Saturday, May 5, 2012

The View From the Top

A conversation with UNYP General Manager Sotiris Foutsis

By Michal K.

Most UNYP students know General Manager Sotiris Foutsis as the man from Greece who occupies a big office on the fourth floor – and not much more. UNYPRESS paid him a visit to learn more about the man and his hopes and dreams for UNYP. Foutsis proved to be a thoughtful and gracious subject, at one point even providing the interviewer with a pen.  

UNYPRESS: Why did you come all the way from Greece to run a school in Prague?
SOTIRIS FOUTSIS: To put it simply, I was assigned here. I have 10 years of experience in various managerial positions. I worked in our school in Athens, and then they sent me here.

UNYPRESS:  Is it true that you are the son of Elias Foutsis, the man who started the whole New York University empire in Europe? How many universities are there all together?
SF: Yes, that’s true. Right now there are four universities. Along with Prague there is also Belgrade, Tirana and Athens, but we collaborate with many other universities.

UNYPRESS: Do you plan to expand the “lineup” anytime soon?
SF: We are always looking for new possibilities to improve, so it is possible. But right now we are very cautious because of the economic situation in the world.

UNYPRESS: Speaking of improvement, I am sure many students would like to know when we will see the new UNYP building. The rumors have been around for a while now.
With the twins in Berlin
SF: (Laughs) We were very, very close, but due to certain legal and financial aspects the deal broke down. Of course we are still planning it, but don’t expect anything within the next academic year. Maybe the year after that.

UNYPRESS: While we are talking about future plans, what is your vision for UNYP?
SF: (After a pause) My vision has pretty much materialized already. Our aim is to offer  the best, or at least one of the best, universities in the region, which UNYP is. We offer quality education and the success of our alumni is a major indicator. I would still like to improve the internal quality.

UNYPRESS: What do you think sets UNYP apart from other English-language universities in Prague?
SF: I think UNYP is quite unique in what it offers, because for example Prague College is not accredited by the Czech government. We are. And I honestly believe that the quality of education we offer is much better.

UNYPRESS: As good as UNYP may be, in the Czech Republic there is always the stigma of being a private school. Many people say that UNYP is a school for rich kids who don’t have to do anything for their grades because the school just wants their money. What is your reaction to this?
SF: (With emphasis) I challenge anyone to come here and see how we do things; they will see that is not true. Unfortunately, there are many schools which function like that. But we are not one of them. We dismiss a number of students every semester. Many schools don’t do that.

UNYPRESS: I remember on orientation day for new students you said that if we end up in your office, we are in serious trouble. Are you a tough boss?
SF: (Laughs) You would have to ask the employees, but I have a philosophy of a pleasant environment and good teamwork atmosphere. But of course to get thing done, you sometimes need to create some pressure.

UNYPRESS: What has been your biggest challenge so far as general manager of UNYP?
SF: The biggest problem was to change the mentality of the way people perceive UNYP. It has been four a half years since I came here, and it took that long to explain to people that UNYP is an international school. We are not a Czech school.

UNYPRESS: How do you recruit professors?
SF: We try to have international professors. Since Prague has quite a large expat community, it’s not a problem. If we cannot find any here, we try to get people from abroad. We also have professors coming from ESC.

UNYPRESS: On a lighter note, what are your hobbies?
SF: I like any type of sport whenever possible. Many students can see me at UNYP sports events, only there is not that much time because of the kids. I also like movies and traveling.

UNYPRESS: I understand that your family still lives in Greece. How many kids do you have?
SF: My family already moved here. I have three kids.

UNYPRESS: And what is your favorite movie and travel destination?
SF: For the film, Braveheart. But I don’t have a favorite place to go. I like the exploration aspect of traveling.

Keep Karma and Carry Om

Why not pick up your bags, passport and dreams, and run off to an ashram in India?

By Yuliya Ni

 Sometimes one day spent in other places gives more than ten years of life at home.
– Anatole France

A spiritual journey to India is unlike any other trip you will ever take in your life. At every juncture you will encounter distinct perspectives; every ashram, every guru, holds unique wisdom.

“A spiritual pilgrimage to India is not primarily about information,” according to travel writers Anne Cushman and Jerry Jones. “It is about initiation.”

Ashrams are places of spiritual retreat. They are not meant to be an escape from life, but a respite from worldly pursuits. They offer spiritual seekers an unencumbered place where they can spend time concentrating solely on the spiritual aspects of life. There are plenty of ashrams all over the world, especially in India, but it is necessary to find one that fits your needs. 

Three years ago, I went to the biggest ashram in India to explore new cultures, meet new people, find myself and, though it may sound ridiculous, kill my ego.

Prasanthi Nilayam in Puttaparthi, Andhra Pradesh lies about 125 kilometers northeast of Bangalore. It was the ashram of Śri Sathya Sai Baba, one of the most revered spiritual leaders of the 20th century. For more than 50 years, he walked a path seeking the highest ideals of truth, right conduct, peace, love, and nonviolence. People from far-off places came to learn directly from Sathya Sai Baba, who interacted with all his followers on a personal level, without any intermediaries.

The ashram complex consists of beautiful temples, a Kalpa vriksha (wish-fulfilling tree), a meditation tree which is one of the most magical places there, and Darshan Hall, where Sathya Sai Baba met his devotees.

It was not easy to get to this ashram. After arriving in Delhi, I had to wait for a flight to Bangalore, and from there take a taxi to Puttaparthi. Accommodations in the ashram are free. Usually people stay in a dormitory, sometimes 20 people to a room, but I was lucky to share a room just with two women.

In spite of a strong desire to kill my ego, the room in which I was going to live petrified me when I first entered it. It was small and dark, with dirty mattresses and a little window. The man who showed us the room told us to beware of monkeys, as they often steal things from the rooms, especially food.
After arriving, I went to Darshan Hall for a ceremony that takes place twice every day. (Darshan is a Sanskrit term that means “sight.”) The ceremony attracts up to 20,000 devotees, who gather for meditation with melodious mantras. For the first time, it was pure torture to sit on the floor for three hours.

Despite my first feelings of discomfort, I got used to living in the ashram surprisingly soon. I felt very comfortable and safe among people from all over the world wearing saris and other traditional Indian clothes. During the next Darshan ceremony I did not feel discomfort anymore, just calmness and serenity. Moreover, I was really lucky to see Sathya Sai Baba alive (he died on April 24 last year).

Though it was three years ago, I can still vividly remember the colorful buildings in the ashram, the thousands of flip-flops in front of Darshan Hall, the smell of incense, monkeys all over the ashram, and traditional Indian food with tones of curry and other spices. I spent my evenings drinking coconut milk in the company of new people telling incredible stories of their lives. It was impossible not to feel the strangeness of the moment, when everything is so unusual. But at the same time, everything and everyone went in such a usual manner that it was sometimes hard to remember I was in reality, and not a dream.

My intention to kill my ego was quite successful, as India changed me. I left behind my solely materialistic ambitions; I was no longer interested in the standard values of an average glamour girl. I ceased to consider material welfare as an ultimate goal. I understood that life is not just about money and comfort, but about finding yourself, listening to your heart and following your unique path.
Darshan ceremony

Many people return to the ashram every year. A few days can do wonders, but a few weeks – even months – can really make a lasting difference in your life. It is unlikely that you will come back from your trip the same.

Of course, the experience is not for everyone; if you are a complete skeptic, it is probably not the best idea to go to an ashram. Such places are rewarding for people who are completely open-minded to everything around them, who can accept things they do not understand, but feel, and realize that the deepest and most important things in life are invisible.

For more about Prasanthi Nilayam: http://www.sathyasai.org/ashrams/prashanthi.htm

The New Amsterdam of the East

In a culture suffused with marijuana, a new film looks at its medical benefits

By Yuliya Ni

All over Prague one can constantly see a tremendous amount of posters, advertisements and products related in one way or another to marijuana. Cannabis festivals and marches are held every year in the Czech Republic, and seem to be very popular. And now there is a Czech documentary film, Year of Mari©uana by Petr Slabý, currently showing at the Světozor and Aero cinemas. The title of the movie says it all.

Some people believe that marijuana offers medical benefits, such as helping to stimulate appetite and relieve nausea in AIDS and cancer patients, and in treating depression. Some states in the U.S., like California, have legalized the drug for medicinal purposes, which have proved to work exceptionally well. Marijuana is also known to relieve symptoms of multiple sclerosis, glaucoma and post-traumatic stress disorder. The Czech Ministry of Health has said it will take marijuana off the list of banned substances, and for the first time allow it to be prescribed as medicine by doctors.

This topic is deeply discussed in Year of Mari©uana, which follows a whole range of people dealing with cannabis, approaching its use from various perspectives and presenting the soulful stories of several patients who use cannabis to help relieve the effects of cancer and multiple sclerosis. Professor Lumir Ondřej Hanuš, a scientist who has dedicated his professional career to cannabis research, and Dušan Dvořák, an activist and founder of the “Cannabis is a Cure” foundation, are also featured in the movie.

There are a lot of funny moments in the movie when the situation is almost absurd, especially when people show their purest love for marijuana. Scenes of huge marijuana plantations are shown accompanied by relaxing junkie music. After watching Year of Mari©uana, it is easy to get the impression that marijuana can and should be used for medical treatment, especially for people who have serious diseases.

This is only one example of the popularity of marijuana in the Czech Republic, especially among the young generation. This green, smelly bud has created a subculture and even an image of our debauchery, a greedy-for-entertainment generation.

According to the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA), Czech youth are the leaders in smoking marijuana. So it is not surprising that the Czech Republic has some of the most liberal drug laws in Europe, and produces most of the continent’s methamphetamine (although the country’s AIDS rates are among the lowest in Europe).

It seems like Prague is going to be the New Amsterdam of the East. Currently, it is only a misdemeanor to have up to 5 plants of hemp or 15 grams of marijuana, 40 pieces of “magic” mushrooms, 5 grams of hashish, 5 LSD-laced papers or other materials with LSD, 1.5 grams of heroin, 1 gram of cocaine or 2 grams of methamphetamine. Possessing these items can still result in heavy fines, but as of January 1, 2010, they are not criminal offenses.

As a result of the new law, the prices of drugs in the Czech Republic reportedly decreased by 30-40%.  However a contradictory situation has emerged: On the one hand, people can carry and use small amounts of drugs with no serious penalties. On the other, there are no official places to sell them, so the trade remains illegal. Therefore, visitors may not find Prague as enticing as the Netherlands. You are not able to buy marijuana in a “coffee shop,” like in Amsterdam, but you will not spend time in jail just for partying in a club and having a joint with you.

According to statistics, 28% of Czechs younger than 24 smoke marijuana at least once a year, the highest rate in the European Union, although the use of hard drugs is on average lower than in the rest of the EU. The recent increase in youthful marijuana use has fueled speculation that a new epidemic of hard drug abuse may be imminent, and that the burden of drug abuse will be dramatically increasing in the near future.

In 2004, the United Nations estimated that approximately 4% of the adult world population (162 million people) used cannabis annually, and that approximately 0.6% (22.5 million  people) used cannabis daily.
Scene from the movie

Various surveys identified a rapid increase in marijuana use during the 1990s, especially among youths. This raises a variety of questions about the future of the nation’s drug problems. On one hand, the gateway theory posits that youthful use of alcohol and/or tobacco and marijuana tends to precede use of other illicit drugs like crack and heroin. On the other hand, the start of this new epidemic coincides with the decline of the crack epidemic. This suggests that youthful subcultures may have shifted from the destructive nature of crack to the use of less dangerous drugs.

Year of Mari©uana ends with a phrase: “The worst and strongest drug is the person himself.” This attitude lifts it above propaganda, and makes it worth seeing. The film reveals some unknown interesting facts that make the viewer think about marijuana issues from another perspective, mapping the problem in an objective rather than a biased way. Showing the possibilities and limits of the medical use of cannabis, the film raises important questions about  the right to health and personal freedom.

For more on Year of Mari©uana:  

Trailer for Year of Mari©uana:

A Supernatural Celebration

On the last night of April, Prague got caught up in witch-burning mania.

By Barbora Netolická

Witch-burning night, the greatest of all pagan holidays, came to Prague on April 30, bringing a host of magical creatures out on the streets.

On this night, people who under normal circumstances are quiet Prague citizens lose their conventions with a crazy costume and a couple of beers, and gather for witch-burning celebrations that herald the return of spring.

Witch-burning parade in Malá Strana
“We allow the great witch parade flying over Kampa,” Miroslav Stejskal, a police officer and co-organizer of the Witch Parade and bonfire in Malá Strana, gloriously announced over the lifeless body of a rag-doll witch bound to the bonfire.

Also known as Walpurgis Night or Beltaine, April 30 was in ancient times thought to be the night when witches would fly on their broomsticks to gather for a witches’ conclave. To protect themselves, people would light a fire in front of their homes. Over time, the tradition changed to burning statues of supernatural creatures, like witches, and then using the ashes as protection and the fire as purification. Then young girls used to jump over the fire to gain beauty and a good husband. Interestingly, these traditions have survived into modern times; the main difference now is that they include more beer and security guards.

The crowd watching the
witches dancing around
The most popular witch-burning celebration in Prague is held in Malá Strana, where this year a parade started at 7:30 from Malostranské náměstí, and traveled underneath the Charles Bridge to Kampa Park, where a crowd waited to burn the witch. The parade had a strong ambience created by Medieval-style execution drums following a cage with a “witch” – a middle-aged woman very precisely dressed up, screaming “I am innocent!”

“I call all the witches,” said Stejskal, dressed in an executioner’s robe as the parade arrived at Kampa and the crowd wanted some blood. He announced that the Mayor of Prague 1 was absent for family reasons, so the witch would probably not be granted a pardon, and the burning would take place. However, he called for a vote on the witch’s fate.

“I am asking you, should we grant her a pardon or will she be executed,?” he shouted, pointing at the parade witch, and asking the crowd to raise their hands to vote for a pardon.

High Witch-fashion at Kampa
“My friends, all of you who raised your hands will lose them,” he concluded after enjoying the view of half the crowds’ arms in the air. He then invited everybody to the bonfire, where the execution of a one-meter tall rag-doll witch followed.

“This is the only night of the year that I feel like myself,” said Veronika, a young woman who joined the parade wearing a heavy witch costume. She reported that she was 890 years old.

“Finally, women have their own real holiday,” she added.

However, motivations to come to the witch-burning were diverse. “I hate witches, so I came to see some of them burning,” said Anıl Paçacı, an Erasmus student from Turkey. We can only hope he was joking.

Another Erasmus student from Turkey, Deniz Sun, said she came to see some Czech traditions and find out about the witch-burning, since in her culture there were no witches, and certainly no witch-slaughtering.

“There is a very pleasant ambience here – nice music, people enjoying the performance,” said  Alain Alverado, a ČVUT student from Spain, as he watched witches of all ages dance in a circle around the bonfire. “It is a little like Halloween, but more traditional.”

Hana and Jan from Prague said they come to Kampa every year. Their costumes were magnificent – they were both dressed as pretty ugly witches. “We know the organizers, Sdružení Občanů a Prátel Malé Strany a Hradčan [Association of Citizens and Friends of Malá Strana and Hradčany],” said Hana, 38. “It is a good occasion to meet up with friends and have some unconventional fun.”

“I look forward most to the fire show at the end of the program,” added Jan.

“So where is the big fire?” wondered Lucie, 32, from Prague, as she waited for the bonfire to be lit. She said this was her third year coming to Kampa with friends for witch-burning night. She did not have a costume, but was supplied with a camera and planned on shooting some good pictures of the festivities.

Bonfire in Ladronka
The fire was, indeed, big. But according to Aleš Novotný, a volunteer fireman, no accidents have ever happened in the three years he has participated in the Kampa celebration. He and his fellow firemen stood in a circle around the fire, keeping the crowd from the danger zone. People quietly kept their distance; no one tried the firemen’s patience. Novotný said he only feared the wind fanning the flames.

As it grew dark, the firemen diminished the flames to a reasonable size that would not need such intense supervision. The rag-doll witch was burned, the dance was finished, and now it was time to eat sausages and drink beer while listening to guitar tones coming from a group of young celebrators sitting on the grass and playing.

 Miss Witch 2012 contestants vying for the title
Those who preferred to join a more peaceful witch event, or start sooner, went to Ladronka Park in the afternoon for a program organized by MVP. The annual event focuses mostly on children, but the adults could also get a thrill – for example, gathering around the bonfire, which was lit at 6:30 by the winners of the Miss Witch 2012 contest.

The winner, Witch Leni, 35, said this was her second Miss Witch award.

The Miss Witch finalists leaving the
stage after the competition
“I like this kind of eccentricity,” she said, arranging the bat wings on her dress. “We always go as a family. I also dress up my daughters and they too compete in Miss Witch.” When asked, as Miss Witch, what she wished her land for tonight, she shouted, “I wish everybody a great Beltaine night…and of course, the world peace.”

“It’s a very pleasant place to chill,” said Jelizaveta Lopatina, a high school student of Russian origin, who like many others at Ladronka used the occasion to dress up according to the latest magical fashion.

Ladronka Park on Witch-Burning day
Ondřej, 19, and Jan and David, both 20, came to hear Airfare, the music group that started playing at 8:30. “But we also came to get drunk and check out some girls,” Ondřej admitted. “I think witch-burning night has always been about drinking, so we keep the tradition,” added Jan.

However, the Ladronka event was primarily a family activity. “I was hoping all my witchy girls could stay here at the bonfire tonight,” said Petr, 40, from Beroun, holding his 3 year-old daughter-witch in his arms and waving to his wife. “But now it looks like I will have to go back home after all.”

For more on witch-burning night in the Czech Republic:  

Spain Faces the Turmoil of Financial Crisis

Ambassador offers assurances at UNYP lecture

By Marie Ryan

“We cannot deny that Spain has economic difficulties. We recently have a perspective of a negative growth of 1.7%, and with two terms of negative growth, we are now in a recession,” said Pascual Ignacio Navarro Ríos, Ambassador of the Kingdom of Spain to the Czech Republic.

Ríos made this statement at the UNYP Pulse Lecture on April 24, which was attended by more than 30 students. Rather than avoiding the seriousness of Spain’s financial situation, the ambassador focused on the rationale behind current government reforms, as well as thoroughly explaining what these reforms will change. 

The factors that caused Spain’s economic downfall include a housing market crash in 2009.  Before the crash, the construction sector accounted for approximately 13% of Spanish employment.  The construction slowdown caused construction companies to go bankrupt, and many banks had to merge or were rescued by the Spanish government.  As investor confidence in the economy has fallen, unemployment continues to rise, as do unemployment benefits. 
Ambassador os explaining the reforms

Despite these critical times, Ríos was hopeful because his government is acting drastically to improve the situation through important reforms. He mentioned three measures focused on the labor market, fiscal and financial policies. Among other things, the new reforms allow for worker dismissals due to economic and productivity reasons; funding to retrain the current unemployed workforce; legal sanctions against regional fiscal incompetence, and salary reduction of bank executives by 70%.

Among the most important changes to improve the situation, compulsory agreements between trade unions and industry unions will no longer be the golden rule. “Trade unions and the business/ industry unions had the opportunity to decide all the conditions – for example,  wages, licenses, permits and everything were decided in national agreements,” Ríos explained. “Traditionally, the bargaining system meant a raise in the salaries of workers, even if the competitiveness of the company had not risen. The objective of the reform is to change all of that.

“Fair dismissal can be done for economic reasons now, which were forbidden before,” he continued. “So if a company is in a difficult economic situation, it can dismiss its workers with 20 days of notice. This is more or less the European average.”

However, the degree to which these reforms will help increase investors’ confidence in Spain is debatable. Unfortunately, in the days following Ríos’ visit to UNYP, the credit rating agency Standard & Poor’s downgraded Spain from A to BBB+. Although the country’s public debt is modest – Spain actually has one of the lowest public debts in Europe, with past debt levels reaching 60% of GDP, and present levels approximately 70% of GDP – private debt is extremely high, due to all the losses banks suffered in the collapse of the real estate market.

Standard & Poor’s considers the likelihood of Spanish banks being rescued by the government to be high. Even if Spain’s public debt is low at the moment compared to the rest of Europe, a high private debt coupled with growing unemployment is alarming for an economy which depends on internal consumption. Recent unemployment rates skyrocketed to 24%, with unemployment of people between 25 and 35 reaching 45%. Standard & Poor’s could revise the negative outlook to stable if the need for external financing decreases significantly, and Spain’s economic growth prospects improve.

During the lecture, Ríos reassured students that Spain has the resources to refinance itself. “Most of the Spanish banks have the possibility to finance debt by themselves through a common factor, without help from savings banks in Austria or Germany,” he said. This common factor is in fact a common fund Spain has maintained for a long time, in order to prevent default of the banks.

Whether or not Spain can turn its economic situation around with this common fund and without borrowing money from a European financial institution is arguable. Since Standard & Poor’s does not view the European Central Bank’s recent long-term repurchase operations (LTROs) as a substitute for financial sector restructuring and economic rebalancing, it may not consider Spain’s common fund as the long-term answer to its crisis.

Regarding financial sector restructuring, reforms taken by the Spanish government now encourage unstable banks to merge with stable ones. This consolidation of the banking sector was also used by the United States in its response to the financial crisis.

During the lecture, the ambassador’s tone was not overly optimistic. “The structural measures to overcome the situation might succeed or not,” he admitted. “It depends on us. And it depends also on the attitude and behavior of the markets, and other colleagues in the European Union.”

“Do you have a plan B?” one student asked during the question period, to which Ríos responded, “You cannot have a plan B, because this is the only way to overcome the crisis. If not, we have to re-change everything.”

Visions of the Future

UNYP seniors talk about their plans after graduation

By Danijela Demarin

It is that time of year again. The time when UNYP seniors prepare to say goodbye to Legerova 72 and start looking for their place in the adult world. Their plans range from earning more degrees to opening their own businesses. And a number of students are still undecided about their future.

Tibor Rujder, a Business Administration student from the Czech Republic, has a well-developed plan for the continuation of his studies. He is going to King’s College in London to study for an MSc in finance. “London is my choice because of the variety of people I will meet as well as the good reputation of King’s College, which is among the top 30 universities in the world,” Rujder says. After finishing the program, he plans to work for several years and later pursue a master’s degree in business administration. “I see this combination as a very strong base for my future employment, and it will also provide me with high-quality knowledge for my own future business,” Rujder concludes.

Michaela Baginova, a Communication and Mass Media student from the Slovak Republic, is planning to enter the Master of Fine Arts program at Academy of Art University in San Francisco, and study either Motion Pictures and TV or Acting. “Since I am very interested in music and movies, my career goal is to work in the entertainment industry,” Baginova says.

Tereza Grubrová, a Psychology student from the Czech Republic with a certificate in International Relations, is planning to get her master’s degree in clinical and counseling psychology from LaSalle University in Prague. “The program is offered through UNYP, so I can be in the same environment that I’m used to, and at the same time get a respected degree in something that I love,” Grubrová says. Since classes are held on weekends, she is planning to work in the meantime, preferably in the field of psychology. Grubrová added: “I definitely believe it will help me get a job in the future. And the great thing is that it is so specifically oriented; therefore, I can go straight to work as a clinical psychologist/counselor.”

Sanja Ilić from Croatia, a Communication and Mass Media student, is changing the direction of her interests slightly. Although she studied media for four years, she sees herself in the future as a successful event planner. To help achieve her goal, she hopes to be adequately educated in Event Planning Specialization at Istituto Europeo di Design in Barcelona. Still, her ambitions reach above that. “The specialization, as well as improving my Spanish, are for now my number-one goals,” she says. “However, in the near future I would like to apply to the IED Barcelona master’s program in Web 2.0: Design, Communication, Marketing and Advertising.”

Olga Danyukova, a Russian student double-majoring in Business Administration and International Economic Relations, has less specific plans for the future. Still in doubt whether to work for some time or immediately apply for a master’s degree, Danyukova mentions her preferred future school, one famous for launching people to the highest positions in widely known companies. “The ESB Business School in Reutlingen, Germany offers a combination of studying abroad and practical use of knowledge,” she says. For now, she gives the advantage to a job, believing the experience is an important factor for future managers.

 Maya Humbatova, a student from Azerbaijan, also double-majoring in International Economic Relations and Business Administration, is planning to continue her studies by applying for a master’s degree in international business at the University of Economics in Prague. Relying on her personal motivation as the greatest ambition in the future, Humbatova says, “I think a master’s degree will help me in my future career, where I see myself working in the renewable energy industry or sustainability consulting business.”

Vivienne Strelecka, a Slovak student of Communication and Mass Media, has decided to continue studying in her field. “I applied to the master’s program at Charles University, where I am hoping to advance my knowledge in media studies after passing the entrance exam in June,” she says. When it comes to finding a job, Strelecka has her options wide-open, hoping to increase her possibilities after receiving an advanced degree.

Another Communication and Mass Media student, Andreas Stylianou from Cyprus, has quite different plans. “I am planning to open a tavern offering Cypriot specialties highly influenced by Greek, Turkish, Lebanese, Italian, French and African tastes, flavors and aromas,” he says. When it comes to the continuation of studies, he is thinking of applying for a master’s degree in one of his areas of interest, such as sociology, anthropology, music conducting, public relations or political communication. He adds: “My career goal is to be happy in everything I do, so I can do it well. I want to contribute to the community and help the next generation have a better social template to start with.”

UNYP students are officially graduating on Saturday, June 23 in a ceremony starting at 5 p.m. at Palác Žofín. After the usual speeches, graduates will receive letters of acknowledgment and then symbolically move the tassels on their caps from left to right before throwing the caps in the air, marking the end of their UNYP studies.

The graduation party will follow in the evening at Občanská Plovárna, where graduates will be able to celebrate with their friends. The party is being organized by Šimon Pavúk, event manager at Student Zone Prague.

PASSPORT: Christina Kneitz

Sunshine and Sausages in South Africa

By Baia Dzagnidze

Full Name: Christina Kneitz
Country: South Africa
Year of birth: 1988
Major: Communication and Mass Media

UNYPRESS: How old were you when you moved to Europe?
Christina Kneitz: I was about three years old. My father, who was a diplomat, had a new posting in Europe, so we moved to Bonn, Germany, where I went to kindergarten. Later on, we moved to Brussels, Belgium, and I went to elementary school there. Four years later, we moved to London. and after four years there we moved to Berlin, where I finished high school.

UNYPRESS: You still have some relatives in South Africa, right? How often do you visit them?
CK: Yes, on my mother’s side – my grandmother, aunts, uncles and cousins. Now, my younger brother moved there and is studying in Pretoria, which is very close to Johannesburg. I try to go there every year, but with studying and working, it’s not easy to find enough time.

UNYPRESS: As you lived in many countries, which one do you consider your home?
CK: Home to me is the place where I live – now it’s Prague. Even though I am really happy here, I do feel that something is missing sometimes. As I moved around so often, my home changed many times. However, when I go back to Johannesburg, and stay at my grandparents and spend time with my family, it feels the way it did before. So I have another feeling of “home.”

UNYPRESS: Was it hard for you to get used to another country?
CK: Since I mostly lived in Europe, it was not that hard getting used to other countries. I always went to international schools, so my friends were basically in the same situation. In London, we had good friends from South Africa, which felt like home in some ways.

UNYPRESS: What is the main difference between Europe and South Africa?
Christina with friends in theme park
Gold Reef City. Johannesburg
CK: The main difference is that here everything is so close. Traveling to different countries and by public transport in the cities is very easy, especially in Prague. Having a car is not at all necessary here, but in South Africa it’s a must. Also, similar to the United States, alcohol is sold in special liquor shops which close earlier than other shops. Moreover, in South Africa all the properties are surrounded by high walls. The only way to see houses and gardens is through the gates. Every household has a gardener and a maid. I like to say it’s like “life in a golden cage.”

UNYPRESS: How different are the cultures?
CK: Not really too different, though maybe South Africans are more laid-back and friendlier to foreigners than Czechs are. For example, when going to supermarkets, petrol stations, restaurants, basically anywhere, one always asks: “Hi, how are you?” But it’s not fake like in the U.S., it’s simply being polite.

UNYPRESS: What common traditions do you have in South Africa?
CK: In summer, when it is winter here in Europe, people love to throw barbeque parties in their gardens, called Braai, where they invite family and friends over.

UNYPRESS: What is a typical meal or dish of South Africa?
CK: As South Africans barbeque a lot, one of the most typical things to eat is the “Boerewors” – a sausage made from minced meat and spices. In addition, curries are very typical, either with chicken, lamb or vegetables, cooked in a large “Potjie pot” placed over the fireplace.

UNYPRESS: What are the main stereotypes?
CK: Since South Africa is such a large country with so many different cultures, there is not one typical stereotype. The only thing I noticed was, whenever I mention that I am from South Africa, people look at me and say: “But you’re not black?!” Not everyone from South Africa is black, and sometimes I feel people forget that. Besides this, people also ask me if I am a racist, which is quite upsetting to me. Yes, South Africa has a history of racism, and apartheid did happen. But that doesn’t mean I agreed with it.

UNYPRESS: If a person wants to visit Johannesburg, what’s the process like?
CK: European citizens do not need a visa to enter South Africa. However, they need to know whether the zone they are visiting is a malaria area or not. Just in case, it’s probably better to go to a doctor and get the injection. Additionally, they should be careful with the sun, as it is much stronger than here, even when cloudy. You can get burned very quickly.

UNYPRESS: Why did you decide to study in the Czech Republic?
CK: There are many reasons. I lived in Berlin before, and I wanted to study in a country near Germany so I could see my friends easily. As my grandmother is from Prague, I thought it might be nice to go somewhere my family used to live. Also, my grandmother’s sister still lives here, so it’s nice to have some family around.

UNYPRESS: What do you like or dislike about the country?
CK: What I really like about Prague is that it is so small and getting around is not a problem. It has so much history and the architecture is amazing. The people are not always so kind, and sometimes it is really frustrating, as I can’t communicate. However, in the end, it somehow always works out. But what I love most is the beer here!

Running Through History

A UNYP student participates in the upcoming Volkswagen Prague Marathon

By Barbora Netolická

At 9 a.m. on Sunday, May 13, more than 8,000 runners will converge on Old Town Square for the Volkswagen Prague Marathon, a 42-kilometer run around Prague city center. Among the huge crowd will be Katarína Zubová, a third-year Communication student from UNYP, wearing number F1723.

“I think I will not make it for the whole marathon,” Zubová says. “But I want to have the experience and know that I tried.”

Zubová loves sport, yet she is a first-timer in the marathon. She was a professional swimmer for almost 10 years, and now she is also a skilled runner. Yet she has been training for her new goal – running a marathon – only for a couple months.

The record times for finishing the Volkswagen Prague Marathon are 2:05:39 
(men) and 2:22:34  (women), both achieved by Kenyan runners. For slower runners, the race will extend over 7 hours.

Zubová is hoping to finish in 5 hours, but there is skepticism in her voice. “I counted an approximate time that it would take me to finish 42 km if I run all the time.” she says. “But expecting an amateur runner to run for 5 hours nonstop is quite naïve.

“I do not want to end up in a hospital, so I set my limit: till the first vomiting.” Zubová expects that to come around the 30th kilometer.
With a half-marathon, half of
her dream will come true

Even though Zubová`s parents are not trying to stop her, they do not approve. In fact, they gave their permission and support only for a half-marathon (21km). Understandably, they are worried about their daughter’s health. “I will see how I feel in the middle, but I would love to at least try to make the whole track, no matter what other people think,” Zubová says confidently.

As for her motivations, Zubová says simply, “I felt a need for a change and a short-term goal.”

She is also looking forward to meeting professional celebrity runners. For example, she will have a chance to see Patrick Makau, 26, a Kenyan and the current holder of the world record in the marathon – 2:03:38, set in Berlin in 2011. For non-runners hoping to meet Makau, he is scheduled to be training in Stromovka Park on the Wednesday before the race. This will be his second visit to Prague; he ran the Prague Marathon in November 2011.

Zubova made a good choice of a marathon. First, the track seems very pleasant: it starts in Old Town Square, makes a circle along the river from Libeň to Podolí and finishes back in Old Town Square. Second, the Volkswagen Prague Marathon is one of two Prague International Marathons (PIM) awarded the highest mark of quality – a Gold Label from the IAAF (International Athletic Federation). That allows it to compete with big European marathons like the Roma Marathon and Berlin Marathon. PIM is one of just a few organizations worldwide that has managed to receive two Gold Labels for its races.

Third, race organizers works hard to ensure the comfort of the runners. There are refreshment points every 5 kilometers, and all runners receive a free start bag, deposit bag, changing rooms, and an SMS with finish times in 7 languages. Every runner that completes the course will get a medal at the finishing line.

Other special offers by the marathon include a free massage before and after the race, and one free entry for family members.

“I was not thinking about who to take yet, but I will probably go for my dad,” says Zubova. “I think the massage will be too crowded, so I have my own booked already. After the marathon, my family will get me to the car and take me directly to the wellness center,” she adds with a laugh.

For dog-lovers there is always the Pedigree Dog Walk, scheduled for May 12. It will take place at Výstaviště in Holešovice, on a 4.5-km course through Stromovka Park. For every registered participant, 1 kg of dog food will be sent to dog shelters. And of course, all participants will receive a proper number – even the hairy ones.

Anyone can join the Prague Marathon; there is no need to be an accomplished runner. People can register as an individual, or for those in need of motivated partners, there are PIM running teams that welcome new members.

But what about the beginning? Certainly, the hardest thing in any kind of running is getting started. According to Lucie Porcálová, a professional workout coach who is also running in the Volkswagen Marathon, beginners must start slow and build up stamina.

Volkswagen Marathon 2011
According to Zubová, you know that you are running at the right speed when you are able to run and speak fluently at the same time.

“It never gets easy, but it can become a habit, or even a dependence,” says Porcálová. “But sport is just like drugs. Once you get used to it, you need to have it.”

Zubová herself admits that training is not always fun. She describes the need to develop the muscles around the lungs and stomach to improve breathing capacities. Even though she has been running intensively for years, she is worried about cramps. “Once you get a cramp, you are done,” she says.

If you are tempted, but still not sure, you can try volunteering at marathon events. About 2,500 volunteers contribute to PIM races every year. They help out at the refreshment points, on the start and finish lines, and preparing the track.

If Zubová does not finish the marathon, it won’t bother her. “Baby steps,” she says with a laugh. “If I run through a half-marathon, half of my dream will come true. Then only a little step will remain to fulfill the whole dream.

“My parents hope this will be my first and my last marathon,” Zubová adds. “But we will see.”

Basic information about the marathon
Start: 9:00, Old Town Square

Time limit: 7 hours
Fees: 2200 CZK/70 EU
Registration Deadline: 8 May
Men’s event record (2010): Eliud Kiptanui/KENYA/2:05:39

Women’s event record (2011): Lydia Cheromei/KENYA/2:22:34

Other upcoming marathons in the Czech Republic
June 23: Volkswagen Olomouc Half-Marathon through Olomouc center
September 16: Usti Nad Labem Marathon, a unique course that leads through the famous chemical factory

For further information: