I got back from Prague two weeks ago and I already can’t wait to go back. Regardless of whether you’re planning on studying there or not, I recommend that anyone who can go should go. It’s the most beautiful city I’ve been to with countless forms of architecture. It’s got an amazing, rich history (from being part of the Holy Roman Empire to its struggles under communism), there’s an amazing variety of music and arts to indulge in and you can get a pint for practically a pound.
The city aside, I went to Charles University to study foreign correspondence. Along with me there were eighteen other students from as far a field as Indonesia. All the other students were very keen but they also knew how to let their hair down so we had a great time.
The lessons we had over a two week period covered subjects including traditional article writing, photojournalism, how to make video reports, being a responsible journalist and cross-platform reporting. Every couple of days lectures would stop and we would have field work, hopefully putting what we had just learnt into practice. For our projects we were divided into groups of three or four and given fairly general topics to explore, our topic being the Czech family. One difficulty I think for all groups found was deciding what subjects to focus on within their topic. For example, we had the choice of looking into divorce rates and single parenthood, same-sex rights, womens’ reproductive rights or adoption rates. Luckily, however, this wasn’t too difficult an issue as we all needed to write our articles about different topics, meaning we could spread out around the topic a bit.
Making our own reports was great fun, once we had overcome the fear of approaching people on the street to interview. This was one of the more painful parts of the whole experience as even if you tell yourself, ‘The worst thing that can happen is they say no,’ it is still hard to approach strangers at first, at least for me. This was particularly difficult as the first task we did which required approaching members of the public was not to just write about people but to make a photo story about our subject. However, in time we realised that most people were happy to talk and have photos taken.
The highlights of the summer school for me were the excursions to various media outlets in Prague. We visited Czech national TV, the publishing house of the biggest newspaper in the Czech Republic and Radio Free Europe, a free speech advocating publication broadcasting to parts of the world with restricted freedoms. These trips were inspiring because, as well as seeing where the news is made, we got to speak to various editors, all of whom had amazing careers and great stories.
Also up there was a lecture from a guest speaker from Reuters. This was awesome because he really got across what an intense environment being a journalist can be and he had plenty of stories about it going well and some of when it all goes wrong. His story was unusual also because he writes for a financially focused readership, so he has experienced time pressure of another level.
All in all, I had a great time in Prague. I met new friends, learnt lots, got exposed to the front lines of journalism and did it all in a beautiful part of the world.