AIPES 2010 in Prague

AIPES 2010 – “An experience that combines a lifetime into 3 weeks.”

A.T.: Can’t get used to this new situation without all of you!

O.P.: I’m willing to do more readings, just to meet everybody again!

J.B.: I love Prague, but it was a lot more fun here with you guys. Miss the good times we had!

S.P.: AIPES 2010. Legendary.

I remember the day I was reading Dana Muntean’s Blog and came over a summer program which I found interesting and worth applying to. I decided to apply even though the deadline was coming up in two days. I made the impossible possible and applied before the deadline for the American Institute on Political and Economic Systems, a program of The Fund for American Studies. At that time, I did not even think that this would follow to be a fully lived month of summer, in the beautiful capital of the Czech Republic, Prague. It was a great experience, and I am glad and thankful that I was accepted. For me there were 24 days spent in Prague, starting July 6th till the 29th. Those were some of the most fully lived days in my whole life. A class of 109 students who I discovered to be remarkable people with breadth of knowledge and quick minds, interested about the economic and political issues of this world. Besides that, they proved to be enthusiastic people, with whom I had tons of fun every single day, discovering Prague and the surroundings, even Vienna for one day. And who cares I got to break another two pairs of high hills which were my favorite, coming on a total of three pairs of high hills for this year? One would say “Of course,” after so much dance and walking on the little square stone paved roads in Prague. The first pair I broke right in the front of the White House in D.C. Good times and a total of three pairs of broken high hills. That’s what she said!

Day 1st – Arrival in Praha, first walk around

After a long trip I arrived in Prague in the middle of the day. The sky was all in clouds, but still just the perfect weather. It was chilly but it didn’t matter, as I got to look around and admire Prague’s beautiful streets with gorgeous architecture. I could feel that I am in a European capital. At the Museum station, me and my fellows from Moldova, Radu and Julie, purchased metro tickets and got on the Red subway line at the Museum Station, transferred later on the Green Line going to Dejvicka station. There are three main lines in Prague’s subway system: the Green Line from Dejvicka to Depo Hostivar extreme stations; Red Line with Letnany and Haje, and the Yellow Line with Cerny Most and Zlicin.

We got at Masarykova Kolej and checked in our rooms. It took me a while to do so as the electronic key wouldn’t let me in. I had to struggle with it couple of times, all along my stay in Prague for the program.

There were few people at the lobby; however I got to ask couple of them if they were with the same program. In about half an hour I got a group of seven students including four Moldova people, two Americans, and a girl from Russia, to go on a first tour around Prague. Our direction was the Charles Bridge. We got maps but they were not specific enough to get us there. However it was fun! We walked unknown streets asking for directions, taking pictures and finally we got to the destination. The view of the Prague Castle and the surroundings was gorgeous; there was music playing and even a photography exhibition in the front of the Philharmonic Orchestra House, Rudolfinum. I was pleasantly surprised to see the statue of Antonin Dvorak in front of it. I remembered he was Czech and seen a flashback of when I first listened to the New World Symphony.

We walked on the Mostecká Street to find some coffee shop. Starbucks was there for us. We later on realized that we walked in a circle to get back home. I got to regret I didn’t wear warmer clothes. I got a cold that day which stayed with me all along the program. In the range of advices, I would include that July is the rainiest month of summer in Prague, so if you plan on venturing into the city, you should definitely have a coat and shoes ready to be rained on. Also, if you want to exchange money, make sure that you will get the rate written on the board.

Day 2nd – Opening Meeting, new people

The second day started with a breakfast in the cafeteria and registration later on. I met the Economics and Politics instructors, TAs and the program manager. In the evening we had the opening meeting where I got to first meet Mr. Kwasiborski, the European Institutes Director. After he gave his inspirational and motivational opening speech about how big of an impact can this experience have on us, we had a social hour downstairs in the so called “basement bar” watched football and got to socialize, as it was supposed to. For the first time I got to meet people from countries like Serbia, Albania, Montenegro, Lebanon, Guatemala, Belize, United Kingdom, Poland and even Hungary. That evening my pre-assigned roommate arrived. I was glad to find out she was from Poland, a country which I didn’t know very well before.

Walking Tours of Prague

On the second day of the program the 109 students “crew” got to explore Prague in groups of around 20 people directed by local tour guides. We were shown and told stories about the Prague Castle, the Wenceslas Square, the National Museum and the Charles Bridge. A special moment was at the Astronomical Clock on the Old Town Square. We watched a presentation of statues of the Apostles at the doorways above the clock, with all twelve presented every hour. At the end of the tour we ate ice-cream at a place that our guide said prices are pretty reasonable. I got my scoop of double chocolate ice-cream for 48 Kc.

Legislative Simulation

Besides Economics and Politics classes, we had a Legislative Simulation and a Moot Court. For the legislative simulation we had to create the nation of AIPES and pass five bills, namely a bill of rights, income taxation, maximum punishment, gun control and abortion. 10 teams of about 11 people worked and put together bills for the creation of the new country of AIPES. AIPESians successfully passed five of the ten bills, as by two teams were assigned the same topic. My team had to pass a bill on income taxation.

Country Presentation

It was a fun night at the Racianska Wine Restaurant in the Holiday Inn Hotel. We had a tasty Czech dinner, music and dances. Later on all 32 countries were presented in dances, food and drinks. Cultures from all around the world were all in one restaurant, having fun, sharing souvenirs. I had a great time and was glad I brought a national costume. It rained on us so bad that night as we returned to the dorms. But we were singing in the rain and did not really care. It’s Raining Men by Weather Girls become one of our favorite songs that we got to sing every time we got in the rain. And that happened several times.

Men Auction – Fundraiser

Ten of the AIPES students were auctioned for a date and for the noble goal of raising money for a student to attend AIPES next year. We had lots of fun as each boy performed and danced on music. They were all in costumes and were auctioned all around 3500 Kc.One of our TAs (Dr. Love) and Mr. Kwasiborski left for the IIPES in Greece after the event. In the morning, around three am we were all at the lobby, waiting to surprise Mr. Kwasiborski and Sam as they left. We asked him to give a speech and took last pictures together. We thought to not meet them soon.

Moot Court

At the moot court the “nation of AIPES” had the chance to be in the roles of lawyers and judges. There were discussed the cases of Gonzales vs. Raich and U.S. vs. Lopez. We mostly focused on the commerce clause and the higher law concepts. I was on the defense team for the Gonsalez vs. Raich. The honorable judges decided we were to win the case.

Vienna Trip

It was a rainy day, but we had no time to stay and freeze, so we explored Vienna for a half of the day. I was pleasantly surprised to see Starbucks both in Vienna and Prague. The most beautiful view was at the Schönburg Palace. It is a view that stays with you for a while.

I remembering stopping for a while in the front of University of Vienna and imagining how would it be to study there. Well, I guess it was not meant to be.

I bought chocolate to share with my family and left Vienna. The four hours bus ride back was tons of fun, I learned some Serbian and got a lot of time to chat.

Melnik Castle with wine tasting

On one if the three Sundays in the program, we had a field trip to the Melnik Castle, where we’ve seen the interior of the castle, went down into the cellars for wine tasting and met Prince Lobkowicz for lunch.

Economics Exam Day, Goran Bregovic Concert

After we took the one and a half hour exam in Economics, we had a Government Review Session for the Politics exam. In the evening I went with some students to enjoy Goran Bregovic’s concert. There was a huge crowd at every corner surrounding the Charles Bridge and the floating stage on the waters of Vltava (Moldau) river. We tried to get on a boat but in vain, so we just stood on the bridge and watched the concert. I got to see the stage just when they were playing Ederlezi. It was a powerful moment. I love Goran Bregovic music and I am glad I got to hear him singing live.

GraduationDay – Government Exam, unexpected surprise, and meeting Poland’s Prime Minister

The last day of the program was a long last day, as we had the last exam for Government, and the Graduation Ceremony. Mr. Kwasiborski made us the great surprise and a long trip from Greece back to Prague to be with us on the Graduation day. He surprised all of us and made us remember that there will never be another AIPES 2010, that the students of AIPES are the best of the best. He gave a speech which made me understand the value of all those moments spent there. At the Graduation Ceremony we had Poland’s Prime Minister as a guest. I was a bit upset my camera got broken a day before, I couldn’t take pictures in the most important day of the program.

We had fun till the late night than night, dancing ans singing our favorite songs. People were leaving as soon as the party ended. I remember tears, smiles, hugs and last photos. They kept leaving until the dorms remained almost empty. My roommate left, most of the people left. Just some of us stayed a few more days. It was hard to go with the subway just a few of us, there wasn’t that same feeling and energy.

AIPES – We created a country of our own, with its own laws. We had the best time in profound discussions, exploring Prague and dancing until the late night. A world I didn’t want to leave from. I got used to it and to the people, as it was so fully lived. The experience totally filled our beings. Now I feel different – a motivation to be better in what I am doing. That is when you look at the world map differently. It makes you curious about those countries, makes you want to discover them.

I know it won’t be ever the same again. We all are saying: see you soon, see you again. I know many of us will meet each other around this world. That is why I wish to keep in touch with all of you AIPES 2010 people. Stay in touch, talk about plans and travels. This was a life changing experience. Not only have we studied economics and politics at a higher level, as well we have developed everlasting friendships. Now I can truly say I have friends all over the world. I miss you AIPES people. I am so glad to receive your messages, to chat with you! There are plenty of pictures but still I feel I didn’t take enough. That is why I plan to meet you again around this world, to do business with you, to be in programs again and to stay in touch.

Thank you, AIPES 2010 students and staff for a lifetime experience!