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Planning Extracurricular Activities for Your Study Abroad Trip

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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 Unfortunately, due to the current diplomatic situation, visa-free travel for Americans has been revoked throughout the European Union.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

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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

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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

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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

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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!

What to Look for in a Study Abroad Program

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Prague WikimediaWhether you are looking to join us for a month in Prague next summer or you are just looking for the right advice to help you
pick a study abroad program in
another subject area, there are a few core characteristics that you want to look for to make your experience abroad is as memorable as possible. For many students, these programs are a cornerstone of their artistic, academic, and professional development, and finding the right fit is important. That means not only finding a program that is accessible in terms of price and programming, but also finding one in a location that will allow you to gain new insight into your chosen discipline.

Part of the reason our program brings students to Prague is because of the rich artistic history of the place, and the way its writers stood at the crossroads of craft and culture, creating works that put forth philosophical ideas and then test them, like Kafka’s The Metamorphosis. The location is also rich in literary figures that interact in profound ways with their political systems, such as Vaclav Havel. For other disciplines, we recommend finding a program built around a place with similar significance for you, a place where the combination of focused study and local history will allow you to immerse yourself in your work.

Once you’ve found programs that work like this, the next step is to look at the combination of price and features. Pay attention to items like housing arrangements, food, and both local and international travel. At this step, it is important to consider a balance of comfort and cost. Going with a bare bones approach might seem rugged, but sometimes that means taking responsibility for language translation services and other communication tasks on your own. On the other hand, programs that include everything, even international travel, tend to be very costly. Their travel arrangements can also reduce your flexibility as you plan your journey in both directions. A balance of good in-country services, bundled room and board, and solid knowledge of the area is what is essential. Taking care of your own travel also gives you the opportunity to use discounts or find other savings.

Once you have a checklist in mind for the features you need and the locations you are interested in visiting for your study abroad experience, evaluating potential programs is much easier. As with most other travel planning situations, preparation is key!