On April 18-19, the Czech Republic’s academic community and students looking to study in the United States will have the opportunity to connect with 12 regionally accredited U.S. academic institutions as part of a U.S. Department of Commerce trade mission—marking the first time the U.S. Government has led an education trade mission to the Czech Republic.
As the leader of the trade mission and with a family heritage from Central Europe, I have a great appreciation for our two countries’ commonalities. Czechs and Americans both share a passion for democratic values that enable us to pursue our goals and dreams—and there is no better foundation for this pursuit than a multi-cultural educational experience that helps students gain a competitive edge in the workplace while broadening their understanding of our global society.
Since 1989, the popularity of study abroad programs in the Czech Republic has continued to grow, and this mission presents an opportune time for both countries to capitalize on this new potential. With English as the standard second language of the Czech Republic, the country offers a large pool of young, bright and talented students for both undergraduate and graduate studies in the United States.
During the trade mission, our delegation will participate in a student recruitment fair in Prague to connect with students from Czech universities, secondary schools, and Czech businesses. Trade professionals from the U.S. Department of Commerce at the U.S. Embassy in Prague will also be on hand to facilitate networking opportunities between our delegation and prominent Czech universities. They will also arrange more than 90 meetings between U.S. trade mission participants and the Czech higher learning community.
The majority of Czech students looking at the United States for higher education opportunities pursue economics, humanities, and technical majors. There’s good reason for this enthusiasm. Overall, the United States is home to more than 4,000 accredited higher education institutions, and 14 of the top 20 universities in the world, according to Times Higher Education. Furthermore, theInstitute of International Education reports there are more international students (in excess of 723,000) studying at U.S. institutions than anywhere else in the world.
There are countless examples of Czech students and professionals who, after studying in the United States, have returned to invest in the Czech Republic’s economy. These include experts in high technology, engineering, finance, medicine, law, business, and many more professions.
As an example, Zdenek Kuhn studied law at the University of Michigan (located in my home state) and currently serves as a judge on the Supreme Administrative Court of the Czech Republic. Kuhn also gives back to the community by serving as an Associate Professor at Charles University Law School.
And of course there is Zdenek Bakala, one of the most famous Czech businessmen, who earned degrees at the University of California, Berkeley and Dartmouth College. He recently opened the Czech branch of U.S. think tank “Aspen Institute,” and appointed Radek Špicar, a Fulbright Scholar at Georgetown University, as director.
While most Czech students choose to study abroad in Europe, the overall interest in studying in the United States is still very high, as is the potential to increase these opportunities:
According to the Institute of International Education, 765 Czech students were studying in the U.S. during the last academic year. However, current exchange rates and the visa waiver program are making U.S. educational opportunities an increasingly attractive alternative.
The number of Czech students with outstanding English language skills continues to outpace many of their neighbors in the region, improving the ability of Czech students to study at U.S. universities and colleges.
Czech students still comprise a small portion of international students studying in the U.S., which makes them attractive to many of our higher education institutions that seek to have a real global diversity in their student populations.
President Obama is committed to strengthening educational ties between the United States and the international community. The Czech Republic ranks among the top 20 destinations for U.S. students studying overseas. Additionally, our universities, governments, and businesses have been conducting scientific exchanges and cooperating on innovation and technology advancements. Increasing the number of Czech students pursuing degrees in the U.S. will build on the important advances we have already made in the sphere of education.
The mission also adds synergy to the U.S. Embassy’s EducationUSA program in the Czech Republic, where U.S. Embassy representatives promote the U.S. educational experience to thousands of students each year. Indeed, U.S. colleges and universities, such as those on this mission, place a prime importance on keeping their campuses internationally diverse, so that students can gain the most rewarding educational experience possible.
Now, having done their “homework,” representatives from the 12 schools on this mission look forward to meeting Czech students and prospective education partners, while building upon our countries’ lasting friendship.
Adam Wilczewski is Chief of Staff at the U.S. Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration. He is based in Washington, D.C.