NC State Prague celebrates five years of global commitment | Provost

NC State’s global influence impacts faculty, staff, and students in multiple ways. This influence is keenly felt at the NC State European Center in Prague, the university’s gateway to Europe and a model for international education and research.

This summer, NC State Prague celebrates its fifth anniversary as part of the Office of Global Engagement. It’s five years of building on what began as a successful effort within the College of Design, marked by expanding the curriculum and positioning the university for continued competitiveness in a diverse society.

A look back

In 1992, the College of Design set up a summer program in Prague. In 2004, Art Rice, Professor Emeritus of Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning and former Dean of the College, Martin Malecha, worked to create a program throughout the year, with the Prague Institute officially opening in January 2005.

Fast forward to summer 2017, and the Prague Institute was moving. The official name was changed to NC State European Center in Prague, and leadership moved from the College of Design to the Office of International Affairs (now the Office of Global Engagement). New opportunities open to all NC State students and faculty.

“We envisioned being able to expand NC State Prague’s physical footprint and ability to serve faculty and staff through the increased support that the Office of Global Engagement could provide,” the Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost said. Warwick Arden. “Since then, the center has grown into something bigger than we originally imagined, and we look forward to an even more successful future as a global influence.”

In his first year at the Office of Global Engagement, more than 200 NC State students studied abroad in Prague. Over the following years, new courses were added to the catalog and Prague connection and First year survey opened up study abroad opportunities for freshmen. In 2019, Kimberly Strozewski was appointed director of NC State Prague and a new student affairs program coordinator was hired.

Increase student impact

NC State Prague’s course catalog has expanded over the past five years to include more engaging STEM and GEP courses for all majors. As a result, in the spring of 2022, NC State Prague welcomed an equal number of students from engineering and design colleges. The center has also expanded the offerings for College of Education students and will continue to add courses to attract more College of Sciences students.

“NC State European Center is a university asset in its own right and is one of the reasons students apply to NC State,” said Anaël Symůnková, communication specialist NC State Prague. “Students have Prague on their radar before applying to NC State, and we’ve worked to make NC State Prague a place where all majors meet. Moreover, thanks to a strong social media presence, students can be inspired and look forward to their experience abroad.

The students most influenced by this growth are the first-year students of the Prague Connect program (launched in 2017), who have the opportunity to start their academic journey abroad. Spending their first semester abroad has a real impact on the course of their university career. Often freshmen return to campus and become involved in global outreach, become global ambassadors and study abroad ambassadors, and work with new student programs.

A student point of view

NC State alumnus Elizabeth Vanegas studied at NC State Prague in the fall semester of 2021. She was able to take a variety of courses, including principles of sociology, stellar and galactic astronomy, applied development of the child and Czech culture and language.

Vanegas was inspired to study abroad at NC State Prague due to her previous international experiences with other NC State programs. She wanted to go further and culturally immerse herself in a country different from the United States to develop independent and interpersonal skills.

“The most formative part of my experience was learning to travel on my own and creating a safe space for others to explore other cultures. I had to do a lot of the travel planning I did and I learned so much about travel! As someone who didn’t travel a lot growing up, I realized that traveling is much more accessible than I thought.” she declared.

Since graduating in May 2022 with a bachelor’s degree in middle school science education, Vanegas has been encouraging current North Carolina State students to continue their studies abroad. In her personal life and professional career, she developed the confidence to pursue career opportunities abroad and considered taking a master’s program abroad in Prague because of the incredible experiences she had. .

“My advice to students looking to study at NC State Prague is to allow yourself to consider Prague as your temporary home,” Vanegas said. “Once I started to see and treat the Czech Republic as my home, the more independence I gained. It also made the process of living away from home much easier. I had less and minus the homesickness as I used to call Prague my home!I still consider Prague a second home even after graduating.

Growth and momentum

Over the past five years, student services at NC State Prague have grown significantly. New positions were created, including the addition of a student affairs program coordinator. Registration also open to students from other land-grant universitiesto provide these students with an inexpensive option to study abroad.

Faculty and staff have worked tirelessly to create and develop three new programs: the Prague Connect program, the Minor in Global Leadership in cooperation with the Shelton Leadership Center – a program that offers courses in three European locations – and the Summer internship program, which runs with great success in the summer of 2022. NC State Prague now rents a building exclusively for its students in a booming neighborhood just 20 minutes from the center, enhancing the study experience at NC State Prague. foreign.

“NC State Prague has been transformed into a truly academic center for global engagement over the past five years, supporting students from all colleges and expanding faculty services for research, as well as a gateway to collaborate with other colleges. other partners in the region. Prague faculty and staff, along with all members of the Office of Global Engagement, have worked collaboratively to create even more educational and cultural experiences for NC State faculty and students,” said Vice -Senior Rector for Global Engagement, Bailian Li. “We are very pleased to have been able to achieve pre-pandemic enrollment this year. With excellent service and support, participants receive a comprehensive experience that inspires academic and personal success and achievement. »

World challenges

At the start of the spring semester 2020, 50 students arrived in Prague expecting a traditional study abroad experience. This quickly changed in March, when the COVID-19 situation in Europe forced NC State to send all overseas students back to the United States

The study abroad experience in Prague has become an online experience, with faculty and program staff working tirelessly to help students adapt and continue to provide as many academic and cultural experiences as possible.

“We overcame the challenges of the pandemic,” Strozewski said. “We were the only program to run in spring 2021. Every effort has been made to maintain the possibility of studying abroad. The local team has worked hard to adapt to the new restrictions while providing the best experience. »

Due to the challenges posed by COVID-19, NC State Prague was well prepared to face another conflict when war broke out between Russia and Ukraine in February 2022. center quickly began to receive Ukrainian refugees in its student residences and welcomed week-long intensive Czech language courses for Ukrainian students. The student lounge at NC State Prague turned into a daycare center while parents attended language classes. North Carolina State students studying abroad in Prague have also volunteered to cook meals for the refugees. Through these efforts, NC State’s global impact has also been one of community service.

And after

Today, NC State Prague is well known as a study abroad location for students. Going forward, the center seeks to increase global collaborations and faculty research opportunities.

With its central European location and outstanding facilities, NC State Prague intends to foster partnerships with colleges and departments to develop seminars and symposia to engage with partner universities to become the gateway to NC State World Entrance.

Berta D. Wells