Explore the Czech Republic’s contemporary art scene and the role of art as a social change agent throughout the country’s history.
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.
You will be immersed in the Czech Republic’s contemporary art scene and explore the country’s rich artistic heritage. You will also be challenged to consider the relationship between art, politics, and society in the country’s historic and contemporary contexts.
Choose to do either an arts-based or field-based research project.
The arts-based project integrates creative writing, visual, and performing arts while the field-based research project uses traditional qualitative research methods. Work directly with artists and social innovators to create an independent project through studio work, critiques, and personal discussions with Czech artists or complete an independent research project based on firsthand observation and analysis as well as lectures, roundtable discussions, visits to NGOs and festivals, and discussions with former dissidents and activists.
Go on excursions to Poland, Slovakia, the former Sudetenland, and Bohemia or Moravia.
Explore mountain villages and regional arts centers on a week-long excursion to Bohemia or Moravia. Visit the north Sudetenland region along the German border and the UNESCO-protected town Český Krumlov. Travel to the historic city of Krakow, Poland, and to the stunning landscape of central Slovakia to meet activists engaged in community arts initiatives, eco-tourism, and sustainable architecture.
Explore 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 civic initiatives in place to protect and promote the arts and social transformation.
Live in beautiful Prague.
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. Experience Prague’s stunning architecture and attend cultural activities, festivals, and art shows that represent an alternative and creative culture. If you are enrolled in the arts studio elective course, you will conduct independent creative work here.
Participate in civic initiatives that draw upon the creative legacy of Czech underground culture.
These 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 activities include theater projects for refugees and contemporary dance, art, and photo exhibitions.
Take part in workshops on ceramics, bookmaking, stop-motion animation, traditional crafts, or architecture.
Critical Global Issue of Study
Media | Arts | Social Change
None. For visual arts, physical theater, and creative writing, a background in the area of study is highly recommended. For all students, previous survey courses in European history or arts history are recommended but not required.
Key Topics of Study
Key Topics of Study
- The transformative role of artists and civic leaders 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
- The relationship between art, politics, and society in the country’s historic and contemporary contexts
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 key moments in 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, such as visual arts and photography, or writing a short story or theater script inspired by their experience and studies of Czech arts and society, for their independent study.
The following syllabi are representative of 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 seminar 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 artistsâ€™ studios, theaters, NGOs, and community centers.
- Czech – syllabus
- (CZEC1003 / 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)
- This seminar 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 surrounding debates to gain practical experience for integrating creative work in a social science research context, which may be used in the Independent Study Project; 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; and maintaining a work journal.
- 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:
- Arts Studio – syllabus
- (ARTS2000-3000 / 3 credits / 45 hours)
- This seminar 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, collage or other experimental techniques, 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, and personal discussions with Czech artists. Creative writing students work under the guidance of a Czech writer. Inter-media visual arts and theater students work in a studio setting with established artists and theater instructors. Inter-media studio students 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, visits to visual arts exhibitions, or completing readings in contemporary Czech literature will be required. The seminar 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 seminar must be requested at the time of application. For inter-media visual arts, theater studio work, and creative writing, a basic course or background in the area of study is highly recommended.
- Czech History, Arts, and Civil Society II: Creativity in Context – syllabus
- (EURO/ARTS 3005 / 3 credits / 45 hours)
- This seminar provides 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.
Please note that in order to take advantage of dynamic learning opportunities, program excursions may occasionally vary.
The program’s excursions will broaden your perspectives on the connections between art and contemporary society in the Czech Republic and its neighboring Slavic 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.
Bohemia and Moravia
During the first month of the semester, you will visit 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, community development, 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. 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.
During this weeklong excursion, 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 visit the historical city of Ceský Krumlov, a UNESCO protected landmark, where you will observe the challenges associated with the city’s historical restoration.
In Slovakia, you’ll spend time in villages nestled among the stunning landscape of the country’s central mountain region. Here, you’ll witness 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. You’ll attend a performance or participate in a photography or theater workshop at one of the emerging Slovak cultural centers, and you’ll participate in traditional crafts and activities and observe the creative work of members of the community devoted to saving the landscape and cultural monuments.
In Krakow, Poland, you’ll learn about the social and political context of 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. You’ll consider 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.
Program in a minute-ish
Faculty and Staff
Faculty and Staff
Sarah Brock, Academic Director
A native of Philadelphia, Sarah 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, Sarah’s work with SIT 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.”
Sarah became academic director of the Czech Republic program in 2005, overseeing every aspect of the program. In addition to giving lectures, coordinating seminars, and structuring educational excursions, Sarah 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
Lenka 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, Lenka 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
Lída 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. Lída 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. Lída 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 and the English sections of The Correspondence of Karel Capek.
Through experiential learning opportunities... I observed and experienced firsthand what my classes were teaching about Czech culture and history
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.
The homestay is an integral part of the SIT experience. During your homestay, you’ll become a member of a local family, sharing meals with them, joining them for special occasions, talking with them in their language, and experiencing the host country through their eyes. Homestay placements are arranged by a local coordinator who carefully screens and approves each family. Students frequently cite the homestay as the highlight of their program. Read more about SIT homestays.
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 post-socialist transition.
Other accommodations during the program include hostels or small hotels, private homes, and arts and NGO centers.
You 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 Independent Study Project (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.
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, 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.
Independent Study Project
Independent Study Project
During the final month of the semester, you will pursue an Independent Study Project (ISP). The ISP gives you a unique opportunity to work directly with professional artists or social innovators to produce a creative project or 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 theater.
Sample topic areas:
- Alternative culture spaces in Prague today
- Memory and memorials to the 1989 Velvet Revolution
- Creative alternatives to institutionalized care for citizens with mental disabilities
- Civic initiatives and the Prague public transport system
- The socialist-era legacy of community centers for children and youth
- The impact of education in secret from members of the Czech Underground at Charles University
- Methods and mechanics of dissent through underground literature
- Legacy of the Czech Underground music scene today
- Czech perspectives and reactions to Putin’s warfare tactics in the Ukraine
Creative projects have included:
- Sculpture and ceramic vessels inspired by the Celts of Central Europe
- Drawings and sculptures inspired by interviews with Czech artists on the topic of public/private dichotomies
- Contemporary dance inspired by Slovak traditional dance
- A CD of Czech folk songs produced with a Czech musical trio
- A theater performance based on contemporary Czech mime and circus acts
- A screenplay inspired by Czech absurdist literature
- A graphic design project inspired by Czech cubist architecture
- Fashion designs using traditional Slovak weaving traditions
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.
Alumni 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.
- as Fulbright teaching assistants at schools in Central and Eastern Europe.
Cost and Scholarships
Cost and Scholarships
SIT Study Abroad is committed to making international education accessible to all students. Scholarship awards generally range from $500 to $5,000 for semester programs and $500 to $3,000 for summer programs. This year, SIT will award more than $1.5 million in scholarships and grants to SIT Study Abroad students.
SIT Pell Grant Match Award. SIT Study Abroad provides matching grants to students receiving Federal Pell Grant funding for the term during which they are studying with SIT. This award can be applied to any SIT program. Qualified students must complete the scholarship portion of their application. View all SIT Study Abroad scholarships.
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 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
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.
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.