Written by S.M. Audsley

“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I— / I took the one less traveled by, / And that has made all the difference,” wrote Robert Frost, beloved American poet, in the last stanza of his famous poem, ‘The Road Not Taken’. Often quoted to encourage intrepid souls to continue down a path that might seem adventurous or out-of-the-ordinary, these words of wisdom seem appropriate if you’ve been entertaining the idea of a study abroad experience. Immersing yourself in another language, culture, people, and place can be one of the most transformative experiences you’ll have. Including a study abroad experience on your path to obtaining a degree, or to supplement your studies, can become a highlight in your college or graduate school career. Have you thought outside the box of where you might go to study abroad?

Some study abroad destinations are 'tried and tested' -- but this means some excellent options, which might have everything you’ve been dreaming about, are slightly overlooked. The Czech Republic might be one such country.  

Located in Central Europe -- bordered by Germany, Austria, Slovakia, and Poland -- the Czech Republic is a small country with a stunning capital, Prague, also known as the “City with a Hundred Spires,” that has more to offer than you know. Boasting beautiful rolling hills countryside, the Czech Republic is becoming more and more popular as a destination for both tourists and students. Lucie Durcová of the Centre for International Cooperation in Education as interviewed in ThePieNews.com, says, “We believe that the continual increase is caused by several reasons. One of them is the good quality of offered programs and courses in combination with affordable living costs.”

The Czech Republic has a long history of investing in education. According to the Ministry of Education, “It was in Prague, in the year 1348, where the first university in Central Europe was founded (by the then Czech King Charles IV). Training and research were crucial for a new development of the nation in its modern history. The Czech Republic, a small country in the heart of Europe, is very much aware that international co-operation in science and innovation is a precondition of a long-term success in the globalized world.” You might just have to take the road less traveled and apply to a study abroad program in the Czech Republic! Here are seven reasons why the Czech Republic should be at the top of your list of potential countries in which to study abroad.

1. Low tuition fees

The Czech Republic’s educational system prides itself on offering students a low-cost, and sometimes free, tuition options. TheBusinessInsider.com’s Allana Akhtar reports, “The Czech Republic provides small subsidies to help students with college costs aside from covering the cost of tuition." She adds that 59% of young adults will attend university and, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the level of public expenditure on tertiary education per student is $8,738.

The Czech Republic boasts 30 free universities -- with so many programs and opportunities to learn, you’ll be sure to find an academic track or a program that suits your needs. As an international student, if you study courses taught in Czech, at a public or state institution, the course fees are waived. Why not enroll in a Czech language course now? Then, you’ll be able to attend any university in the Czech Republic for free! Admission costs are the only enrolment costs you will have to bear, unless you decide to extend your studies beyond a certain duration limit, to take another course than the one you originally applied to or study in a different language than Czech.

2. More than 1,000 programs in English

If you would prefer to take courses in English while on your study abroad program, then not to worry -- there are more than 1,000 programs in English in the Czech Republic. For example, Samil from Azerbaijan on his studies of Economics at the VŠB - Technical University of Ostrava explains how he was able to complete his studies in English while studying in a supportive environment in the Czech Republic:

“I studied Economics, but the University has a specific program designed just for foreign students for each Faculty so it is easy to find subjects taught in English," he says. "Quality of education is high and I had a positive experience with all my teachers as they were friendly, very knowledgeable and experienced. Most of the classes were full of international students and the teachers loved hearing about our different countries. Teachers loved to focus on international perspectives and often asked students what economics is like in their own countries.”

3. High quality and innovative education

Not only is some of the coursework available in English, you can expect to receive top-notch, high quality and innovative education in the programs in the Czech Republic. The high quality and tradition of Czech higher education and research is widely recognized, especially in the fields of science, engineering, and medicine. 

Andreia Teixeira, writing for VivaMundo.com, explains, “More than 37,000 foreign students are enrolled in the Czech higher education institutions. [...] Czech higher education institutions offer interesting courses on topics that you may not find easily in other countries, giving you a particular perspective and a specific knowledge in certain areas. Many students choose the Czech Republic to do their master's and PhD programs or even just a short term specialization, focused on innovative or more traditional disciplines.”

Innovative approaches to programs is an important facet for institutions to provide the foundational knowledge for students to successfully enter the workforce after their degree program. One collaboration between IBM and ŠKODA AUTO University shows how the Czech Republic is becoming a leader in innovative education. “The IBM Academic Initiative Program creates new opportunities for internships, studentships and placements in addition to promoting improvement, graduates' employability through collaboration with a world-leading technology company. The key focus of this collaboration is to give students consultancy, mentoring and tools to build new skills needed in the digital economy and get real experience from ICT industry. [...] [G]raduates can establish, competences and experiences from real projects. IBM Academic Initiative gives faculties and students access to emerging as well as enterprise level technologies and related course materials,” reports RNewswire.com.

4. Low cost of living

One clear advantage of studying abroad in the Czech Republic is the low cost of living. You will be able to afford a comfortable apartment and be able to really stretch your funds due to the low cost of living. Comparing costs to other European countries, the Czech Republic is much more affordable. 

“Costs on every-day expenses, from food and accommodation to public transport, generally range between 350 and 750 USD a month, the type of accommodation being what will make a bigger difference on your monthly budget. Also, with the International Student Identity Card (ISIC), which you will receive before travelling to the Czech Republic once you’ve been enrolled in a Czech university, you will be able to enjoy special discounts at numerous places and activities,” writes Andreia Teixeira for VivaMundo.com. This low cost of living will allow you to save money in the long run and also allow you to put the resources you have at your disposal to good use.

5. One of the safest countries

The Czech Republic is not only an affordable country to live in, it’s also ranked as one of the safest. According to the Global Peace Index, the Czech Republic ranks in the top ten of the safest countries in the world. There are some commonalities among the safest countries in the world, such as their levels of wealth, social welfare, and education. Additionally, these countries have effective criminal justice systems, and the governments maintain very healthy relationships with their citizens. 

This means international students, in one of the safest countries in the world, can travel, explore, and go on adventures without worrying too much about safety. You can share this good news with your parents who might be worried about sending you off to a random European country. Tell them the facts and you might find yourself booking a ticket to Prague sooner than you think!

6. A great location within Europe

Located in the heart of Europe, studying in the Czech Republic means having a 'free ticket' to travel and discover a great part of the Old Continent. Besides the picturesque Czech villages, the neighbouring countries -- Austria, Germany, Poland and Slovakia on the border and also very close to Switzerland, Hungary and Italy -- are unmissable tourist temptations that you can easily access from a centralized location like the Czech Republic. 

“Living and studying in Prague has been great. I fell in love with the city at first sight. Even though it’s the capital of Czech Republic it feels relaxed and very easy to get to know. The buildings and nature are gorgeous and that alone makes it great to live in Prague. The city is full of culture, one of my favourite things here has been going to a jazz club to listen to good music in cosy atmosphere,” writes Petri Kärkkäinen, in a recent blog post about his study abroad experience in the Czech Republic’s well-known capital. 

7. Excellent career opportunities

During or after your study abroad experience you might also consider starting your career in the Czech Republic. There are many excellent career opportunities and it seems like the options are growing every day. You will want to do some research and pay attention to the different work visas and student visa options. For example, the Studyin.CZ website explains citizens of EU/EEA countries and Switzerland or their family members do not require an employment permit, Employee Card or Blue Card to be employed in the Czech Republic. These nationals have the same legal status as citizens of the Czech Republic, as the nation is an EU member. Lots of opportunities in Prague and elsewhere are available for those who are interested in staying on in the Czech Republic after their study abroad experiences. If you have studied in the country, you will already have a leg up in applying for jobs due to your language skills and local knowledge of the customs and culture.

“So we know that it’s not enough for us to simply encourage more people to study abroad. We also need to make sure that they can actually afford it,” said former US first lady, Michelle Obama. Not only is the Czech Republic an affordable option for those interested in a study abroad experience, but it also provides high quality, innovative educational degree programs, many of them in English, in a country with a low cost of living in the heart of Europe. If you are looking to veer off the traditional path, and find your way on the road less traveled, then look no further than the Czech Republic...

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