Diversity in Prague
CIEE wants all our students to feel welcomed, supported, and empowered to succeed while studying abroad. On this page, local CIEE staff have provided details about conditions and cultural attitudes that students with specific identities might encounter at their location.
The information below is just a broad overview so if you have specific questions or concerns not covered here, please email email@example.com. We would be glad to have local staff share their perspectives, talk with you about accommodations, connect you with resources, and/or put you in touch with a program alum who could speak about their experiences navigating a program in this location.
No matter where you choose to study abroad with CIEE, our staff—all of whom receive regular and comprehensive training in diversity, equity, and inclusion—will be on hand throughout your program to provide advice, resources, and support regarding these issues.
People in the Czech Republic generally dress more moderately and conservatively than people in the United States and western Europe. However, we see Czech youth, primarily influenced by social networks and current trends being more courageous both in dressing and in the certainty of presenting their own body.
Although the Czech Republic and the city of Prague have been working on accessibility improvements for physically disabled people, cobblestones and high curbs present mobility issues, and many older buildings are still not wheelchair accessible. Prague and other large cities have been making progress on accessibility of public transport. Many trams are “low riders,” and busses have wheelchair lifts or platforms. Most of Prague’s underground stations have been equipped with elevators, although some in the historical city center lack elevators due to the city conservation regulations.
University students with special needs can receive academic accommodations and support, including extra time on exams and assignments, a quiet environment for testing, notetaking, and transcribing, the use of technical and adaptive aids, etc.
Students are encouraged to provide as much information as they can related to their specific disabilities (or related needs) prior to arrival so CIEE staff can assess potential challenges and arrange for appropriate accommodations.
Gender and Gender Identity
Much like other countries of the region, Czech Republic is a male-dominated society. Sex-based discrimination in the workplace is illegal. However, women's employment rate is lower as are their wages. (The figures for women's employment are comparable to the U.S. data.) Large cities, such as Prague, have seen an improvement though. Women are more independent, though they are still expected to keep their job as well as manage the care of children and the household. Women might also be subject to catcalling in public spaces and unwanted advances, especially at bars and parties.
Trans and non-cis activism has recently been on the rise in the Czech Republic, mainly among younger people. Individual activists and organizations are striving for the empowerment, social justice, promotion of rights, and positive social changes for the benefit of trans men, women, and other non-cis persons; and they work towards understanding and acceptance of trans and non-cis persons on both the social and legislative level. However, the situation is far from ideal and people outside the traditional gender binary (in terms of identity and expression) remain a curiosity for many Czechs and might encounter a whole array of different reactions on a daily basis: from acceptance to indifference to rejection.
During orientation and throughout your program, CIEE staff are on hand to provide advice and support regarding issues of gender and gender identity.
The Czech lands saw significant out-migration during the late 19th-century as the U.S. became a center of world agricultural and industrial production, and during periods of war and societal upheaval such as WWI, WWII, and following the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968. Many American citizens with Czechoslovak heritage have relatives who first came to the United States during one of those periods, immigrating to cities like Chicago, New York, and Pittsburgh, and to agricultural areas in states such as Texas, Iowa, Nebraska, Wisconsin, and Minnesota.
At present, a good number of Czechs study, work, and sometimes settle abroad, driven by opportunity rather than crisis. It is not uncommon to meet locals who have friends and family abroad. Taking a Czech language course is a good way for heritage-seekers to begin to connect with the region, and taking courses about the history, culture, and politics of the region can help deepen your understanding of the context of out-migration. Taking part in the excursions and cultural activities organized by local staff can also help give heritage seekers insight into the region and its traditions.
Racial and Ethnic Identity
Czech society is undergoing tremendous change. As a result of the actual world political situation, some social problems are emerging. These problems may sound familiar to the western world but have been either long suppressed in Central/East Europe or are entirely new. Some may show resentment particularly toward those who appear to be Muslims, Roma, Asian or African.
The Czech Republic is ethnically homogenous. While it is quite rare to encounter people of different racial backgrounds in rural areas, the urban centers, especially Prague are growing more and more racially diverse. However, compared to large metropolitan areas of the United States and Western Europe, the population of Prague is still largely white. The main non-white minorities are the Roma and the Vietnamese. This might cause some feelings of anxiety, especially combined with occasional staring of by-passers. However, this should be interpreted as a mere curiosity rather than a sign of aggressive behavior.
To address both overt and latent racism and discrimination – although rare – CIEE Prague staff are available to provide support and resources to help all CIEE students enjoy and learn from their study abroad experience, irrespective of – indeed, celebrating – our diverse racial and ethnic identities. CIEE Prague is sensitive to the range of these issues and will provide information and support to proactively create an inclusive community.
Although the Czech Republic boasts a large number of beautiful churches in many architectural styles, it has one of the most secular societies in the world. The churches attest to its long Christian tradition, which started in the 10th century and was marked by the Hussite defense against Catholic forces, followed by a forced re-Catholicization in the 17th century. Alongside Christians, the Jewish population was native to the Czech lands, gaining equality in 1867 and being gradually integrated into society until the Nazi genocide during World War II. The forty years of communism put an end to religious practice as the regime persecuted anyone who openly professed.
After the fall of communism, freedom of religion was granted, and everybody now has the right to express their own religion or beliefs. There is no official religion. The percentage of population belonging to a denomination is as low as 14% of all inhabitants, with another 7% declaring themselves as believers who do not belong to a denomination.
Overall, Czechs are tolerant of the religious beliefs of others although the refugee crisis in the mid-2010s resulted in expressions of Islamophobia and suspicion towards people wearing traditional clothing (hijabs etc.). During orientation and throughout your program, CIEE staff are on hand to provide advice and support regarding these issues.
Czech Republic is regularly branded as the most progressive country in the former Eastern Bloc in terms of LGBTQ+ rights. According to the latest report issued by the Czech Public Defender of Rights and the Prague Pride Association (which was based on one of the largest surveys among lesbians, gays, bisexuals and trans people in the Czech Republic), the Czech LGBTQ+ community tends to recognize that their position in the Czech Republic is rather satisfactory, however not without any issues as they still sometimes experience odd behavioral encounters (such as people staring at them in public) or hear opinions that they should not be publicly displaying their sexual orientation. Prague, however, is often considered to be a safe haven for the LGBTQ+ community in the former Eastern Bloc region. Over the past few years, the Prague LGBTQ+ community has expanded and changed significantly: from pride parades taking place every summer, to queer parties, to organizations that fight for trans rights and marriage equality.
Prague is a very affordable city compared to most Western European capitals, and its student-budget-friendly environment has long been one of its attractions for foreign students. It can be very cheap to eat out if you eat like a local, at local restaurants; it can quickly become more expensive if you go to familiar American chain restaurants in Prague. Shopping for groceries and cooking in your housing is one of the easiest ways to save money, but here too it helps to buy local goods – it’s likely that familiar American brands are more expensive than what you may pay back home. Getting around town is cheap – a transportation pass, good for all public transportation in Prague (metro, tram, bus, ferry boat, funicular) is included as part of semester, summer, and January CIEE study programs. And some of the most fun things to do in the city are free: hike the national trail network in the nature preserves in and around Prague, explore the many local parks, and attend local outdoor festivals and performances. The Czech Republic has long been one of the most egalitarian among OECD countries, at least in terms of income inequality, so you don’t see as much “conspicuous consumption” as you may elsewhere, though the liberalized economy of post-1989 has changed that a bit, especially in Prague.
Programs in Prague
Live from Prague
The Czech Republic is a modern-day success story, having established itself as the most politically stable and economically prosperous of the post-Communist countries of Europe. CIEE Prague, located in the historic Vyšehrad neighborhood of Prague, is housed in a former seat of the Catholic Church’s provost and is close to many of the city’s historical sites and cultural activities. Learn more about programs in Prague