Welcome from Jiri Pehe, Director

jiri-peheDear NYU Prague Student:

I am very happy that you have decided to spend next semester at NYU’s Prague site.

As so many of your predecessors who have chosen Prague as their study abroad campus, you’re sure to find your stay in Prague a fascinating experience that may even change your life. This isn’t only because Prague is a truly extraordinary and beautiful place, which is situated at the crossroads of many European cultures, but also because you will have the opportunity to intimately get to know another culture. This kind of international experience is essential for anyone who wants to succeed in the global community which is coming into being at the beginning of the 21th century.

Prague is not just the capital of the Czech Republic; in many ways it represents the essence of Central Europe. In Prague you will learn about the legacy of a region whose cultural and intellectual achievements played an important role in forming Western civilization.

Central Europe is an interesting paradox. Its unique place in European history and its geographical location, as well as its special blend of national cultures and religions, including a traditionally strong Jewish community, gave rise to a powerful culture and a plethora of impressive intellectual achievements.

Perhaps because of its uniqueness, Central Europe has always been at the core of European culture and identity. Certainly, when seen from the outside, for example from the United States, European identity owes a great deal to Central Europe. Its cultural achievements are as important as, for example, Anglo-Saxon political traditions, French rationalism, Italian art, or German intellectual and industrial achievements.

Before its disintegration into small nation states, Central Europe was a unified area in which many different groups and cultures coexisted. Although this coexistence was not always entirely peaceful, overall the region produced its own specific brand of culture and gave the world leading intellectuals of the time. In fact, while the Hapsburg monarchy in its final stages was a crumbling, weak giant, it was simultaneously an intellectual and cultural superpower. Names such as Sigmund Freud, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Edmund Husserl, Gustav Mahler, Egon Schiele, Gustav Klimt, Franz Kafka, Robert Musil, Franz Werfel, Hermann Broch, Jaroslav Hasek, Oskar Kokoschka, Josef Roth, and Leos Janacek are just very few examples of the amazing array of talents which the region managed to produce in a relatively short period of time.

Prague is special, however, not only because it is in the heart of Central Europe. It is also the capital of a country that has in the last two decades undergone a tremendous transformation from communism to democracy. From that point of view, Prague is an excellent laboratory for those students who are interested in the processes of post-authoritarian transformation or in the creation of a market economy.

Today, Prague is a vibrant city, with many museums, concert halls, theatres, cafes and jazz clubs. It certainly offers a lot to students who are interested in culture, art and music, but as well it’s an attractive destination for those who are simply interested in exciting night life in a gorgeous setting.

NYU Prague is located in one of the most beautiful parts of Prague, just next to the historical Old Town Square. Although our academic center buildings originate from the 14th century, they offer all the amenities of a modern academic institution.

Our students are housed in dormitories that are also newly renovated historical buildings. In their evaluations, our students often remark that NYU housing in Prague is incomparable with anything they have experienced before.

The menu of courses we offer should be able to satisfy students with a wide range of academic interests. Classes are taught by the country’s top intellectuals, some of whom participated directly in the events of the velvet revolution that brought down the communist regime. Many of our faculty members have also played important roles in transforming Czech society since 1989.

At NYU Prague, we are also very proud of the wide selection of extracurricular activities that we offer our students. These activities range from interesting guest lectures about topics of the day, to craft workshops and sporting events. We also arrange outings to concerts and museums and screen films for our students, with introductory talks given by the Czech Republic’s most renown directors. The large number of such activities allows our students form a very close community and make many new and lasting friendships. At the same time, we also organize events that make it possible for American students to meet Czech students.

I am always moved when I receive letters from our former students or when I meet them after they’ve left Prague. Their reactions are always the same: “My stay in Prague was a life-transforming experience. I can’t wait to go back.” We are always happy to see our former students again in Prague. We are certain that we will be able to form the same close relationship with you. I look forward to meeting you in January.

Se srdecnym pozdravem,

Jiri Pehe


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