2012-13 Czech Fulbrighters Comment On Their Experience

At the end of their stay in the U.S., Fulbright grantees are required to submit a Final Report where they reflect on their experience. Here is an excerpt from these Final Reports from the academic year 2012-13.  The comments can be also found in our Annual Report.

Despite the fact that Czech universities have changed dramatically after 1989, Czech students still find U.S. universities well ahead in many aspects, particularly the level of cooperation, networking, and student motivation.

Martin Vraný studying philosophy at the University of California – Berkeley in 2012/13 points to the main differences between Czech and U.S. university milieu in his report: “Interdisciplinary cooperation, campus life, the amount of workload for each lecture/seminar, the amount of extracurricular activities and hosted lectures offered, the extent to which students identify themselves with the university and last but not least, the fact that professors were open-minded and helpful when discussing various issues with me despite the fact that my original field of expertise is different.”

Kateřina Váňová who dealt with biomedical research at Stanford University in 2012/13 praises the fact that her U.S. supervisor always found the time to discuss her results and helped her set all experiments/project design: “The supporting background and my colleagues’ very positive attitudes were very inspirational. As well, I appreciate their effort to help me and settle in new environment. Very inspirational was the post-doc network and student’s motivation that I miss at Czech Universities.”

According to Helena Reichlová conducting research in physics at the Ohio State University in 2012-13, the most inspirational was “the access to plenty of experimental setups and the will of my US colleagues to collaborate”

Czech students also appreciate changes in their perception of the world during their Fulbright year. Petr Měšťánek who studied micromechanical modelling of fatigue at Stanford University in 2012/13 says about his stay: “Meeting young people from all over the world was most beneficial for my personality. This changed my 'European thinking' into 'global thinking'. Two events contributed most to this: Gateway Orientation and Enrichment Seminar. It was a privilege to take part in these events."

Czech Fulbright scholars always find their stay in the U.S. inspirational and enriching.

For example, Jana Navrátilová, conducting research at the University of North Carolina in 2012/13 points to the fact that in the U.S. the university reacts immediately on the needs of industry: “There is a direct link between hospitals and universities. The business in US is driven by industry, not by the government as in Czech Republic.”

Dr. Vojtěch Melenovský pursuing his research project at the Mayo Clinic in 2012/13 was impressed by very patient-focused approach that drives all aspects of organization of the hospital: “The commitment to patient satisfaction, quality and safety of care was far higher that I have ever experienced in other medical centers in the US or Europe. I was also surprised by very good peer-to-peer relationships and collegiality between Mayo staff doctors who share the same amount of duties, regardless of rank and seniority.” 

As many other grantees Dr. Melenovký praised the fact that his family could accompany him during his Fulbright stay: “It was very crucial experience for my teenage sons. They were exposed to much higher load of schoolwork that was more focused (less subjects studied) but more in-depth. Simultaneously, the teachers at Johns Marshall High School in Rochester were very enthusiastic and motivating, so children actually liked the school and received good grades. Son Jakub was even was proclaimed as a “distinguished student of the quarter” and passed AP exam in chemistry with 5A. Another positive influence came from their friends and peers at school, who at the same age had to lead much more responsible life, including living independently or working and saving for college.”

Being exposed to a U.S. university milieu for a couple of months is very inspirational for future research and educational activities of Fulbright-Masaryk grantees.

Dr. Tomáš Fürst conducting research at the Northwestern University in 2012/13 comments on that: “One of the main differences between the Czech and American academic institutions is the general approach and attitude of the faculty toward the students. The faculty at NU are much more open, helpful and encouraging. Consequently, the students there are more motivated, independent and mature. Some of the difference can be explained by the tuition fee – the students want best quality service for their money – but much of the difference has roots in the American attitude towards work, responsibility, accountability and investment.”

Mr. Ondřej Sedláček pursuing his research project at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in 2012-13 realizeshow important the good presentation performance is: “In the US, they put a lot of emphasis on the quality of outcome results, mainly the quality of presentations and publications, including the graphical aspect. I think this one of the main differences between the scientific work at my home institute and in the US.”  

Mr. Karel Žďárek researching at The City University of New York in 2012/13 states that it has shifted his focus to connecting the university teaching (English didactics) with practical aspects of teaching: “I’ve realized how much our students lack communication skills, how little two-way communication is happening in our classrooms (both university and secondary schools) and how badly we need to change that.”

Dr. Pavel Titz conducting research at the University of Cincinnati in 2012/13 was struck bythe democratic atmosphere at the department: “Not only calling everybody with their first name, but a real interest and helpfulness of the faculty towards the students. The department worked as one body with one goal – high professionalism. I have admired the level of support from the university and the department for both, faculty and students. And the number of different activities performed in the department – outreach, invited lectures, practice talks, student teaching assistants to help professors and learn from them, grad students teaching. It all attributes to improve the skills and abilities of the alumni.”

Prof. Kateřina Nedbálková who researched at the University of California - Berkeley in 2012/2013appreciated a possibility to voice one’s opinion at any opportunity: “I found that striking even at my son’s kindergarten. I perceive a big difference between Czech and  American students in this regard. Also the position of gender studies in academia is very different at UC Berkeley. The studies seem much more incorporated and institutionalized, taken for granted, a part of the university curricula.”

Sometimes grantees come to the U.S. with ideas that turn to be false during the scholarship. For example, Prof. Jiří Fiala conducting research at the University of Oregon in 2012/13 points in his final report: “The long-term stay in the U.S. allowed me to demystify the nation and disprove several cultural, organizational, academic and educational preconceptions that I had before. These positive acquaintances I would like to follow or implement after my return home. Last, but not least, being a Fulbright-Masaryk fellow, I decided to get more familiar with the life and philosophy of the first Czechoslovak president, which I did during the first few months of my stay. This was immensely inspiring.”

Fulbright-Masaryk grantees – representatives of NGOs come to the U.S. with the aim to learn from and transfer the best practices of U.S. non-profit sector which is indisputably best developed worldwide.

Ms. Alexandra Jachanová Doležalová affiliated with the Equality Now (New York) in 2012/13 was most impressed by howthe organization practices its fundraising: “The organization works mainly with corporate and individual donors, an area not developed in the Czech NGO sector at all.“ She was also volunteering for an organization Women In Need focusing on giving support and providing shelters to homeless women and families: “This work inspired me to follow working on the issue in Prague and develop research as well as supporting activities for homeless women in Prague and in the Czech Republic.” 

Ms. Marka Miková conducting research at UCSF Benioff Children´s Hospital in San Francisco in 2012/13 appreciated the efficiency with which new ideas can evolve within a few years into a very good professional organization helping many people. Also, she admired the commitment of people working for NGOs: “They bring great and new ideas and they serve the community; they do not expect to get lot of money for their work. They are proud of their work, because they feel they can enrich society and help solve problems in society”.

Establishing new professional contacts is one of the key results of the scholarship. Mr. David Ondráčka pursuing his project at the East Central European Center of Columbia University in New York in 2012-13 notes in his report: “Amazing part of research was opportunity to meet and chat with some high-profile academic individuals who are faculty members at Columbia, like Joseph Stieglitz (Nobel award winner), Jeff Sachs, George Papandreu (former prime-minister of Greece) or Jan Svejnar. That provided me with lot of valuable food for thought and useful contacts for my future career.”

Mr. Ondřej Stupal affiliated with the Residency Unlimited in New York in 2012/13 enjoyed the inspiring, friendly and professional atmosphere: “Since the core of RU´s activities and operations is based on a vast network of NYC-based organizations, artists, and other art professionals, I gained a tremendous opportunity to profit from it for the duration of my stay. These new connections that the organization provided me proved to be priceless.”

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