The first few weeks in Prague have been very busy. The participants have already stayed in three different hostels in two towns.
The students started off staying at Sir Toby’s Hostel in the city of Prague, Czech Republic. This particular section wasn’t as tourist-oriented as some parts of Prague, and required the participants to rely on the little bit of Czech language they had learned on campus. The Principia abroad art studios are located in a functionalist work building that has an art gallery and studios called Divus. Here, they attend language classes with a professor who wrote a thesis on how to teach foreigners Czech. There are three studios that the abroad occupies, so each student has his or her own work space in which to work on large-scale drawings.
The abroad has been meeting frequently and having lectures with practicing artists and writers. “The students are bringing deep commitment to their creative work and to their encounters with Czech writers, artists and scholars. In return, the Czech writers and artists who have met and worked with the Prague abroad students have been very impressed with the students’ work ethic, intellectual curiosity and creativity. It’s been an exciting exchange of ideas,” said English professor Dinah Ryan.
There was a video art workshop from internationally-known Slava Sobotovina, a top name in the video art scene in the Czech Republic. Each participant created four works of video art and there are basic plans in the works for a video art show in Prague at the end of the abroad.
The participants have been reading works by Franz Kafka, an important Czech writer who lived in Prague. Petr A. Bílek, a professor at Charles University in Prague, gave a lecture to the students on Kafka as they were reading through Kafka’s short story The Metamorphosis and tried their own hand at writing a surrealist short story. The abroad participants are currently working on a Kafka scavenger hunt all over the city, looking for places he lived and various monuments in his name. They are expected to grow artistically both through writing about and drawing the places they are finding.
The abroad has visited the largest and the second-largest castles in the Czech Republic. The largest is in Prague and the second-largest is in the smaller town of Český Krumlov, a town that the participants lived in for almost a week. Český Krumlov is built into the bend in the Vltava River, the same north-flowing river that runs through Prague. It was once the capital of Bohemia.
The students stayed at Krumlov house, which is run by the editor and founder of the literary magazine The Literary Bohemian, Carolyn Zukowski. Zukowski ran a poetry workshop and two classes about literary magazines.
Junior Barrett Crosby has enjoyed the “awesome opportunity to go to sites in the Czech Republic, feel inspired and gather the information needed to create conceptual art.” She has also enjoyed how the abroad professors require the students to push past their artistic comfort zones.
The abroad has daily metaphysical meetings where the students are diving into topics that individuals either want to explore or want help with. Another aspect of the abroad is daily drawing and writing. The students are expected to carefully and slowly walk through various art galleries and museums drawing and writing about the things they are observing, hearing and reading.
Some of these museums and art galleries the abroad attended all together but part of the abroad program curriculum includes “Prague Is Your Teacher” days where the participants are given 200 CZK, or $10, to go see something in Prague that the student is interested in. Usually the money is to be spent seeing a museum, an art gallery or historic site that the group is not going to as a unit. The participants are expected to write about their experiences and be prepared to talk about the things they saw and learned while on their own or in small groups for a few hours.
The participants are currently staying at Little Town Budget Hotel which is in the middle of a touristy Prague. Each room has its own kitchen so the students are able to do grocery shopping and cook their own food. They also have to take their laundry by metro and sit at the laundromat for a few hours. The students quickly picked up on Prague’s public transportation and are expected to get from the hotel to class on their own every morning.
The abroad also has very few group meals so it is up to each student to find a place to eat. They have all become skillful at finding quality food at cheaper prices by treading off the touristy path by a block or two.
Every day has had a different feel for this abroad group, and the attention to academic work and daily drawing and writing has improved student ability greatly in a short period of time.