task: introduce the city. You can see the result here:

  

 After the workshop, local students took CIEE Film Studies group to a local restaurant and they enjoyed an evening together, exploring the city independently.

Olomouc pic 1
Photo courtesy of John Kim

On Saturday, the whole group transfered to Uherské Hradiště, where a summer film festival is held annually. We checked in to Hotel Koníček, had lunch and continued to Vlčnov village, famous for its „Ride of the Kings“ (https://www.czechtourism.com/c/unesco-jizda-kralu/). After visiting a Home Distillery Museum (part of The Museum of Moravian Slovakia), we were invited to a local home by a Vlčnov family. Moravians are known for their hospitality and they truly confirmed this reputation of theirs. Mr. Mikulec told us about the Slivovitz distilling process and his wife surprised us with yummy Moravian kolatche and traditional Czech party sandwiches.

ON Trip pic 1Photo courtesy of John Kim

After this unique experience, we return back to Uherské Hradiště. Students were given couple of hours of free time to explore on their own and we met again for dinner. The local wine cellar visit followed.

ON Trip pic 2

ON Trip pic 2 b

On Sunday morning, we had a last site to visit: Moravian Karst with Punkva caves and the deepest gorge in the Czech lands: Macocha. Students were quite excited particularly due to the short train ride followed by a boat ride in the underground caves.

ON Trip pic 3

ON Trip pic 3 bPhoto courtesy of John Kim

More information from students perspectives can be found in FS blog (https://study-abroad-blog-prague-fs.ciee.org/).

Communication, New Media + Journalism (CNMJ)

Overnight trip to Brno

During a beautiful spring weekend in March, CNMJ Program students headed to Brno and other spots in Moravia with Amanda, Communication Program Coordinator. Our goal was to learn more about the media landscape in the Czech Republic and all by meeting local students and attending the human rights documentary film festival, One World (insert link: https://www.oneworld.cz/2014/ ).

Once we arrived to Brno on Friday, we stopped by Radio R at Masaryk University, Department of Media Studies and Journalism. Radio R is a very successful student-run radio station with over 100 volunteer moderators. They broadcast a variety of original programs covering politics, alternative music, and cultural events in and around Brno. CNMJ students not only had a discussion with student broadcasters, but also got to broadcast live themselves!

Radio R students on air

After our exciting live radio stint, we continued on with Radio R students and with hungry bellies to Výtopna Restaurant. Students were told there would be a surprise there. Výtopna is special thanks to a mini train which brings restaurant-goers their drinks! Surprise!

Our evenings in Brno were dedicated to the One World Film Festival, which is put on by the non-profit People in Need (in fact, we have one CNMJ intern working in their Media Department this semester). On Friday we saw The Great Night (insert link: https://www.oneworld.cz/2014/films-a-z/25305-the-great-night  ), which won the award for Best Czech Documentary at Jihlava International Documentary Film Festival last year. On Saturday, we saw a much more light-hearted film called, Everything is Possible (insert trailer?) about an 80 year-old Polish woman who backpacks around the world.

On Saturday we decided to explore the Moravian countryside and hung out in the village of Velké Bílovice. With 800 hectares of vineyards, it makes up the largest wine territory in the Czech Republic. So naturally after lunch, we walked through the village, greeting locals in Czech on our way, and ended up at a family wine cellar. After a short crash course in the ways of wine tasting, students were given several local samples to taste.

Lunch before wine tasting

Our last stop on Sunday before heading back to Prague was Moravian Karst (insert link: https://www.moravskykras.net/en/moravian-karst.html ). We enjoyed a tour of the caves, which included not only the impressive Macocha Abyss (the largest such gorge in Central Europe), but also a boat ride through the last part of the caves.

Students had a great time! For more on this trip from a student’s perspective, please visit our CNMJ blog:

https://study-abroad-blog-prague-cnmj.ciee.org/

CNMJ group

 

Global Architecture and Design (GAD)

Overnight Trip – Vltava Cascades

The very first academic trip for the Global AD program was planned to be only a few weeks after the student’s arrival so they could bond and get to know Adam Vukmanov, the ARCHIP Academic Coordinator, Petra, the CIEE Global AD Coordinator and other members of the ARCHIP faculty while traveling through beautiful sites of central and southern Bohemia.

  Hluboka trip2

The plan was to follow Vltava river cascades, starting at Lipno, which is very important hydro power plant built to protect the UNESCO site Český Krumlov and other towns and villages nearby from floods; we stayed at  Hluboká nad Vltavou, a beautiful little town close to Lipno and continued on the next day with touring 3 other dams – Hněvkovice, Orlík and Slapy.

Berlin Summit

Global AD program connects 3 European cities – Barcelona, Berlin and Prague. Students from all three cities were invited to participate in the Berlin Summit and aside from many other interesting things, to present what they have been working on so far. From March 26 to March 28, CIEE Berlin hosted students from Prague and Barcelona. It was a huge success and students left more educated, connected and satisfied with their achievements. Which city will host next? :)

Berlin Summit

  Cultural Workshop

On April 10, during the academic workshop lead by Alessio Erioli, an engineer and senior researcher at Università di Bologna, Petra took the group to a traditional Czech restaurant for a second cultural workshop. Alessio joined them as well. Aside from the amazing food and drinks, they all tested their knowleadge of Czech culture, especially what they knew of famous Czech people. Well, they still have a bit to learn. :)

Workshop

 Construction Site Visit

On April 11, the students, Adam and Petra visited basic construction sites in Prague that were in different stages of the process. It was a lot of fun and not only because we got to wear hard hats. We got a chance to see how different designing and building is in the Czech Republic and learn a lot about the specific constructions from top to bottom. Both were office buildings built by different companies.

Construction site
Working hard...

 

03/27/2014

PLAYING CATCH-UP, OR, THE RESULT OF FOUR HOURS OF TYPING ON AN IPHONE

By Griff Jones, Whitman College

February 23, 2014

I’ll try and keep this short, but I realize I haven’t given too many updates about Prague recently. In fact, for quite a while… I apologize, and I hope to be a bit more on top of it in the future!

Man, this is going back far, but I want to talk about it: about three weeks ago now we had a guided tour of a smaller town an hour and a half outside of Prague called Kutna Hora. While there we walked around it’s ancient medieval streets, visited a cathedral, and went to a place called the Sedlec Ossuary, otherwise known as the bone church. It has tens of thousands of humans represented in their femurs and skulls, all artfully arranged in a macabre yet hauntingly beautiful way. I actually touched a human skull. You’d think there would be some weight, some depth to such an action, but it was primarily cold. That’s not entirely honest; it was pretty eerie and felt somehow taboo. But it was also so irresistibly compelling. There aren’t many, if any, other opportunities to do that in life. God I sound creepy right now. But I think it has something to do with abjection; we’re simultaneously repulsed and attracted by things that are so deeply engrained as wrong, supposedly. I don’t find that to be true with most things, but maybe that’s what was at work when I decided to touch it. Also, when I say touch, I literally just put my finger on it for a split second. So nothing creepy. Anyway, moving on!

The timeline is so muddled from being so busy, but at some point, me, Andie, and John went on a night adventure to Petrin Tower, the Eiffel Tower replica on top of Petrin Hill. We ended up walking down through the park since the view of Prague at night was so exquisite. Another night we went to the ballet Swan Lake at the National theater, Narodni Divadlo. It was my first professional ballet. I can certainly acknowledge and appreciate talet and skill, which I did, but I think ballet may take some getting used to. But it was fun to dress up with everyone!

Gosh, sorry this is such an abbreviated version. A couple weekends ago we went hiking at Sarka preserve, at the very end of one of the tram lines. It was a really beautiful hilly, wooded area, with large exposed rock outcrops. It was so ridiculously rejuvenating to go hiking and breathe some fresh wilderness air. I needed that after so much city life. I love city life, but it’s not for me in the long run, I can tell you that now. At least big cities far from the outdoors. But it’s so nice being here right now and truly getting to experience it for the first time.

We also got out of the city a bit last weekend. We went to the outskirts for a tour of Barrandov Film Studios with the program. The film Amadeus was shot there, as well as on location in Prague. We got to tour their costume department in addition to seeing the sound stages and some behind the scenes buildings as well, such as the film developing lab where our own films will be developed at the end of the program. There was also an entire outdoor set for St Peters Square in Rome for the European version of the Borgias. It was actually so crazy impressive and looked and felt so real. It was a very cool experience, but having been to the Warner Bros studio tour this summer it was sort of hard to compare having seen such a top notch rich studio. Barrandov is very clearly leftover from Soviet Rule, with big, imposing modernist buildings. It felt very serious.

The next day was the best cultural experience to date. We went to Masopust, the Czech pre-lent celebration equivalent to Carneval or Mardi Gras, in a village just outside the city. It felt so medieval, with people in crazy, elaborate, quirky costumes milling about. There were beers, sausages, potato pancakes, and so much other mouthwatering food being made all over the square. There were so many dogs (tangent time! Czech dogs are said to be more like people than most dogs, and they are by far the smartest, best behaved animals I’ve ever encountered. Teachers bring their dogs to class, dogs walk unleashed everywhere, and they never ever misbehave. It’s incredible and I have no idea how they do it.). I was there with some of my group, our Czech buddy (who, like many, is actually Slovakian) and his new girlfriend, who he met through our group actually, and the girls who she’s the buddy for, also in CIEE, though in the journalism program. Sorry, that was the worst sentence I’ve ever written probably. I’m keeping it though. Anyways, a few of us bought masks to fit in better and get a souvenir. There were performances, and then, all of the sudden, the entire place started emptying out. Part of the celebration is actually moving from village to village as one huge mass, where everyone gets to be part of the parade. It was just unbelievably cool to be a part of. It was so authentically Czech, and the atmosphere was impossible to describe besides maybe joyous. Everyone was just enjoying themselves, and there was a lot of drinking going on. Perhaps the most memorable part though was when a girl whose costume somehow made her appear to be riding an ostrich quite convincingly approached us (no, I was not drinking heavily, it was a weird and very well done costume.). She came up to us, and in Czech-accented English said: “Since yesterday was Valentine’s Day, you should give a heart to someone!” She opened her hand and there was an actual heart in it, though what creature it belonged to I couldn’t say. Then: “Or maybe you would like a bigger one! It’s good luck!” Out of her costume came a plastic cup that, sure enough, had a slightly larger but no less real heart. Needless to say, we did not accept her offer and she galavanted off on her ostrich. It’s going to be hard to beat the feeling and authenticity of Masopust, honestly, but it made me even more excited to explore Czech culture. That said, Berlin made me realize how much touristy stuff we’ve yet to do in Prague. I haven’t even been to a museum yet! That’s absolutely going to change soon. I know I can’t do everything, but I can sure try to do as much as possible! Obviously I’m still taking care of myself, but my motto while here has become “I’ll sleep when I’m dead.” I don’t want to waste a moment.

Speaking of sleep, I sure don’t get a lot on weekends! Don’t worry, my concerned adult readers, I’m not going crazy! But I have had a couple noteworthy adventures, particularly one night when I ended up with a group of young adults from Vienna and went to the 5-Story Club, “the largest club in Central Europe!” While the experience was surreal, hilarious, and thoroughly entertaining, the club wasn’t great and I left after only a short visit. Another night I wound up in a club that’s in a boat on the Vltava, appropriately named Boat Club. It was much more authentic and local, and the river at night was very peaceful and beautiful. I do love adventures.

Classes are also going incredibly well. We’ve had two weeks now, and I love them all. The core classes are very practical and engaging, and provide an excellent supplement to my education at Whitman. The electives are really fun. In Script Analysis, we watch a movie one week and the next watch it again with the teacher’s commentary, and he’s super funny and insightful. Plus we get to watch some awesome, classic movies, and a fair amount of Czech movies! I haven’t had a Realm of Montage class yet as they’ve both been cancelled, which is a bit unnerving, but our professor is also our editing professor, whose class is one of the better core classes. Honestly though, most of the classes feel like carbon copies; editing, directing, screenwriting.. We basically just watch short movies and clips and analyze them in a pretty general way that doesn’t seem to apply super directly to the specific discipline being taught. They’re all fun, but it’s not always the most applicable lesson to what we’re going to end up doing. Sound also follows that format, but our professor is absolutely hilarious and on point, and is an excellent teacher. He doesn’t have a problem with specificity like the other classes. Plus he plays awesome clips… Acting is sort of hit or miss, and we’ve done some really good and not so good exercises with it. Our film language teacher is quite roundabout, but actually an incredible storyteller. Cinematography is pure information, and lots of it. Screenwriting is actually pretty great, and our professor is really really cool. We’re working on our stories now, and we pitch them this Friday to the school’s faculty. I’m in a group co-directing with my friend Beth, and my friend Katie is the director of photography. We’re working very well together thus far, and we’re really excited about our idea! I won’t give away what our story is, but if it passes the pitch, I’ll give a hint. Oh, and the final class I’m taking is Introduction to Producing, which is a super practical, business and creative approach to producing. Sounds kind of boring by that description.. But actually, after one class I think it’s already my favorite. The prof is HILARIOUS yet deadpan, teaches really straightforwardly, and is constantly throwing in life advice to his lessons. Also, he gave us a scenario where his “best way” to approach a situation ended up dancing on the tables drunk. So he’s pretty cool. Oh, and also really professional and experienced! People have actually used his final project, an entire plan for a movie that can be real or fake, to procure funding for (documentary) projects they wanted to make and made them. So that’s actually really really exciting that it’s so real-world and practical. It’s going to be invaluable I think. Oh, also, he told us totally seriously that you need to account for bribes for shooting in third world countries but can’t put it in the budget, otherwise you can’t get anything done. So that was an interesting tidbit!

In my free time I’ve been running up Petrin and going to the gym (rarely, let’s be honest..), and watching a lot of movies to attempt to better participate in conversations with my friends, who are all so much better versed in directors and movies of all sorts than I. So I’ve seen three Coen Brothers films since I’ve been here, as well as Nymphomaniac, the new (and my first) Lars Von Trier movie. It was very thought provoking, and no doubt provided tons of deep conversation (not that I’ll ever talk to anyone not my own age about it, given the nature it’s title suggests..). Which I really do enjoy participating in, so it’s actually pretty nice to have this peer pressure push to finally watch all the movies I know I should watch. I’m going to try and watch all the best picture nominees in the next few weeks, though I’m really not that far off already. There’s so much to do! Life is busy! Life is great!

I’ve also realized why people love Prague, I think! I mean, it’s cheap and easy to get around, yes, but why do people think it’s the most beautiful city in Europe? My hypothesis is that it’s because it’s totally medieval. Until my trip to Berlin I had no point of comparison, but I see now: if most European cities are like Berlin in this regard, then they don’t have so entirely ancient buildings and streets. Prague is seriously almost all that way, so it really does feel so old and authentic. Which it is, as it was largely untouched in the war. I guess I knew that, but only with a point of comparison did I fully comprehend what made it so much prettier (arguably). Maybe I’m wrong, maybe I’m generalizing, or maybe that should have been obvious all along, but that’s just a recent insight I had while in the “medieval” part of Berlin. I guess further exploration of European cities will yield more explanations. (For some reason that seriously pulled me out of the here and now just now and I had a huge “Whoa. I’m in Europe for the first time ever. This is amazing and hard to believe” moment…)

Well, I think that brings us up to date!

Bytes of Bohemia

By Griff Jones, Whitman College

January 21, 2014: En Route

I’m currently sitting in the Chicago airport, two hours away from my first solo international flight to Frankfurt.  I’ve never been to Europe, but later today that won’t be true.  Until May 16th I’ll be studying and making film in Prague, and then I’ll be taking a two week trip around Europe.  So at 4 a.m. my time, 11 a.m. their time, I’ll be landing in my new home.

I hope to use this blog as a venue for friends and family to keep up to date with what I’m doing, but also to ruminate upon and digest my experiences.  I’ll be getting a look at a culture I have little familiarity with and visiting places that I expect will broaden my horizons, so I’m sure there will be plenty to write about!  The program I’m in is a film production intensive at FAMU, the oldest film school in Europe.  The first two weeks I’ll be learning Czech, then take eight weeks of classes on everything and anything to do with making movies, and then end the semester with six weeks spent making a movie with one or two fellow classmates.

The first thing I realized despite the nerves and excitement as I sat in Springfield’s airport earlier, was that I don’t really miss anyone.  I don’t mean this maliciously, of course, I just wonder if the nature of missing loved ones or friends has changed these days.  I said goodbye to my parents, but I’ll be sending them an email or wifi text in a couple of days.  My friends back home are all reachable even though they’re an ocean away.  I understand that I should miss them, but when I can still talk to them and know I’ll be seeing them in a few months, it takes the weightiness of their absence away.  I’m reading The Unbearable Lightness of Being, a classic Czech novel, and Milan Kundera opens the book by arguing the merits of heaviness and lightness as opposite ways of viewing the world.  If I understand correctly, heaviness lends importance to any given situation as an event that is unrepeatable and therefore worthwhile; lightness makes life less serious, as everything will happen as it will and life goes on.  I’m not certain which perspective I subscribe to or prefer, but I think that relationships are made lighter with the connections that the modern world provides us.  Yes, I miss my friends and family, but I know I’ll see them again in a few months, and if I really miss them, I’m not separated from them really.  I wonder how much harder it was to miss a loved one, how much heavier parting and absence was, before the internet.  Which is so strange to think about: never having lived without the internet I feel so young and naive!

So, while you can reach me in any number of ways with the wonderful internet, I plan to live presently for this experience.  So I’ll probably avoid social media and excessive communication back home.  Prague, here and now (there and tomorrow, rather), is an important, once in a lifetime opportunity.  I’m excited to live heavily.

I’ll also be quite embarrassed if I’m misinterpreting Kundera!

 

January 26, 2014

It’s our first day off today, and we’re fully taking advantage of being lazy in my apartment.  Today is my fifth day in Prague… I think?  It feels like way longer, honestly.  It’s been an amazing week; the city is incredible and we’re getting more familiar with our area daily, and the people I’m with are wonderful.  I live with two guys, one is my roommate and the other has a single, and we live in a pretty nice apartment on the fourth floor of an incredibly central building.  As in the most touristy sites in the city are literally a ten minute walk and our school is five minutes away.  We cross the street to get to the national theater and are a block away from the river.  It’s crazy how lucky we are to be here.  There’s no end to the bars and restaurants and cafes in our neighborhood, and we’re discovering just how close and easy everywhere else is to get to via trams and metro.  It’s a totally new experience for me; the only other city I’ve lived in now was LA.  Which is completely different, as cities and culture goes.  No surprise there, though..

The people in my group are awesome.  Unfortunately, I’ve only met twelve of them, as the last three won’t be arriving until February due to visa issues.  When I heard that, while I sympathize because that’s awful, I definitely counted my blessings for getting here without any issues.  The number of people who warned me about lost baggage made me almost more than half expect to not have my suitcase waiting for me here.  But I’m here without a hitch!  

The first few days were spent familiarizing ourselves with the general plan for the semester and cultural studies, as well as some basic language.  We had two walking tours to the places that we need to be able to get to, and yesterday had a tour of the Hrad, the main castle from an energetic Czech woman who was a fount of local knowledge.  She even pointed us to the location of a headless ghost that’s supposed to appear at midnight, so there may be an excursion there at some point…  The castle itself, as well as St. Vitus Cathedral, were incredibly beautiful.  St. Vitus is the first cathedral I’ve ever been in, actually.  I acknowledge that I myself am a tourist, but the amount of tourists there detracted from any semblance of spirituality there, in my opinion.  Regardless it was beautiful and I plan to return before too long.  

The cultural differences are somewhat striking for me.  The Czechs LOVE their beers, which I can appreciate myself, but there is also a lot of smoking here.  I’ve resigned myself to the fact that all of my clothes are going to smell like cigarettes at the end of the semester, unfortunately.  

So today, after almost a week of exploring the city and seeing the sites, we’re finally getting some downtime.  Naturally, we’re going to go explore the city some more!  But slowly.  We were out until 3:30 a.m. last night, experiencing some of the Prague nightlife, and it was so much fun.  

This week we start our full time Czech classes, and it’s going to be really nice to be better equipped to communicate with people.  Czech is hard to pronounce though.  Our street, V jirchářích, is pronounced “veer-ha-jeek,” and we’re still struggling with it sometimes, but luckily it’s supposed to be one of the more difficult things we’ll have to pronounce.  Oh, also, the other Whitties are joining us in Prague tomorrow, so it’ll be really great to see them!

I just can’t believe how little time we’ve been here.  I’m so, so excited for the rest of the semester knowing that this incredible week was only a tiny scratch at the surface and there’s so much more to do and experience.  And with such incredible people.  I can’t emphasize that enough.  

11/18/2013

Fall 2013, Issue II

NewsletterBannerPrague686x101
IMG_6597GREETINGS FROM THE CITY OF A HUNDRED SPIRES - PRAGUE!

The Fall 2013 Film Studies semester is half way through and we are back with some updates on what CIEE students accomplished thus far.

Some of you may have read about their academic overnight trip to Bohemia in a student blog, but we want to make sure that the others won't miss it:

CIEE Academic Overnight trip to Bohemia

The weekend of October 4-6th, Film Studies students went to the Bohemia region to attend Písek International Student Film Festival and enjoy a nice hike to Castle Kašperk. We believe that pictures are often better than words, so now you will be able see for yourselves how much fun they had. Laurel Schwartz (Scripps College) was kind enough to share her videoblog with us:

 

CIEE Halloween party

On Wednesday, October 30th, CIEE Study Center Prague organized their first Halloween party. All Prague programs were invited and Czech buddies helped with the organization. And the evening was a blast - best student and Czech buddy Halloween costume was announced (and awarded), everyone got a chance to taste various kinds of trick or treat candy, jack 'o' lanterns made by students during the interest group activity decorated the premises and everyone had fun!

IMG_3927

Flat buddy organized activities

Flat buddies planned some more cool immersive activities since you got our last newsletter! Students are always excited for cooking lessons, art & film festivals and exhibitions, but one of the most interesting events was probably a tour of Prague given by local homeless men, Karim and Emil (see the picture below) which is organized by Pragulic Organization. Seeing the city through their eyes was truly interesting for all students.

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photo courtesy of Chelsea Steeb

CIEE Open mic night (all CIEE Prague programs get-together)

On Tuesday, November 12th, students from all three CIEE programs (FS, CES, CNMJ) enjoyed a get-together event with CIEE staff and buddies: the legendary OPEN MIC NIGHT! Participation was amazing (more than 70 people came) and we had 9 outstanding performances + free karaoke at the end. There was a good variety of performances, so we enjoyed singing, musical instruments playing, poetry and even folklore dance! One of the best performers was Edan Laniado from the Film Studies program who played the piano and sang few of his own songs. 

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Screenwriting track pitch

We have reached the second half of the semester, so on Wednesday, November 13th, FS Academic Advisor Mary invited FAMU screenwriting professors Jan Fleischer and Pavel Jech and directing professor Asmara Marek to the Screenwriting track pitch. CIEE FS Program coordinator and Production track students also joined this event. Nicole, Alex, Jamie, and Edan introduced their screenplays and received some useful feedback on how to make their characters livelier, along with other various tips for improvement. All stories pitched were quite interesting and FAMU mentors seemed happy with students' progress. We can't wait for the final screenplay presentations on the final day - it still remains to be decided whether authors introduce their screenplays or ask actors to rehearse a couple of their dialogues (and learn how to direct them in the meantime).

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Production track: preproduction

Students enrolled in the Production track have also been busy lately. The last two weeks were dedicated to locations scouting, casting, meetings with mentors and production managers and other preparations. Friday and Saturday, November 15-16, were dedicated to the camera orientation when students got their hands on the 16mm film equipment. And on Sunday, they started making their 7-10' films - so let's keep our fingers crossed for them!

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photo courtesy of EJ Kennelly

Kutná Hora Trip

By Nikki Kiga, University of Washington

September 18, 2013

Our first trip outside of Prague was to a town called Kutná Hora. First our tour bus took us to the Chapel of All Saints that is famous for its decorations. It’s said that the ossuary is adorned with bones from 40,000 people. I wish I had photos of this sight but sadly a few of us missed the memo that we were going inside. We found ourselves sipping espresso in a nearby café in a feeble attempt to open our groggy eyes more.

Next our bus ventured further into the town of Kutná Hora. Our guide then led us to the Saint Barbara’s Church. It’s one of the most famous gothic churches in Europe and is now an UNESCO world heritage site. St. Barbara is the patron saint of miners and Kutná Hora was a crucial silver mining area. It was incredible to look up in the church and to see all the various family crests on the ceiling. Apparently the church began construction in 1388 but due to various interruptions was not finished until the 19th century. I loved looking at all the different stained glass windows. My favorite is the one below. Our guide also informed us that the first representations of the orange and the monkey are in St. Barbara’s Church.

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Next, we hungrily made our way to a traditional Czech restaurant where we ate mushroom soup and baked chicken. After gorging ourselves on the meal and complimentary Danish desserts we were ready to continue. We wandered the streets of Kutná Hora for a bit looking at the various buildings and Plague memorial. We then came to our last stop of the day. The mine. We got to dress in white lab coats and helmuts and carry an old fashion flashlight into the damp cold mines. It truly was dark down there and we could only imagine what a life it would be to be a miner. Our guide told us that often the miners would be down in the mines for up to 6 days at a time—with only a little bread and water to sustain them. Many of us felt uncomfortable since the passages were very narrow or short. We could see why our guide had repeatedly warned us that anyone with claustrophobia should not continue on this part of the tour. I didn’t find the mine scary but I was rather glad to see some sunshine after spending twenty minutes underground.

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All in all, our trip to Kutná Hora was very informative and quite pretty despite the overcast day. 

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photos courtesy of Nicole Lauria

10/14/2013

Písek Academic Overnight Trip

The weekend of October 4-6th, Film Studies students went to Bohemia region to attend Písek international student film festival and enjoy a nice hike to the castle of Kašperk. We believe that pictures are often better then words, so now you will be able see for yourselves how much fun they had. Laurel Schwartz (Scripps College) shared her videoblog with us:

 

06/20/2013

Lidice & Terezín

CIEE organizes optional academic day trips to Terezín and Lidice every semester. See what one of the S13 participants had to say about this trip.

Lidice & Terezín

by Brittany Santagata, Lafayette College

Monday, 25 March 2013

Last weekend I took a trip to Lidice, an old Jewish town, and Terezin, a military fortress turned Jewish prison. Lidice was a small town, with about 270 inhabitants before the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia in 1939. Reinhard Heydrich, a high-ranking Nazi official, and a main protagonist in the extermination of all Jews, was assassinated by Czech paratroopers in 1942; Lidice was chosen as the site of Nazi revenge for his murder because some men were fighting for the organization that planned Heydrich's murder. The town was obliterated; The men were shot, women and children were sent to concentration camps, and children with an Aryan look were given to German families. The town was burned to the ground.

The site of the former town, Lidice
A memorial for the children of the town


Terezin was built as a military fortress in the 18th century after the Austrian-Prussian Wars; it was used as military barracks, with some buildings functioning as prisons. After the arrival of Reinhard Heydrich in Prague, thousands of Czechs were deported to ghettos and concentration camps. Terezin was chosen to be used as a ghetto, to serve as a "propaganda camp"to extinguish criticism from abroad and from the German population. People believed that Terezin was a more "comfortable" camp; the first Jewish inhabitants arrived in the fall of 1941 and it was liberated on May 8th, 1945. Between these years, 140,000 Jews lived in Terezin. Since the camp was used as propaganda, people were rarely directly killed; however, the living conditions were so horrendous that many died from starvation, over-work, or typhoid, which became an epidemic in the camp. There were so many bodies that a crematorium was built to incinerate them due to lack of room for the overwhelming amount of graves.

Although conditions were unbearable, the camp inhabited many artists, including musicians, painters, sculptors, etc. The gallery of this art was both beautiful and sad; I was surprised to see so many uplifting drawings and paintings done by artists in horrific conditions, but the real images were almost unbearable. The art depicted life in the camp where they had to illegally create music and art, including putting on plays, operas, and chorus performances. Hitler actually put several artists and intellectuals in the camp on purpose; he wanted to contain them in one place to insure that their ideas not spread across Europe. Also, since the camp was used as propaganda, the cultural events that the prisoners worked on could be used as a disguise for what was really occurring there.

Art from the children of Terezin

 

Soil from surrounding concentration camps

 

A secret synagogue found in Terezin in later years.

Graves of those that passed away after liberation from starvation, weakness, and typhoid.



Offices of the soldiers


"Labor makes you free" posted in several camps

 


 

Living quarters for the Jews 
The tunnel where prisoners on death row were once held when the camp was a military prison.


When discussing the Holocaust I always get disheartened hearing statistics; referring to the sufferers using facts like that is assigning numbers to them, the same thing the Nazis did. Instead, hearing anecdotes or seeing personal belongings of the victims allows a better understanding of how atrocious the crimes against them were. It becomes a very personal experience whether you are Jewish or not. I found myself thinking about walking the same path the Jews walked to their work or how it could have felt to get separated from my mother in Lidice. I continuously tried to see faces, names, and real stories.

What I found strange was the fact that there was an entire town now in Terezin; the small fortress where most of the deaths took place is still in its original condition, frequented by visitors. The rest of the land, on the other hand, is inhabited; I couldn't help but think: how could someone live here knowing what occurred right under their feet?

Experiences like these remind me of how lucky I am to be safe, happy, and to live freely. You always think to yourself: how could something like the Holocaust happen? How could so many people allow this? The worst part is that genocide still occurs today in many parts of the world, unnoticed, or worse: noticed and left alone.

Trekking the Moravian Land (CIEE Academic Overnight trip)

By Brittany Santagata, Lafayette College

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

A few weeks ago, my 9-person film program went to Moravia, another region of the Czech Republic, along with 5 communications and new media students in CIEE. It was refreshing to interact with a few new faces, who all were pretty interesting. Moravia consists of most of Eastern Czech Republic, containing the second largest city in the country, Brno. We visited the third largest city, Olomouc, known for its rich culture in the arts, whose population largely consists of students. We had lunch with local film/media/journalism students and visited their school, a renovated beautiful chapel that nobody would mind to have class in. In the Czech Republic, 5 years of high school is completed before going on to a 3-year bachelor's program. Subsequently, it is very common for most students to realize their master's degree in two years. At the time of our visit, the students were preparing for a large science and educational film festival, Academia Film Olomouc, which is held in the city every April.

At the top of the Bata Skyscraper

 The next day we traveled to Zlín, a city built by Tomáš Bata, the "Henry Ford of Eastern Europe," except with shoes and accessories. He began Bata Shoe Organization in August of 1894, progressively built the company, and worked to modernize the city throughout his lifetime. He became the mayor of Zlín and did an immense amount of urban development. The company became the largest shoe retailer in the world in the 1930s and still exists today. We went to the Bata Skyscraper, one of the first high risers in Europe and the second tallest at its time of creation. It functioned as the company's administrative headquarters, and now acts as the city's headquarters. We also went to the Tomas Bata University, saw some student films, and met with one of the students, Tereza. I asked her if the students shot on film, digital, or both; she responded by saying, "only digital; it would be a dream to shoot on film," something every FAMU student gets to partake in during their bachelor's program.

View of Zlín from the top of the skyscraper

Probably everyone's favorite part of the trip was wine tasting in Uherské Hradište within a local's wine cellar in his own home. Moravia has been known for its wine, especially white, since 3rd century AD and is still appreciated today. Both the wine and the extreme hospitality of this family was amazing.


The last day of the trip we went to the Moravsky Kras (Moravian Karst) region and explored caves carved by prolonged water abrasions. I felt like we were in The Goonies, but they were really beautiful and it was revitalizing to be in nature again.




 

04/18/2013

When I Die Bury Me Inside.....

by Naomi Bullock, Beloit College

Saturday, February 9, 2013

It feels amazing to have this to blog about today:Kutná Hora. My group visited this central city of this Bohemian Czech area and wandered through gothic cathedrals, historic side streets and bone churches. Personally I found thestained glass of the worship house a bit too stylized for my liking, but none the less beautiful to look at. The bonechurch,Kostnice, was hauntingly beautiful to be in. Strange how a room of 40,000 people could feel so spacious. The faces became repetitive as I realized, it all look exactly the same in the end unless, you know, you end up as a chandelier. I guess that makes you afterlife fancy huh?  

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02/18/2013

Lost in Translation

By Brittany Santagata, Lafayette College

February 16th, 2013

Our small, nine-person program got a tour of Barrandov Studio yesterday, one of the largest studios in Europe. Films such as Amadeus (1984), The Bourne Identity (2002), Van Helsing (2004), Oliver Twist (2005), The Illusionist (2006), The Omen (2006), and Casino Royale (2006) have been shot there, and that is only a short list of a few internationally recognizable ones. We were shown a large set where replicas of old European cities' streets were built into one large complex as well as all of their prop and costume rooms. The most interesting part of the tour was the film lab, where the film is mass developed, then color graded and contrast adjusted, etc. The machines were flawless, although a semi-outdated process at this point. In today's film industry, most footage is shot digitally, without film, making the developing process obsolete. Its really a shame though because part of the art of film is completely lost in translation. When you work with film you have to make sure your set, lighting, contrast, etc. are close to perfect because you can't make all the changes you can when using digital.

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What the set looks like from the inside!

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