The Response Post
In order to respond to the various comments left, I bring you
The Response Post
Re: Course workload
The actual work associated with classes obviously depends on which classes you take. However, on average, it seems that everybody feels that the workload here is much less than at home. Most classes have one or two short papers throughout the semester, and with the exception of the semester-long Czech Language course, none have tests or quizzes. Not to discount the program, but it appears that most of the professors are well aware that students coming to Prague for the semester are coming more for the cultural experience than the educational opportunity. As such, there is not much work assigned to do outside of class, and the professors are generally understanding about missing class because your flight got in late, or whatever. While we’re here to learn, there is just as much to learn outside of the classroom as there is inside, and the majority of the professors understand that.
I’m probably not the best person to answer your question, as I do not have a cell phone here, but I had done some research at one point regarding cell phones, and I do remember a bit about it. First off, many students do get cell phones within a week of being over here. So it is a common thing, and reasonably economical. Everything that I had read suggested you do not rent a cell phone in the states to bring over here. I forget the exact reasoning why, but I believe it had to do with not having a guarantee that it will actually work out as you had hoped in terms of coverage and rates. Also, European mobile phones operate on different frequencies than most American mobile phones, so you run the risk of having a phone that may not work as well as it should in as many places as it could. Not to mention the fact that it is incredibly easy to get a phone over here.
Most people seem to go to Oskar (which has recently been acquired by Vodafone) and pick up a pre-paid phone. The pay-as-you-go system seems to work for most people. I think that incoming calls are free of charge, and the price for outgoing is something semi-decent. I apologize for not knowing specifics, but I do recommend that you hold off on obtaining a phone until you get over here. The people at Oskar are eager to get one of their phones in your hand and most salespeople speak english (this is true in most places). So you can ask your questions and figure out what is the best plan for your needs.
I want to mention why it is that I did not get a cell phone. In my opinion, I didn’t need one. I have a cell phone back in the states, and use it regularly for everything, but I still didn’t feel that I needed one here. The phones in each dorm room call the other rooms in the dorm for free. They do not dial out, but can accept incoming phone calls. Beyond that, if I need to make an outgoing phone call, I use Skype.
Skype is a free program for internet telephony (using the internet to make phone calls). Using Skype to call another Skype user anywhere in the world is free. It works just like using AIM: both of you have to have the program running and be at your computer in order to use it. The sound quality is great and I rarely have any problems with it. Another option with Skype is to use their SkypeOut service, which is a paid service. But the prices are amazing. Using my computer, I called my home phone line on Thanksgiving and talked to my family for 52 minutes and the call cost me $1.11. They charge about 2 cents a minute for anywhere in America. And, again, the sound quality is near perfect. My uncle has lived in various South American countries in the past 20 years and when he and his family would call for holidays, the phone calls would be plagued by echos and sound that was muffled. With Skype, it was as if I was calling from across the street. For more information about Skype, I suggest you go to their website and give it a try. Their rates are great for just about everywhere in the world, though I should mention that calling a european cell phone is considerably more expensive than calling an American landline. But it is definitely worth a look for anyone with a computer looking for an alternative to long distance calls. You will probably want to pick up a headset as well, but the Skype website provides much help for everything you could possibly need associated with it.
This leads nicely into
Re: Internet in the dorms
The dorm has broadband internet access available in all of the rooms for a price. I forget the exact cost (forgive me) but it was in the neighborhood of 600 Kč (which is about $24). Not bad at all. The speed is decent, but for the tech-geeks out there like me, you should be aware that the firewall they have installed is formidable. I actually am unable to access the server that my website is hosted on while inside the dorm. Regular web browsing and most aspects of communication (including Skype) are able to get in and out without a problem. But I have heard (from people who are definitely not me) that file-sharing programs are unable to function, and, as I mentioned, I have issues connecting to my own server. However, Prague is wonderful as far as wireless is concerned, so if you have a laptop with Wi-Fi, you can go to any number of places that offer wireless and get on to the internet there without problems. It’s a bit bothersome to have to go to a cafe in order to do any serious administrative work on my website, but I’m just glad to be able to do it at all.
Re: Dorm rooms
As mentioned in previous posts, the dorm rooms vary. Some people have singles, some have doubles. Some rooms are large, while others (like mine and Jeff’s) are quite small. There is certain flexibility to what room you get, if you get to the dorm early enough to switch. But for the most part, you may as well just let luck be your guide and allow the random process of room assignments deal your fate.
Every person has one desk (with three drawers), one chair, one wardrobe (which allows you to hang clothes), one cabinet (with two shelves; quite good for keeping folded clothing), and one bed (which has some storage space available if you lift up the mattress. It’s got a hinge and everything, so you’re supposed to lift it up). I apologize for not having pictures, but it’s sort of difficult to take decent pictures that illustrate the room adequately.
We are given sheets, a blanket and a pillow. Though I would suggest you bring a pillow and, possibly, a blanket. Though you might want to just buy the blanket over here, to save space in your luggage. The sheets are changed bi-weekly by the maids. I should mention that the maids are not full service maids. They empty trash, sweep the floors and occasionally mop. Every other week they bring new sheets. I mention this because various parts of our suite have been frighteningly disastrous at different points throughout the semester, and it is not the maid’s responsibility to clean up after us. So in case you are not accustomed to having a dorm-provided maid, and you have certain preconceptions as to what a maid does, you have been warned.
The following people are not employed by the dorm:
Re: Sports Leagues
I don’t really know much about sports leagues, but I do know that there are a couple of gyms to join and I imagine you could find out about sports through there. Ask around in the dorm when you get here. I was continually impressed by the amount of knowledge some people had as soon as they got here. Also, if you come for the spring semester, I know that there will be (at least) three people who are here this semester and are staying for the next. Though none of them are particularly inclined to sports so I don’t know how much help they could be for you.
As always, my apologies for the incredible length of the post. What can I say? I just love writing to you folks.