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Exploring the Czech Republic

Posted on: July 14, 2017

Adventurous travelers love to ask, “Where do the locals go?” A group of students from University of South Carolina’s College of Hospitality, Retail and Sport Management found the answer to the question on a unique Maymester tour of the Czech Republic with Czech native and USC professor Marketa Kubickova.

The students spent 10 days studying abroad in the Czech Republic during the International Hotel Management - HRTM 565 Maymester class. They went beyond the tourist-beaten paths of Prague and experienced beautiful destinations they had never heard of before the class, such as Brno, the Macocha Gorge, the Hotel Grand Pupp and Cesky Krumlov.

"It's always a good experience for students to go and see how the world functions outside the United States,” Kubickova said of the class, offered for the first time in 2017. “The students gained an interesting understanding of the political history of the country and how it has transitioned into an affordable travel destination known for its picturesque vistas, fine hotels, local breweries and ancient castles and churches."

For the students, the experience was eye-opening. “It was an amazing opportunity to be able to connect what we learned in the classrooms in Columbia, S.C., to real hotel properties in the Czech Republic,” said hospitality management major Florencia Laber. “I was only a freshman last year and was the youngest in the group, but it opened my mind to so much and I will be able to apply my knowledge back at USC and in my future career.”

“It was an amazing opportunity to be able to connect what we learned in the classrooms in Columbia, S.C., to real hotel properties in the Czech Republic.”

—Florencia Laber, hospitality management major

The course focused on showing the students the differences in culture, and particularly in the hotel and restaurant industries. Professor Kubickova’s connections in her native country helped facilitate many extra opportunities for the students. Before the trip, the class participated in collaborative research with students at Masaryk University in the city of Brno by filling out tourism surveys. During the study abroad, the two groups of students were able to meet in person and review the research findings on how to attract more student visitors to the Czech Republic.

The Czech students’ research found that most Americans of college age are aware only of Prague as a place to visit in the Czech Republic. The Maymester class showed the Gamecock group how much more the country has to offer.

“This trip took us to places not many people get to go,” said hospitality management major Sarah Deeb. “It was a once-in-a-lifetime chance to get to experience four cities in the Czech Republic with someone who is from there—my teacher—so I couldn't pass it up.”

Laber agreed, saying her favorite part of Maymester was exploring beyond Prague. “We went to three other smaller cities, each that were completely different than the one before. We truly got a sense of the country and the different things it offers,” said Laber.

Deeb said she learned a great deal about Czech culture in general and the hotel industry there in particular as the students packed all the experiences they could into their time abroad. Czech hotels, for example are primarily independently owned and operated. The industry is far different from the U.S., where more than 75 percent of hotel stays are in chains.

For Kubickova, the trip not only offered a chance to show students her homeland and offer them valuable insights into hospitality management, but also proved to be a learning experience for her.

"I am from there, and I know how the Czech Republic functions, but seeing it through my students' eyes, I have learned a lot about my own country that I did not even think about before,” she said. Kubickova hopes to offer the Maymester class again in the future and hopes the experience will encourage students to continue exploring new places.