What position do you hold at CEA? What has been your career path so far?
Lenka: As CEA's Academic Director in Prague, I serve as the primary contact for students regarding all academic issues, including student academic advising and academic program management. I am also charged with working closely with university academic leadership and administration of our partner institution in Prague, Anglo-American University. Prior to joining CEA in December 2013, I worked in academic program management for a U.S. study abroad in Germany and international education in Prague.
My responsibilities included management of academic affairs, academic quality assurance, student advising, development of academic programs, and course delivery. By training, I am a political scientist specializing on democratization, post-communist transitions in Central and Eastern Europe, and European Union studies.
Did you study abroad? If so, where and what inspired you to go?
Lenka: I spent many years living and studying in the U.S. (Lewis & Clark College and Stanford University) and Germany (Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitaet). My first year in the U.S. made possible by the Open Society Fund was a huge eye-opener and irreplaceable learning experience, not only in terms of learning about my host environment but also about myself.
Although my initial inspiration to study in the U.S. might have been “just” my interest in English language, American history, and literature, study abroad has transformed my world views way beyond my initial interests or expectations. I consider myself very lucky to guide our CEA students in Prague while they make similar life-changing experiences in “my” part of the world.
Why is language and cultural immersion important to you?
Lenka: Our CEA Prague students may have it tougher as they mostly have no prior knowledge of the Czech language, but we encourage them to learn at least basic phrases useful for everyday life. Although they may be far from proficient when they leave Prague, it is the effort made greeting or thanking people, which signals open mindedness and willingness to embrace the host culture.
At CEA, we are strong believers in the importance of authentic cultural immersion, if study abroad is to fulfill its mission of personal and academic growth. Whether it is a Czech cooking workshop, volunteering opportunities within local community, international internships, or buddy program pairing students up with peers, we always try to come up with creative ways to complement and enhance students’ academic experience with meaningful immersion opportunities in Czech life and culture.
What unique qualities does your company possess?
Lenka: All my CEA colleagues worldwide are travel and study abroad enthusiasts. I think that this collective passion for international education makes CEA a very dynamic and innovative organization.
I enjoy that we always continue to look for ways to think outside the box and creatively seek ways to continuously enhance student learning in order to help our students have a truly transformational study abroad experience.
To this end, student feedback is crucial for us and I believe that ongoing assessment, coupled with self-reflection and innovation, will continue to inspire us toward constant enhancement of our students’ study abroad experience in CEA locations worldwide.