Category Archives

11 Articles

The Green Fairy

The PSP blog has covered many topics, ranging from the culture and history of the Czech people to be benefits of study abroad programs. Today’s entry will focus on an interesting cultural artifact that is perfectly legal in Prague, one that you’ve likely seen referenced in 19th and 20th century literature. If you’re an adventurous type and you decide to come along with us to the city of Prague for your European study abroad program, you’ll have the opportunity to try Absinthe.

Nicknamed the “Green Fairy” for its color and effects, Absinthe was invented in the late 18th century. It is a licorice flavored alcoholic beverage that contains wormwood. It’s the wormwood (vermouth in German) and its high alcohol content that gives the drink its hallucinogenic properties (I say hallucinogenic, though the chemical that’s in wormwood that is a hallucinogenic, thujone, is present in such low doses that the drink won’t really cause you to see much of anything). From Arthur Rimbaud to Édouard Manet (see his painting, “The Absinthe Drinker”), Absinthe has been enjoyed by many great artists seeking otherworldly or mind-altering experiences. Now, we don’t recommend trying Absinthe without caution—a hallucinogen is a hallucinogen, after all—but, if used in moderation, Absinthe can provide a welcomed change of scenery, inspiration, and enjoyment.

If you’re interested in seeing a bit of Absinthe’s history and connection to the arts, PSP recommends checking out the work of Baudelaire, Alfred Jarry, Oscar Wilde, and Hemingway. Hemingway first tried Absinthe when he was working as a journalist in the 1920s. Absinthe made it into a few of his greatest novels, and he even invented his own Absinthe cocktail, which was a combination of Absinthe and champagne.

In the 20th century, Absinthe became popular in the bohemian inspired US cultures based in San Francisco and New Orleans. Absinthe with high enough thujone content was banned in the US for roughly 100 years, but the drink was declared legal in 2007.

Finding Time to Write During the Prague Summer Program

by admin

The Prague Summer Program makes a point of giving you ample free time to use as you need. Of course, exploring Prague and traveling is a fine way to use this time (more on that in our other blog posts) but we like to think of the PSP as a generative study-abroad program. The time we give you is yours to use for your writing and, as past students will tell you, the program director Richard Katrovas is particularly open to spontaneously reading work you have just written. Finding time to write can be a challenge even when we´re at home, let alone abroad, but, if you are planning to study abroad as a creative writer, don’t forget to give yourself some time to generate new work. Here are a few tips that might come in handy.

Stay in the Moment: Limit Social Media

At home, you might find yourself thinking about writing…and failing miserably due to distractions. Perhaps you tell yourself, “I’ll just check my Facebook feed once before I begin,” or, “I’ll scroll through Instagram one more time before I begin.” Whatever your social networking poison might be, I’m pretty sure we all know what happens next. An hour later, sometimes several hours later, you have been hooked and your writing life has paid the price. If you are studying abroad, you may feel even more inclined than usual to use social media because you, understandably, want to share your travel experience with folks back home. Do yourself a favor and delete your social networking apps, block Facebook from your web browser, and for the sake of your loved ones, stop taking pictures of your food. Don’t check how many likes your post received. Instead, put that energy into writing. Write an essay about getting lost in Prague. If non-fiction isn´t your thing, write an imaginary interview with the Golem. Stay in the moment. Stay focused.

Take Risks as a Writer (not Just as a Traveler)

Sometimes, letting yourself be swept up in the experience of travel is good for you as a writer. It´s only half the work, however. What starts as exploration can quickly turn into procrastination and subsequent guilt for time lost. The issue is that there is a difference between exploring and taking risks as a traveler and doing so as a writer. The Prague Summer Program has a few useful tips to keep you on the ball.

  • The PSP schedule includes many free mornings and afternoons. Use these to work and leave the fun for your extended weekends. If you sit down to write and nothing happens, use this time to plan which weekday morning or afternoon you will try again. Plan what you will attempt to write when the time comes.
  • Pick a place to work, either in the calm silence of your hotel room (if you have a single) or in a public space conducive to productivity. Prague is full of cafés and the public parks around the Inos hotel offer many nooks to work in private.
  • Write spontaneously. Carry a notebook and allow yourself to jot things down even as you are traveling and exploring the city. If you end up writing something outside of your scheduled work time, edit it when your scheduled time arrives.
  • Take advantage of workshop writing assignments. They´re usually not mandatory, but they can be a lot of fun and usually offer an opportunity for research around Prague.
  • Make a point of showing at least one freshly-written piece to Richard Katrovas during the month of the PSP – even if it´s just one inchoate paragraph! The experience of having something new edited during a conference and, if it´s a fragment, discussing how it could fit into a finished piece is instructive in a different way than discussing work you think you have completed. More importantly, sharing work which you have just written can shatter a lot of barriers which cause writer´s block in the first place.
  • Being in a foreign place makes it more natural to try new things. Take advantage of the spirit of exploration while abroad and make a point of trying something new in your writing – an unfamiliar genre, a subject you have never had the courage to write about, the point of view of a character intimidatingly different from yourself. Step outside your comfort zone, not just as a traveler but as a writer.
  • Don´t be wed to the work you write while abroad. Maybe you´ll never use any of it in your published writing. Embracing imperfection and incompleteness is a major milestone in becoming a more productive artist because it means you can have fun while you create. Make it about the journey, not the destination.

Two Ways to Fund Study Abroad

by admin

Study abroad can be very expensive. The cost of plane tickets alone can be an unwelcomed source of anxiety, and even if you do spend an entire year saving up for a summer study abroad program, you might feel like the costs are way outside of your budget. Don’t give up! You’re a creative writer, so get creative. Here are a couple tips that will help you fund your European study abroad program while playing to your strengths as a creative writer.

Apply for Grants and Scholarships Through Your School

If you are attending a university or community college, speak to an academic advisor about your plans. They will be able to give you some solid information about any funding that is available through your school. If you do plan on pursuing funding through an academic institution, they will likely expect a letter that addresses some concerns your college or university might have. Why would you like to go? How will this school’s academic communities benefit from your European study abroad? Be ready to review your school’s requirements for funding, investigate the costs of your upcoming program, and fill out a formal application that will likely ask for a breakdown of anticipated costs.

Use GoFundMe, or Any Fundraising Website

Fundraising websites are an excellent idea. You can achieve your study abroad dreams without taking on the intimidating financial costs alone. Fundraising websites such as YouCaring, GoEnnounce, GoFundMe, or GoGetFunding are fantastic for collecting the financial backing you might need to make a study abroad program financially possible. Here are a few things to remember as you consider using a fundraising website:

  • The key is writing an honest, interesting, and engaging call to action for potential donors.
  • Keep in mind your fundraising website audiences might have some of the same concerns as your academic audience. Why should they care about your desire to travel? What will this cost, and where is the money going? Be specific.
  • You might receive donations from friends and family if your GoFundMe explores how you will benefit from this experience, but if you want to cast a wider net, be sure to address how your local communities will benefit from your experiences.
  • Once you have completed your fundraising website, share it on as many social media outlets as possible.

Czech Beer and Culture

The Czech love of beer is serious business. If you’re going to attend a study abroad program in Prague, you should know that the brewing of beer is an important part of Czech culture, society, and history. Beer’s long national history can be traced back to records of Czech brewing at the Břevnov Monastery in 933 AD, but there’s solid evidence that the Czech people harvested hops since the first century. What we do know with certainty is this: the Czech know and love their craft.


The culture surrounding beer in Prague is highly social, which makes Prague an excellent choice for a summer creative writing program. Whether you are writing fiction, poetry, or pursuing a career as a professional writer, grabbing a pint at a local bar will likely present opportunities to get a fast and friendly introduction to the basics of Czech culture. The locals prefer to drink with company, frequenting the local pubs, festivals, and beer hotels. What is a beer hotel?! Well, these impressive complexes include a hotel (shocking), a brewery, and usually at least a couple of dining options. Beer hotels are the perfect spot for someone who wishes to engage a growing facet of Czech culture while making sure they stay relaxed and refreshed. No need exhaust yourself by exploring right away; the beer hotel is ideal for that traveler who likes to consider their options without missing out on the fun. Try one out while you decide your next move! Or try one out if you’ve had too much to drink—be safe.

I Drank What?

If you walk into a pub and your server brings a round without taking your order, don’t be surprised. Many bars or pubs in Prague only have one beer on tap, so they’ll bring you what they’ve got. It might be a good idea to check what each place has before you enter. If they’ve got more options, they’ll take your order.

Czech Check, Please

Did I forget to mention that the beer is cheap? I forgot to mention that the beer is cheap. When you visit Prague for your European study abroad program, you can be sure you won’t have to miss out on the fun because of a tight budget. With pints for less than $1.00 (U.S.), you’ll be able to make new friends or join your creative writing workshop cohort without burning a hole in your pocket.

How Does Travel Improve My Writing?

by admin

If you are reading this blog, chances are you are considering a study abroad program to improve your writing. But why? What are the benefits of study abroad programs? What does travel offer that is essential to the development of healthy writing life? Whether you’re a fiction writer or a poet, travel has the power improve your craft while providing inspiration that might be lacking in your day-to-day experiences.

Breaking Bad Habits

Some writers say they rely on ritual for inspiration. “I have to write at this desk.” “I can only write at night,” or “I have to write in the morning.” In other words, I must obey my muse and these are the terms of our agreement. The problem with rituals is they don’t require the writer to discover anything new about themselves. A ritual might lead to useful, reflective moments, but often writers find themselves unable to explore new ideas or concepts if rituals provide too much comfort. When you travel, you reduce your ability to cling to the comfort of ritual. You don’t have the same old desk, the same old chair—you don’t even have the same old you, as constructed by the perspectives of those you encounter most. Travel abroad provides writers with unique opportunities to investigate new cultures, reexamine their comfort zones, and thoughtfully engage in new social situations that call for an awareness of language and communication that helps redefine our positions as global citizens. The result?

Challenge, Creativity, and Intimacy

Something beautiful happens when we travel. Our imaginations take over; our creativity gets a jolt that seems to keep the writing coming. When we encounter new sensory experiences, we increase our chances of heightened creative productivity. Here are a few tips to make sure you are getting the most out of your time abroad:

  • Pay close attention to what you taste, touch, see, smell, and hear. You must truly fall in love with the details.
  • Talk to new people. The more friendships you develop, the better!
  • Enjoy the local cuisine. If you haven’t heard of it, try it.
  • Get off the beaten path. Explore the roads less traveled. If you have made friends with members of the local community, ask them for recommendations (or to come along).

No matter where your travels take you, your writing life is sure to follow.

Planning Extracurricular Activities for Your Study Abroad Trip

by admin

When you budget for a study abroad experience, you get more than just the opportunity to engage with a culture you have never experienced directly. You also gain the opportunity to study literature in its original context, to see the places and feel the historic impact of both the stories and the events they portray. If you are a fiction writer looking for experience abroad that will help you connect more deeply to the places you have lived and the stories that come from them, then you need the experience that comes from knowing the place you will go, not just the course material.

One of the best ways to make sure you have a full experience is to fill your weekends and evening off times with sights and activities that will help to ground you in the location you are visiting. For those of you coming with us to Prague, that means finding time to experience a little bit of everything:

  • Cultural events like opera and other performance arts
  • Historic sites including medieval constructions and famous sites from events of the 20th century
  • Local living and lifestyle in the markets, pubs, and other locations around the city
  • Rural life by visiting the countryside

If you have the proper visa clearance set up in advance, it would even be possible to connect to sites in other European countries. Unfortunately, due to the current diplomatic situation, visa-free travel for Americans has been revoked throughout the European Union.

3 Things to Consider When Choosing a Study Abroad Program

by admin

It’s that time of year again, which means that you are just weeks away from the deadline for applications to most of the best creative writing summer programs out there. If you are considering going abroad this season instead of finding local writing workshops and events, then you might want to consider each of these major points when choosing your program to make sure you get the best experience possible out of your summer abroad.

1. Adjacent Travel

If you are planning on doing any extra travel before or after your program, then it can be a significant financial savings to you if you plan to attend a program that is located relatively near your other destinations. One example of this would be choosing a central European study abroad program to have easy access to other locations on the continent. That way, you can plan a full summer itinerary without having to worry about several long-distance flights.

2. Course Offerings

While location is important, it is nothing compared to having the right course offerings to fit your goals. Every creative writing program is different, and that means you can’t necessarily plan on every poetry workshop being the same. Investigating the writers attached to a summer program and reading their work is one of the best ways to get yourself an idea of the kind of influence they will be on your own, and that will help you understand whether their workshop will be a god fit for you.

3. Scholarship Availability

Going abroad is a huge investment in your future, which is why it is important that you make the choice seriously. There is no such thing as an inexpensive and high-quality summer study program, but there are programs that are fnded well enough to make sure that qualifying students are not turned away because they can not pay. When you find those programs and they also have the right classes in the right location, then you know you have found the right creative writing study abroad program for your summer of traveling.

Top Reasons to Study Abroad if You’re a Creative Writer

by admin

Whether you are planning on a full semester abroad or a shorter-term, more concentrated program, there are a number of reasons why this is a great choice. Top study abroad sites that focus on full-semester programs tend to focus on two major ways of talking about those reasons: Benefits for your education, and reasons given by study abroad program alumnae. What is less common is the focus on the academic challenges and experiential expansion that cultural immersion can bring to students taking career paths based in scholarly and artistic pursuits.

Top Reasons Artists and Writers Study Abroad

  1. Starting again in a new country with different communication expectations and customs is a transformative experience that reshapes the ways that you look at interaction with other people and with your environment.
  2. If you’re looking to move abroad as a possible academic or career goal, a short educational program is a great way to discover what you need to know about your possible choices.
  3. Opportunities to study in close quarters with mentor-teachers whose influence and knowledge about the local area will add new insight to the ways potential audiences might interact with your work.
  4. Connections made through study abroad programs help expand your social network, allowing you to discover more opportunities to place your work and to learn more about your artistic development by promoting the work of others.
  5. You have the chance to reassess your existing relationships as you discover who reaches out across international boundaries to keep in touch, what kinds of ways distance shapes your interaction with people at home, and what it shows you about your own process.

Immersion in Prague

Students participating in the Prague Summer Program for writers have the opportunity to experience cultural immersion in “the mother of all cities,” experiencing the history and impact of one of central Europe’s most prominent cities for art and literature. From the stories of its origin to the rich tapestry of writers leading up to and flowing from the Velvet Revolution, there are very few places that offer artists and writers the opportunities that you can find in Prague. Check out our Program Info for more details.

Planning Ahead: Eating Affordably Abroad

by admin

Depending on your study abroad program, you may find yourself in a situation where you are totally responsible for your own food, lodging, or both while you are in-country. At the Prague Summer Program, we coordinate rooms for students as part of the program, but attendees are connected with information about the area and left to conduct day-to-day business like meals and laundry themselves. Being able to make strong recommendations based on a long relationship to a community is what makes good international study programs capable of connecting students to culture and opportunity, in addition to their subject-area study, and it is something to look for.

In addition to the advice that Program staff can give in-country, we’ve also heard a few different options from past attendees that an stretch your budget further, giving you more resources to put toward sightseeing and exploration.

Top Tips

  1. This is going to seem too simple to be real, but many people lose track of this fact during the hustle and bustle of travel: Eating healthy and budget-conscious food abroad is a lot like doing it at home. You just have to commit to the grocery store and pick out options that can be used for a few meals. In a lot of places, these options are going to look familiar: peanut butter and jelly is everywhere, eggs are a common staple in just about any locale, and when all else fails, there are always fresh fruits and vegetables in whatever local varieties happen to be in season.
  2. Avoid areas that sell leisure as their main attraction. Touristy restaurants might deliver top quality food, but they are not as cost-effective as the options favored by locals. Depending on what you’re in the mood for and what is in the area, it can be fun to explore. Remember, when scouting restaurants in any unfamiliar area, being busy is a good sign.
  3. Last but not least, it’s going to be easier to stick to your guns about your per-day expenses if you make sure that your less expensive options are varied. Buying in bulk for further discount might seem great, but when you are on your seventh scrambled and and pepper meal in a row, you’ll probably break down and overspend for a place that you normally wouldn’t let yourself splurge for.

Keeping these in mind, it is important to plan for those splurges–once you have a plan for your day-to-day needs, you’ll be able to identify the best times and places to really go all out and indulge.

Study Abroad: What to Pack

by admin

For a lot of students, getting ready for a study abroad program can be just as challenging as finding the right one in the first place. Between travel arrangements, academic preparation, and planning for in-country events, finding time to figure out just what supplies to bring can be a challenge. No matter what kind of study abroad program you’ve entered, you’ll want to make sure you pack a basic, balanced round of supplies. You will also want to make sure that you don’t over- or under-pack, because adding extra luggage is expensive and most students will want to have room to pick up a few things while they are in-country. Here’s how to find the balance:

  • Pack with a plan to do laundry, but remember your environment. You’ll need enough clothes to have several days of any kind of climate that might occur during your program. For Prague in summer, this can range from shorts and shortsleeves to jackets and light sweaters. If you’re headed elsewhere, keep it in mind.
  • If you know you want to shop abroad, bring less–chances are that you’ll find weather-appropriate clothes at your destination.
  • Keep in mind the electric grid wherever you are going may be different from home. Research and purchase the power converters you’ll need.
  • Check on your cell phone. Many newer smartphones come with a global compatibility package that you can enable, but sometimes you might need to purchase an inexpensive prepaid phone for use in-country.
  • Remember, there are toiletries everywhere. Focus instead on the personal items, books, and devices you will need to keep yourself on-track academically.

It’s also important to keep in mind the length of your program. It might be worthwhile to check an extra bag if you are going out of the country for a whole semester, but for shorter programs, you will probably want to keep things down to one checked bag and your carry-on, just to keep your costs in check. See you next week!