Czech | Prague | Study Abroad | Studio Arts | Performing Arts

Czech Republic: Arts and Social Change

Study with a dynamic community of visual, performing, and literary artists, where art and creative dissent have played a decisive role in shaping social and political change.

This program will immerse you in the Czech Republic’s contemporary art scene and give you the opportunity to explore the country’s rich artistic heritage. You will be challenged to consider the relationship between art, politics, and society in the country’s historic and contemporary contexts. You can choose either a field-based Independent Study Project utilizing traditional qualitative research methods or an arts-based research project that integrates these methods with creative writing or visual or performing arts practice.

Major topics of study include:

  • How the roles of artists and civic leaders have transformed in a new democracy
  • Critical challenges associated with liberal democracy and the legacy of communism
  • Art in relation to open borders, consumerism, and the free market of post-communist Europe
Through experiential learning opportunities such as attending dance performances and art exhibits, discussing underground theater and literature with my professors, and casual conversations with my host mom, I observed and experienced firsthand what my classes were teaching about Czech culture and history. The Independent Study Project allowed me to explore my topic of interest, mental health care, in the Czech cultural context — a very unique experience that has strongly shaped my future academic and career paths.

Betsy Davis, Southwestern University

Prague (program base)


Prague is well known for its stunning architecture, and this program will allow you to see it firsthand and will bring you behind the city’s historical façade. You will attend cultural activities, festivals, and art shows, which are off the beaten track and represent an alternative and creative culture.

In Prague, you will live with host families and take part in lectures and seminars on topics related to the history of the arts and social change in the Czech Republic. If you are enrolled in the arts studio elective course, you will conduct independent creative work during this period.

You also may participate in civic initiatives that draw upon the creative legacy of Czech underground culture. These could include Car-Free Day and European Mobility Week or arts events that raise awareness of marginalized groups, such as the multicultural festival Colorful Planet and the Babi Leto festival at Prague’s psychiatric clinic. Other cultural activities such as theater projects for refugees and contemporary dance, art, and photo exhibitions will help broaden your understanding of Czech history and contemporary life.

Choice of focus

Through the program’s foundation seminar, you will examine contemporary arts in the Czech Republic as well as the role art played as an agent of social change throughout the country’s twentieth-century history. You will then be able to delve deeper into these themes through the continuation course where you will visit nonprofit organizations devoted to social change or, alternatively, you can enroll in the program’s Arts Studio course, specifically customized for students of visual and performing arts and creative writing.

Educational excursions in different artistic and cultural contexts in central Europe

During the first month of the semester, students participate in educational excursions to rural Czech villages in Moravia or Bohemia to learn about the art culture and social reality beyond Prague. You will interact with local residents, community leaders, and artists involved in initiatives for cultural revival and community development. You will also travel to the former Sudetenland to discuss Czech-German cultural relations and to Slovakia, Poland, to conduct comparative studies of these neighboring countries’ arts and civic initiatives.

Independent Study Project

ISP Project

During the final month of the semester, you will pursue an Independent Study Project (ISP). The project gives you a unique opportunity to critically examine a topic, situation, or community related to the arts or social change in the Czech Republic, Slovakia, or Poland.

Artists, civil society activists, professors, and specialists will help you in the development and implementation of your ISP, which may include daily work with an organization or school or a creative component in visual arts, creative writing, or film.

Sample topic areas:

  • Sculpture and ceramic vessels inspired by the Celts of Central Europe
  • A screenplay inspired by Czech absurdist literature
  • A graphic design project inspired by Czech cubist architecture
  • Creative nonfiction work and films drawing upon the social reality of life under communism

Creative projects have included:

  • Sculpture and ceramic vessels inspired by the Celts of Central Europe
  • A screenplay inspired by Czech absurdist literature
  • A graphic design project inspired by Czech cubist architecture
  • Creative non-fiction work and films drawing upon the social reality of life under communism
The breadth and range of people and lecturers we were introduced to in the context of the thematic seminar was incredible — people in circles connected with the Velvet Revolution, people involved in incredible NGOs, people who were experts in their field … all willing to share their knowledge with us!

Program alum

Explore the Czech Republic's contemporary art scene and the role of art as a social change agent throughout the country's history. 

library of prohibited literature

You will study the country's communist past, its post-socialist transition, and the new challenges facing artists and communities today as a result of globalization and tourism. Site visits to artists' studios and theaters, NGO offices, and community centers will expose you to the country's beleaguered arts infrastructure as well as the initiatives in place to protect and promote the arts and social initiatives.

The program consists of three main components:

  • An eight- to twelve-week homestay in Prague. During this period, you will hear lectures, participate in roundtable discussions with leading specialists in the arts and post-socialist society, visit NGOs and artist studios, and engage in the cultural life of Prague. This includes attending gallery openings and theater performances and joining Czech participants in visual arts, dance, and other arts classes.
  • Fifteen days of educational excursions in the Czech Republic, Poland, and central Slovakia. The program also includes an excursion to the former Sudetenland.
  • A final four-week period during which you will focus on an Independent Study Project (ISP).

Each facet of the program exposes you to different perspectives on the role and evolution of art throughout Central European history and the impact of post-socialism on the contemporary arts scene.


For visual arts and theater studio work, background in the area of study is required. Students enrolling in creative writing must be majors or minors in English or creative writing. For all students, previous survey courses in European history or arts history are recommended, but not required.

Access virtual library guide.

Browse this program's Independent Study Projects / undergraduate research.

The interdisciplinary coursework for the Czech Republic: Arts and Social Change program focuses on the complex cultural history of the Czech lands and the lasting impact of communism on Czech society. Students participate in intensive language instruction and field-based activities that offer unique insight into twentieth-century Czech society and culture and the challenges facing the long-celebrated Czech tradition in the visual and performing arts, film, and photography. During the final month of the semester, students leverage their field study experience and research skills to complete an Independent Study Project (ISP) that critically examines a topic related to the program theme. Students have the option to produce creative work for their independent study, such as painting, sculpture, photography, or writing a short story or theater script inspired by their experience and studies of Czech arts and society.

Links to syllabi below are from current and forthcoming courses offered on this program. Because courses develop and change over time to take advantage of dynamic learning opportunities, actual course content will vary from term to term.

The syllabi can be useful for students, faculty, and study abroad offices in assessing credit transfer. Read more about credit transfer.

Czech History, Arts, and Civil Society I – syllabus
(EURO3000 / 3 credits / 45 hours)
This course examines Czech society and national identity in historical and contemporary contexts through visual and performing arts, film, and literature. The seminar is built around the rich and well-known intersection of arts, politics, and social change in Czech post-war history and the legacy of communism as it plays out in cultural expression and institutions today. The seminar includes required readings and lectures, as well as discussions, film screenings, music and dance performances, and site visits to artists’ studios, theaters, NGOs, and community centers.
Czech – syllabus
(CZEC1000 / 3 credits / 45 hours)
Emphasis on speaking and comprehension skills through classroom and field instruction. Students are placed in beginning classes.
Research Methods and Ethics in the Arts – syllabus
(ANTH3500 / 3 credits / 45 hours)
A course in qualitative research methods focused on learning across cultures and from field experience and including topics such as cross-cultural adaptation and skills building; project selection and refinement; appropriate methodologies; field study ethics and the World Learning / SIT Human Subjects Review Policy; developing contacts and finding resources; developing skills in observation and interviewing; gathering, organizing, and communicating data; maintaining a work journal. The course introduces arts-based research (ABR) methods in which the creation and analysis of art are utilized as the primary modes of qualitative inquiry. Students review the different kinds of arts-based research methods (narrative, poetic, dance, and visual forms of inquiry, for example) and the debates surrounding the use of arts-based methodologies and gain practical experience for integrating creative work in a social science research context, which may be used in the Independent Study Project.
Independent Study Project – syllabus
(ISPR3000 / 4 credits / 120 hours)
The Independent Study Project is conducted in Prague or in another approved location appropriate to the project in the Czech Republic, Poland, or Slovakia. Projects may include a creative or artistic component in the visual and performing arts or creative writing. Sample topic areas: alternative theaters in the Czech regions; Czech cubist architecture and design; legacy of Czech underground music; Roma ethnic and cultural identity; sustainable development in North Bohemia; the former Sudetenland today; Slovak weaving traditions.

In addition to taking the above courses, students will also need to enroll in one of the following two courses:

Czech History, Arts, and Civil Society II: Creativity in Context – syllabus
(EURO/ARTS 3005 / 3 credits / 45 hours)
This course provides a deeper analysis of the development of democracy and civil society following the end of communism, with an emphasis on the nexus of contemporary politics and civic initiatives where the arts and creativity are key components for impelling social change. The seminar includes readings, lectures, and roundtable discussions on the evolution and defining characteristics of civil society in the Czech Republic today as well as visits to NGOs and festivals and discussions with former dissidents and activists engaged with topics such as youth support, alternative culture, human rights, or the integration of socially and ethnically marginalized groups. The class provides firsthand observation and analysis of the social legacy of communism and critical issues in Czech and post-socialist European society today.


Arts Studio – syllabus
(ARTS2000-3000 / 3 credits / 45 hours)
This course is geared toward students in the visual and performing arts and literature and requires independent studio work in inter-media visual arts utilizing digital photography, physical theater, or creative writing. The objective is to connect students more deeply to artists and projects related to their field of study through a combination of studio work, critiques, site visits, and personal discussions with Czech artists. Creative writing students work under the guidance of a Czech writer. Inter-media visual arts and photography students as well as theater students work in a studio setting with established artists and theater instructors. Please note that inter-media studio students do not work long hours in a physical studio or darkroom, as may be required for more conventional studio courses at their home schools, but rather work conceptually, in the field, developing ideas for possible in-depth exploration during the ISP period. Depending on the student's area of focus, attendance at theater or dance performances, reviewing visual arts exhibitions, or readings in contemporary Czech literature will be required. The course culminates in a presentation of student work in progress, including a visual arts exhibition, a performance, and literary readings. The choice of focus for the course must be requested at the time of application. For inter-media visual arts and theater studio work, a basic course or background in the area of study is required. Students enrolling in creative writing must have completed at least one course in fiction writing or poetry. Students are enrolled at the 2000 level or 3000 level with additional course requirements if the course is in the student's major.

Please note that in order to take advantage of dynamic learning opportunities, program excursions may occasionally vary.

You will participate in educational excursions during the semester to broaden your perspectives on the connections between art and contemporary society in the Czech Republic and its neighboring countries. You will experience firsthand the cultural and geographical differences that define the former Czechoslovakia.

You will also have the opportunity to observe and participate in the activities of local NGOs and cultural centers serving as models of creativity in a post-socialist context. Excursions are designed to complement classroom study and field-based activities such as the ISP.

Bohemia and Moravia

TelcDuring the weeklong excursion to regional towns and villages in Moravia and/or Bohemia, you will stay with host families or with regional NGOs to gain a better understanding of rural life and to observe community initiatives. You will interact with civic leaders and artists devoted to regional development, cultural revival, and environmental conservation. You may also conduct interviews with local residents and specialists and participate in community activities such as town markets, conferences, or theater productions.

Ceský Krumlov

You will visit the historical city of Ceský Krumlov, a UNESCO protected landmark, where you will observe the challenges associated with the city's historical restoration.

Slovakia and Poland

In Slovakia, you will spend time in villages nestled among the stunning landscape of the country’s central mountain region.

Highlights of the Slovakia excursion include:

  • Witnessing the region’s confrontation of the past and present through visits with a dynamic group of NGOs devoted to cultural and ecological sustainability of the mountain region
  • Participating in traditional crafts and activities and observing the creative work of members of the community devoted to saving the landscape and cultural monuments
  • Attending a performance or participating in photography or theater workshops at one of the emerging Slovak cultural centers

In Krakow, Poland, you will learn about the social and political context for the fall of the communist regime and visit contemporary arts projects such as an alternative theater in Nowa Huta, the city’s famous Stalinist industrial district.

Seminar discussions on the Slovakia and Poland excursion focus on the fall of communism in Central Europe and the vastly different social and political contexts for the Czech, Slovak, and Polish artists before and after 1989.

The program will also travel to an arts center and the so-called lost villages of the former Sudetenland to discuss Czech-German cultural relations today.

Sarah Brock, Academic Director

sarah brock

A native of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Sarah Brock received her MA in art history from Syracuse University and her BA in art from the University of Massachusetts. She has worked in Prague as an art history lecturer, an advisor to Czech NGOs, an arts critic, and a manager of the US Embassy’s nonprofit portfolio and grants program. She also served as co-curator of the exhibition of Czech and Los Angeles artists entitled “Certain Traces: Dialogue 2004.” Her primary research interests are alternative arts spaces in Central Europe and arts-based research methods.

Having lived in Prague during the vital post-communist transition period, Ms. Brock’s work with the SIT Study Abroad program has been greatly influenced by her affiliation with Czech civil society leaders and artists. In her words, “There is no better way to learn about the social and cultural complexity of the post-communist period than to speak directly with specialists or to join them in arts and community programs.”

Ms. Brock became academic director of the Czech Republic program in 2005. In her role as academic director, Ms. Brock oversees every aspect of the program. In addition to giving lectures, coordinating seminars, and structuring educational excursions, Ms. Brock works individually with students to ensure that they develop unique, creative, and academically relevant Independent Study Projects drawing upon the wide range of academic advisors, artists, and NGO activists available to the program.

Lenka Krenková, Program Assistant and Homestay Coordinator

As program assistant and homestay coordinator, Ms. Krenkova supports program implementation and homestays, providing essential communications support to students and families. Having worked in Scotland with the National Piping Association and with Czech NGO projects such as Youth and Environmental Europe, Ms. Krenkova brings a unique and relevant experience to her role with the SIT program. She has degrees in humanities and theater anthropology.

Lída Holá, PhD, Czech Language Instructor

Dr. Holá is a specialist and innovator in the field of Czech language study whose series of textbooks, Czech Step by Step I and II and Czech Express, is used as an essential resource for Czech language learning in Europe as well as in American university courses. Dr. Holá holds a doctoral degree in English and Russian languages and early in her career was twice awarded in the Young Translators Competition of Jirí Levý. She has been a member of the Association of Teachers of Czech as a Foreign Language (AUCCJ) since 2002 and served as a vice president of the executive committee from 2005 to 2009. In addition to teaching and publishing activities, Dr. Holá has published numerous articles on teaching Czech as a foreign language, given papers at conferences on her topic in Europe and the United States, and translated books such as Hidden History by Otokar Bezina (Twisted Spoon Publishers, Prague, 2000) and the English sections of The Correspondence of Karel Capek (NLN, Prague, 1995).

The homestay was easily the best part of the program. My host family members were angels and I believe these feelings of friendship and love were reciprocal. They welcomed me whole-heartedly, but also gave me alone time when I needed it.

SIT Study Abroad Czech Republic program alumna

Homestays will help you understand the realities of living in a particular country and will serve as an invaluable tool for language development and cultural immersion. The Czech Republic program includes two homestays: one in the capital city of Prague and one with NGOs and families in the rural villages of Moravia or Bohemia. These homestay experiences will allow you to observe diverse living conditions and social realities while also broadening your understanding of the country's communist history and the post-socialist transition.

Other accommodations during the program include hostels or small hotels, private homes, and arts and NGO centers.

Prague homestay

learning music from homestay family in PragueYou will live with families in Prague (both urban and suburban areas) for eight weeks in order to experience the Czech lifestyle, culture, and language. Families are chosen based on their interest in the program theme, and many are affiliated with the Prague arts scene as artists or social activists. Students often cite their homestay experiences in Prague as the highlight of their semester, and relationships between host families and students often last long after the program's conclusion. If you are conducting your ISP in Prague, you will remain in your Prague homestay for a total of 12 weeks. If you are conducting your ISP in another location, you will be placed in a homestay at that location or have accommodations with a local organization. 

Bohemia/Moravia homestay

As part of the excursion to rural towns and villages in Bohemia or Moravia, you will live with local families or at NGO facilities. You will interact with NGOs and arts centers and learn about the challenges to social and economic development in the former Sudetenland of Bohemia, in regional industrial centers, or historic towns such as Olomouc and Brno. This regional experience will expose you to grassroots social initiatives and arts projects outside of Prague.

A diversity of students representing different colleges, universities, and majors study abroad on this program. Many of them have gone on to do amazing things that connect back to their experience abroad with SIT. Learn what some of them are now doing.

Alumni of this program are currently working:

  • for museums, visual arts centers, and theater festivals.
  • for NGOs devoted to social issues and education.
  • for small presses and literary magazines.
  • as independent artists, actors and dancers, copy editors, and graphic designers.
  • as a Watson Fellow doing arts-based research.

Program Dates: Fall 2016

Program Arrival Date:  Sep 3, 2016

Program Departure Date:    Dec 16, 2016

The dates listed above are subject to change. Please note that travel to and from the program site may span a period of more than one day.

Student applications to this program will be reviewed on a rolling basis between the opening date and the deadline.

Application Deadline:   May 1, 2016


SIT Pell Grant Match Award. SIT Study Abroad provides matching grants to all students receiving Federal Pell Grant funding; this award can be applied to any SIT semester program. View all SIT Study Abroad scholarships.

Tuition: $14,950

The tuition fee covers the following program components:

  • Cost of all lecturers who provide instruction to students in:
    • Czech history, politics, and society
    • Arts and cultural studies
    • Nongovernmental organizations, civil society, and community revival
  • Arts Field Study Seminar on research methods and Human Subjects Review
  • Intensive language instruction in Czech
  • All educational excursions to locations such as Bohemia and/or Moravia, Ceský Krumlov, Slovakia, and Poland, including all related travel costs
  • Independent Study Project (including a stipend for accommodation and food)
  • Health insurance throughout the entire program period

Room & Board: $3,900

The room and board fee covers the following program components:

  • All accommodations during the entire program period. This includes during orientation, time in the program base (Prague), on all excursions, during the Independent Study Project, and during the final evaluation period.
  • All homestays (eight to 12 weeks in Prague and four days in regional towns of Bohemia or Moravia).
  • All meals for the entire program period. Meals are covered either by SIT Study Abroad directly, through a stipend, or through the homestay.

Estimated Additional Costs:

International Airfare to Program Launch Site

International airline pricing can vary greatly due to the volatility of airline industry pricing, flight availability, and specific flexibility/restrictions on the type of ticket purchased. Students may choose to take advantage of frequent flyer or other airline awards available to them, which could significantly lower their travel costs.

Visa Expenses: $ 150

Immunizations: Varies

Books & Supplies: $ 200

International Phone: Each student must have a phone in each country. Cost varies according to personal preferences, phone plans, data plans, etc.

Discretionary Expenses

Personal expenses during the program vary based on individual spending habits and budgets. While all meals and accommodations are covered in the room and board fee, incidentals and personal transportation costs differ depending on the non-program-related interests and pursuits of each student. To learn more about personal budgeting, we recommend speaking with alumni who participated in a program in your region. See a full list of our alumni contacts. Please note that free time to pursue non-program-related activities is limited.

Please Note: Fees and additional expenses are based on all known circumstances at the time of calculation. Due to the unique nature of our programs and the economics of host countries, SIT reserves the right to change its fees or additional expenses without notice.


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