Emma Asson ’21, Broadcast Journalism and Documentary major, studied abroad at Anglo-American University in Prague, Czech Republic in spring 2020.

Prague old town scquareWhen I envisioned my semester abroad, which I had been doing for years, I imagined lots of worse case scenarios for what could happen while away from home. Worries like not meeting friends to travel with, getting lost in new cities, or getting pickpocketed by locals flooded my mind for a long time before boarding my flight to Prague. The one thing I never could have imagined, or anyone in the world could have imagined, was a global pandemic cutting the semester 3 months short. However, in the month I spent in Prague I did gain valuable experience that I can take with me in my future journeys, and I can learn how to find meaning from this global situation. (Photo: view of Old Town Square, Prague)

ending credits at film festivalOne of the most rewarding aspects of my time abroad was the opportunity to have an internship with the One World Film Festival. This is a documentary film festival through the nonprofit organization People in Need, and each year activists around the world send in their documentaries to be screened at the festival throughout the first week of March. My job as an intern was to prepare for the festival throughout the month of February and then film each day of the festival in March. I filmed at the premieres, galleries, activist discussions, and any other events associated with the festival to create short highlight videos that were then played in theaters. The videos included recaps from the previous day as well as information for upcoming events that festival-goers should be aware of. (Photo: ending credits to Emma’s festival highlight videos)

The internship for credit included a seminar that consisted of other student interns who met every other week to discuss our jobs. We learned how to handle any workplace issues, how to manage an international internship while pursuing other study abroad goals (like traveling), and how to speak about our internship in future professional settings. I was also in three other classes that met weekly; two for my major in Broadcast Journalism and Documentary and one for my minor in Sociology.

festival team group in Prague(Photo: Festival team in Prague)

The most challenging aspect was the time commitment during the festival week, March 5-14. I was working a full 10-12 hours a day for that week, running from different theaters and cafes to film all the events. Regardless of the time commitment, I was able to create connections with my coworkers I wouldn’t have been able to create without this opportunity. They taught me some of the Czech language, showed me the best local pubs, and gave me helpful tips to navigate things like the grocery stores and trams. The workplace in Prague is much different than what I was used to in America. My office was very laid back, with people bringing in their dogs or babies daily. You could leave for lunch whenever you wished, and there was no problem leaving early if you could complete your work from home. They clearly valued a close-knit team, and everyone went out of their way to make me feel welcome and comfortable in this new country and company. Because of them, the tough adjustment that comes with studying abroad was greatly eased. 

Coronavirus obviously had a large effect on many people and many companies, and its effect on the festival was huge. On the morning of March 10th, the festival director shared that events of over 100 people are banned, and the festival was officially canceled. All this conversation happened in Czech, during a last-minute, full team crisis meeting. Meanwhile, I  was getting updates from some Chapman friends in Italy who were being sent back to America, and updates from America that coronavirus was spreading there, too! It was a hectic time, but my coworkers were always sure to translate festival updates and Czech news, which is something I will always be grateful for. 

River bank in Prague(Photo: View from Vlatva river bank, looking at Charles Bridge)

I am happy with the connections I made within the One World Festival organization. I still email with some of my coworkers and plan to continue those working relationships in the future. I learned to network without people outside my usual Dodge film student bubble, and create global connections I hope to keep in the future. Working with a foreign company taught me to feel much more confident outside of my comfort zone, and trust that I am capable of more than I previously thought. I also learned to manage my time between classes, my internships, traveling through Europe, and meeting new friends in Prague. 

This experience also opened my eyes to career possibilities in the future. I always assumed I’d end up working in Hollywood and paying a ridiculous amount of rent for a small apartment in the Los Angeles area somewhere, but I no longer think that’s the case. I could move overseas somewhere, and get a job with another country’s film festival, or join teams working on international documentaries to premiere at those festivals. I appreciate this experience, regardless of it being cut short, and my time in Prague leading up to a global pandemic is one I will value for the rest of my life.

Students can study abroad for a semester at Anglo-American University in Prague, Czech Republic and take courses in journalism, documentary, European culture, art, history, sociology, political science, public relations and advertising, and many more. Enhance your semester abroad with an internship for credit to gain a better understanding of your chosen field and develop vital business skills you’ll use every day. Internships through CEA in Prague such as Emma’s are available in a variety of fields such as advertising, broadcasting, education, hospitality, media technology, NGO & development, political science, publishing, visual and digital arts, and more.

Cover photo: Emma Asson in Prague