My college hunt was very exciting and yielded further insight into Czech and American universities as well as other colleges abroad. I also discovered significant differences between private and government-funded higher education systems…
In this article I would like to address some of the facts and explain how I chose my college for undergraduate studies.
Let’s start with the big surprise. The university I have been accepted into is the Anglo American University in Prague; my major will be Business Administration with an Emphasis on Marketing and Communications.
Field of study
Well, I have always liked marketing and PR. My assets are a year of experience in PR at the Observatory and a resumé often deemed as impressive.
But studying marketing for the sake of marketing seems too easy and won’t provide me with versatility or a widely-applicable range of skills, which I currently see as my greatest advantage. Of course I will have to specialize in some area eventually… but for now, I might as well grow in as many directions as I am able to keep up with. The market will appreciate it one day. And if not – knowing more is always good.
The way I see it:
There are the fun majors and there are the useful and income-granting majors. The first category may include art, political science, philosophy and … yes, I am putting marketing to this category. Marketing, however, is definitely more “real life” than philosophy.
The “useful major category” would include courses focusing on Computer Science, Econ, Math…
And if you yourself consider one of the useful majors as fun… Congratulations, you’ve won a lottery.
So marketing is cool, fun, and important. But marketing is just an extension of a company, product, or service. Some overview and understanding of the entire business combined with original ideas are, in my perspective, what make a good marketer great. Ability to have original ideas cannot be taught (or at least in traditional school); business administration can be. And this wider focus of the program doesn’t grant me just more skills and knowledge, it also provides the graduate with bigger chances for potential future growth in management positions and beyond.
And this is exactly what I found being offered in the programs at the Anglo American University in Prague; specifically business administration programs with emphasis on marketing. It’s probably something similar to taking a business administration major and a marketing minor in american universities. But… there are other advantages.
Visa/work permit stuff
Being a citizen of EU, I have the awesome advantage of being able to go to so many places to study or work without having to deal with a lot of paperwork. This was one of the main decision factors for not going back to the USA (right now). The other factor (quite obviously) is the financial aspect. Also, in Prague, there are quite a lot of opportunities for skilled workers (especially for those fluent in English). Furthermore, the PR and marketing industries are… not as mature, compared to the West. That provides me with even more opportunities as far as part-time jobs during studies are concerned.
I found the acceptance processes to higher education institutions to be one of the best signs of how that entire system works. In traditional continental universities, the cornerstone of the decision about acceptance lies within the result of a test – an entrance exam you are invited to take when you express your interest in the given university. The way I see it… you fill out a few papers under great stress in a pretty hostile environment, then they “convert” you into a number (based on your test performance) and the top 20% of the test-takers will be admitted. It’s slightly exaggerated but the core idea really is like this.
Of course this is understandable given the limited budget and number of students these institutions have to take care of but I personally favor the Anglo-American alternative. Together with my application, I had to submit my resumé: two letters of recommendation, a motivation letter, and I was invited for an interview. This is how you pick good or great people… unfortunately, what I see around me is that the prettier the transcript someone has, the less interesting his/her life is…
Of course you have the SAT in America and some Universities in Europe take a more personalized approach to evaluating prospective students… but the world is never black and white. The bottom line is: Anglo-American Universities have an exceptionally personal approach, which has given these institutions important plus-points when it came down to my final decision.
Anglo-American higher education system
The admission process is really the first place where you can notice significant differences between US and British schools, compared to what Czech public Universities have to offer. In continental Europe the usual university works quite differently. No homework, no grades, nothing… and then there is this much feared exam period. The usual practice is to not do very much for school and then freak out a few days before the exam; which is usually oral, and whatever questions are going to be asked and whether you pass or fail depends on the examiner.
Anglo American Universities embrace the tradition of a teaching culture, which is not offered by the public schools in the country. Small interactive classes, attendance, and participation are part of the grade. The grading scale itself is more objective. Being able to defend my standpoints and formulate opinions – these “non tangible” qualities are taken into account. Thus, this environment is not only more friendly and pleasant to be in, but also more procrastination-resistant.
It isn’t better for everyone, but the more personalized approach and interactivity are what make this system something I am much more likely to succeed in.
Prague and location within
Prague is not so bad. Pretty cheap for a big city, kind of international, safe and with plenty of opportunities. It’s very likely not my final destination but a good “hub” to central Europe and beyond. And also, it’s kind of not ugly:
The location of the school is just exquisite… in the historical city centre, in the vicinity of some of the most beautiful spots in the city… right next to Charles bridge on Mala Strana, and a couple meters away from the Chamber of Deputies building.
It’s also about two minutes from the nearest metro station. I would argue that its location would push it to the list of top ten most beautiful places to study. But it is not only pretty, it has all you need… public transit, food and entertainment in walking distance of the main building and even though you can find cheaper restaurants in the country, it is somewhat affordable.
This school has the best study abroad options of everywhere I have seen (it has the most and biggest range of options). I definitely plan to spend my second year undergraduate abroad. There is not just Erasmus (which also has a program to do internship abroad!) but also bilateral agreements with other Universities… some of them are pretty interesting: South Korea, Uruguay, Australia… And this school (unlike many public universities) doesn’t give you a hard time for doing something outstanding.
But the international aspect is not just studying abroad… seventy percent (!) of the school population is composed of foreign students- either full time or via some exchange program. If you want to make friends around the world, this sounds like THE place to be.
Financial aspect + time of studying
Let’s face it – it’s really cheap. Not free like public universities, but for all the benefits described in this article, it is at least reasonably priced. What I pay for the entire experience and degree is roughly equivalent to just one year’s worth of tuition for any California State College. Plus the european Bachelor degree (Bc.) requires three years to finish, compared with four years to be awarded an american Bachelor. Not mentioning lower living costs.
Yes I could be studying for free, but some things are worth paying for.
And there is more. But this article is already too long for anyone to finish reading it.
For instance: This school is non-profit organization. Interesting fact: it fosters the biggest library of English-written books available in the country…
Get in touch with me if you want to hear more.