Shared Joy is Twice the Joy, Shared Pain is Half the Pain

Classes! Classes? Classes.

Classes started on Monday, and I’m feeling (along with most people, I think) a little bit torn. For starters, I am ecstatic. I managed to create a schedule that I thoroughly love, and I’m really excited about all of my classes. But I’m also like “Wait, what?”, because I got used to having Czech classes all day every day, and they didn’t have 40-60 page reading assignments. So, classes. The reality of being a student, even if you’re a student on the other side of the world. Here we go!

I’m taking five classes: Czech Language Fast Track, Czech and Central European History, History of the Jews in Bohemia, Economics and Politics of the EU, and Czech Politics. Unsurprisingly, I’m taking a lot of politics-based courses, but I surprised myself by enrolling in two history courses as well. I’m not a huge history buff, but I really want to understand the history of the region I’m living in, as well as my own family history, so there you go. I’ll talk about each class in turn, but I’m excited for all of them.

Czech Language. I’m in the Fast Track course, and I’ve already said a bit about my Czech class here. I have become really good friends with my Czech classmates, and I’m excited to keep learning Czech. Unsurprisingly, less time in class means less material covered per week, and also more homework. I wish we could continue learning as much as we have been, but that is a bit unrealistic. I’m considering asking my professor for extra work to work on with my host family, but I’m going to wait a few days to see what my overall workload actually ends up being. As far as I can tell, fast track isn’t really fast track so much as deep track; we go into more details and more about Czech culture, but at the same pace. So far, there isn’t really much more to say about these Czech classes, so we’ll move on for now. (I’m sure there will be lots of Czech-class related posts in the future!)

Czech and Central European History. This class may very well be the most important class I’m taking this semester, but also the most difficult. The professor seems incredibly knowledgeable, and rattles facts off like they’re nothing (not the easiest thing in the world to follow, but, you know…). In the very first class, we focused on the difference between Czech and Bohemia, because they have distinctly different meanings – “Czech” refers to the people, while “Bohemia” is the name of the lands. This class is going to have a ton of reading and two papers, but it is already really interesting, and I’m here to learn, so that’s fine with me. (Side note: I was on the tram with someone else from the program who has the exact opposite notion – “I am only here for one semester, and I’m not here to learn. I mean, you only get to study abroad once, right?” I certainly don’t adhere to that philosophy, but I just smiled and nodded.) With this class, I’m going to take a required overnight trip to Český Krumlov, which is a super famous Czech castle I remember enjoying visiting last time I was in Prague.

History of the Jews in Bohemia. Let me introduce you to Rabbi Ron. Our professor is originally from Chicago, but has lived in Prague for 12 years. He has already invited us to his Introduction to Judaism course for Czech Jews in the Jewish Quarter, as well as the remainder of services for the high holidays. While I’m not sure I want to take him up on that this week, (can’t, actually, I’ve got other plans) I’m definitely going to take up his offer to go to services at some point this semester. This class has two required weekend day trips, to Trebic and Terezin, but I’m much more excited about the out classes we’ll be taking. At least five of our classes will be walking classes through the city – mostly the Jewish quarter, logically, to see the places we’re learning about. I can already tell that Rabbi Ron (or Dr. Ronald Hoffberg, or Professor, or whatever) is a great guy, and I’m really excited to be taking a class from him.

Economics and Politics of the EU. Even though the title includes economics, I’m pretty sure this class is primarily politics. (The syllabus has exactly two weeks for economic topics.) In a lot of ways, this class seems similar to the Democracy and Capitalism in Japan class I took at Tufts, which makes me happy in so many ways. The class is going to have a bit of history of the EU, a bit of expansion discussion, a bit of consideration regarding how EU countries are becoming more similar, and some discussion of the euro. This professor is also fantastic. He mentioned a trip to Istanbul that he runs in the spring, which sounds fascinating; I really want to visit Istanbul while I’m here anyway, so I’m definitely going to do that next semester. Our first class was spent primarily discussing the definition of Europe (does Russia count? Turkey? Where does Europe end and Asia begin? What actually defines Europe politically? culturally? socially? I think this is going to be my favorite class, though with only one class behind us, it is very hard to tell.

Czech Politics. This class is definitely going to be interesting. All my classes are 8-12 people, but this is the only one that seems to be really structured in a seminar format, which clearly frightened some of the people in the class. Even though the class is Czech politics, he also clearly wants us to understand some politics from all around Europe, so we have daily assignments to read and bring in an article about the contemporary politics in a specific country. I’m excited for this class because, after two weeks of history and orientation in Czech politics, the class is going to be all about current affairs. And, since there are elections in the Czech Republic this October, we are going to have a lot to talk about.

Discrete Math? I’ve been trying to get enrolled in Discrete Math through the Charles University Faculty of Mathematics and Physics, because I need to take a math class while I’m in Prague to make it easier to graduate (yay Physics major!). But, it is turning out to be incredibly complicated. And, though CU classes start next Monday, I’m not sure I’m going to have the course times figured out – we’ve been getting lots of mixed messages regarding the times for the course in English, and now I’m really happy with my classes through CIEE. Hopefully we’ll be able to figure it out for this semester, but if we do, I’ll have to drop Czech Politics, which I don’t want to do. Worst case scenario, I’ll figure it out for next semester. Or maybe I’ll take six classes…

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