Who is talking?
First, let me give you some background about who’s perspective you are about the hear out: I am Czech. Born in this country and graduated from Czech high school; however, I had spent a year abroad as an exchange student in California before I graduated one year after my return. My experience from abroad gave me the confidence to study in English and the preference for Anglo-American teaching style. In the first semester I passed all my classes with above-average results and even managed to participate on the University life as a member of the Student Council. As a result of that I have experience which is still quite fresh and yet quite thorough as I have been dealing with the staff and faculty much more than most students do.
International student body
One of the best things about the school is the international community. The concentration of different nationalities, cultures and background stories represented by the group of just over 600 students is staggering. If you enjoy such environment, you will be in heaven at AAU; nevertheless, there are some drawbacks. The communication is complicated by the level of English which varies significantly among the students. Even the English levels among the professors vary. Don’t expect you will like all the nationalities. You will likely develop biases and sympathies for many nationalities in the first few weeks of school. Communication is complicated by the different customs people bring from their countries but even this can be seen as a part of the whole learning experience.
One more point to be made here is that many of the students come to AAU as exchange students. These students tend to be generally less concerned with their academic performance and with the school in general. For example when I had an exchange student on a team for a group project, we ran into difficulties because the exchange student went to various trips on weekends and wasn’t able to meet with the group which affected the performance of the group as a whole. These exchange students contribute to the variety of the student population but at the same time, they don’t allow the school to fully develop as they don’t feel the need to improve the school. Also, the exchange students tend to hang out together and go to the events organized by their agency. Because of that, they are not fully integrated into the school culture. It is complicated to make them a part of the community… to make a friend in someone who you know is going to leave in few months can cost you more emotion than you want to spend.
Advice I wish somebody have given me: Be patient, bad English doesn’t mean bad ideas. Be aware of what biases you have developed and counter them with trying to expect an exception to the rule in every new person you speak to.
Having classmates from different parts of the world is one thing; but AAU is not just an international melting pot for students. Also the lecturers found their way to AAU from many different places all over the planet. The teaching styles and the difficulty levels differ a lot.
What you may notice after some time at the university is the clash of the Czech teaching style and the American approach. The Czech approach can go like this:” Here is twenty-five pages of notes I will hand out. The covered topics are divided into twenty questions. On the final test, you will be assigned three of the questions and write everything you can remember from my notes about it.” The American approach could handle the same topic in a different way: “You will read those 8 chapters in the book and write few essays and take the fins which will have open essay as well as multiple choice questions”.
Advice I wish somebody have given me: Don’t be afraid to ask older students to help you pick the classes which you will not suffer in. People will want to help you and will be probably flattered by your interest in their insider knowledge.
Location of the school is another distinguishing feature. The school building is located on a very exclusive spot right by the famous Charles Bridge which is almost constantly flooded by streams of tourists. The Lesser Town (Mala Strana) is beautiful, historical and expensive part of town. Many of the most important institutions of the Czech government are located in spitting distance of the campus building. The close neighborhood is also where many embassies can be found. That all sounds perfect until you realize that all this comes with a price of… high prices. Which is a very relative term to use. It is an expensive place for a Czech student. It may also be worth mentioning that there is no cafeteria and no student housing offered by AAU… nonetheless it is a beautiful and very approachable place thanks to the very efficient public transit system in Prague.
Digression: The Campus – Present and the new
The University has been growing and the presently used buildings are becoming too small. The school is going to move to a new campus building which will be larger, closer to the AAU library and just… better. It is a bit closer to the metro. There is going to be a student caffe. There is a central garden in the palace and adjacent to the school building is a beautiful park. If everything goes according to the plan, the refurbishing of the new campus should cease in summer 2014 and first classes of Fall 2014 semester ought to commence there.
The difficulty of the school is dependent on the choice of teachers who’s classes you take. Generally speaking though, it is not really hard to pass even if you don’t put a lot of effort into it. However, if you want to attain a high GPA to be eligible for a merit based scholarship or to get to a study abroad program, you will need to invest a lot of time and energy into doing your work.
Prague is a lively city and even without the knowledge of the local language, you will find abundance of opportunities to enjoy yourself. As far as AAU is concerned, there is not really much going on… The student Council organizes parties, there are a few student clubs which do not show a lot of activity. Time to time, there are opportunities to join field trips. It is wise though not to expect much more than classes from the Anglo-American University. Having high expectation can leave you disappointed. There is hope that things are going to change for the better. Very gradually though. The new campus can help a lot I believe.