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How is studying at Harvard? Interview with his graduate John Straka Added:4.12. 2012
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How is studying at Harvard? Interview with his graduate John Straka

Get a good education at prestigious foreign university is not an unattainable goal. About this convinces Jan Straka, who graduated BA from Harvard University. Jan Straka currently operates in the think tank IDEA at CERGE-EI, which is devoted to research in the field of educational reforms.

Your first experience with American education was in high school. What was it like to go as a senior future to the United States?

To the US I first went in the penultimate year of high school through scholarship, which brokered the Prague branch of the Open Society Fund. I spent a year at a private school The McCallie School in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The school is among one of the best in the region and it was for her to know: in the beginning I was stunned large range of courses, class size, which in our courses has been more than 15, a large offer of extracurricular activities and also flexibility – as I found out during the year, I needed to change to a more demanding course, it was not a problem. In exchange for these privileges but I had to work hard – homework often took several hours a day training was needed at every hour.

After high school you went to Harvard, why did you choose this college? Have you considered also another university?

The American system you constantly motivates you to have ambition and you're trying to meet them. During high school my stay I had very good results, so that application to universities in the US was actually a natural next step. I have not reported on Princeton and Williams, which like Harvard consistently placed at the top of the ranking of American universities.

What demands are placed on prospective students as they extend the entrance exam?

Admissions in the US from the Czech fundamentally quite different. No entrance examination, as we know it from us, do not stack. Instead of going through the admission process, within which the university post your results from high school and on standardized tests – the equivalent of the Czech SCIO tests – admission essay, teacher recommendations and a list of extracurricular activities in which you have participated. Sometimes it is part of the admission procedure more personal interview. On the basis of these documents, then the admissions committee tries to make a picture on the overall qualities and abilities of the candidate.

[* Straka50.jpg. (Straka50.jpg) <]

Which discipline did you study?

I studied social sciences. American Bachelor's but far less specialized than studying in the Czech Republic or Europe in general. The student is their field of study during chooses to, not when the school reports. During the entire study may also examine any items that university to offer, to the degree he needs to pass a certain number of objects in a given field. I could wander through the need to economics, art history or history of science. I also had classmates who were excellent physicists or mathematicians and their branches are paid very intense, but at the same time each semester enroll in one course literature. With greater freedom in the choice of subjects related but also that at the undergraduate level in the US, some courses can be studied. Law or medicine, you have to wait until the master's degree, most schools also offer study business.

Can you describe the process and structure of the standard semester, what proportion of lectures, exercises, homework?

Compulsory education at Harvard was relatively small – only 4–5 courses per semester, but we spent a lot of time preparing. All lecture courses are also exercises that are required and to which you have to prepare every week – something to read, write or count. For quantitative subjects were no exception sets of examples that could take 20 hours of time per week in humanities seminars then again you get 200 pages of reading per week. In four such courses, it's a pretty decent package reading, especially when it is a very complicated texts. Participation in workshops and seminars is mandatory and is reflected in the final mark.

Concludes each semester examination period?

Yes, but it is far less important than the Czech schools. A big part of the mark often make up your work during the school year – can it be essays that you continually awarded or tests during the semester – „midterm exams“. Thus the final exam in the subject can mean only 20% of the grade, some courses have a final exam at all, instead you write an essay or answer the questions themselves as „take-home exam“, a test that is within the time limit you have to write it yourself from home. Here it is worth noting that in American education will never not be tested orally. All tests are essentially written.

Differ significantly in approach of teachers to students?

Teachers and students engaged in their work a lot of time – to give them feedback on their essays, they explained substance, or just have a chat on the subject. Whenever I gave an example essay, she returned to me with detailed comments about what I still could improve or conversely what I did.

How is the termination bachelor's degree?

No formal exam at the end of the bachelor's degree in the US is not. Just get the school required number of credits for the courses. At some schools or in certain fields must write a thesis. On it are but highest demands, so that your thesis can not be just a pile of other sources compiled text. On the contrary, your work must come up with an original idea and based on rigorous academic research.

Studying abroad is expensive. You used a scholarship program?

Harvard has a Bachelor's degree very generous financial aid system, which provides resources to students, depending on parental income. If the parents earn less than $ 65,000 per year, a school student studying full pay. The scholarship covers only tuition, but also the cost of living.

What advice would you give to students who are thinking about studying in the United States?

Always repeat, it is most important not to be afraid to try it – the worst thing that can happen is that it does not work. Opportunities to study in the US exist. And not just for high school or undergraduate level, but it is also true for the next level of study. A second piece of advice – Gather as much information as possible. All potential candidates for study in the US I would suggest to look at the website of the Czech office of the Fulbright Commission, where they will find more detailed information. As part of the Fulbright Commission also operates an advisory center for students interested in studying in the US, will be glad to provide the sound information.

Photo: archive of Jan Straka




Author: Hruška, Jan

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