By Caroline Yablon | Reporter
Twenty-eight students of the Baylor Excellent Scholarship Team (B.E.S.T) and senior lecturer Marlene Reed traveled to Prague last week. The group visited multiple businesses – which the students studied this semester – explored the country’s most famous landmarks, tasted the cuisine, and saw the Anne Frank house on a layover in Amsterdam.
Denver, Co., senior Lane Dreyfuss said the time on the trip was split between speakers, learning experiences and sightseeing.
The students visited many businesses they had studied that were started after the fall of communism in 1989. She said they were able to meet with the business owners and got the opportunity to see if the business had grown or changed since studying them.
One business the students visited was a car company called Skoda, and they were able to tour their manufacturing plant outside of Prague.
Dreyfuss said it was a great experience because she learned how big of a role this business plays in the Czech Republic’s economy.
“Skoda is 8 percent of the Czech Republic’s gross domestic product (GDP),” Dreyfuss said.
The students were able to explore the many wonders of the country, such as the Prague Castle, St. Vitus Cathedral and a concentration camp and ghetto in Terezín.
Dreyfuss described the Cathedral as tall and intricate and said it took around 900 years to build. She said seeing the architecture of the buildings was one of her favorite aspects of the whole trip.
“The number of stories and the beauty of the architecture was so fun. I don’t think we have anything with as much history here in the United States. I had never experienced anything like that before — it was gorgeous,” Dreyfuss said.
The students also visited a town called Terezín, the location of a concentration camp during World War II. Dreyfuss said the experience was eerie yet humbling because she got to see history with her own eyes that she has read about and heard from her history teachers.
Reed said the experience was important for her students to witness, even though it was a very “somber” one for them.
“I wanted the students to know that the Holocaust really happened and that people really died there,” Reed said.
The city of Prague taught students how to interact with a more diversified environment compared to the United States.
“The Czech Republic is extremely different from the United States in numerous ways, and it was definitely evident to the entire class that we were in a much different social environment than that of Texas,” Lufkin Texas senior Reed Glass said. “The biggest contrast was probably the bluntness and lack of friendliness of the people of Czech Republic compared to us.”
Glass said when they learned about the country’s history as part of the Soviet Union and its communist rule and that the country is 90 percent atheist, the country’s stereotype of being unfriendly made more sense.
Students also got to experience Amsterdam for a short bit during a layover.
Lorena senior Kimi Green said although visiting a cheese shop with unlimited cheese sample was a nice layover treat, visiting the Anne Frank house was her favorite part of Amsterdam.
“You grow up learning about Adolf Hitler, the Nazis, Auschwitz and the story of Anne Frank, so getting to witness it in person was beyond wild,” Green said.
A major takeaway from the trip for Green was feeling that everyone needs to visit a different country at some point in their life.
“I know it’s easier said than done, but not only is it fun, but you are able to quickly gain a more well-rounded perspective and understanding of what’s happening and why things are happening just from witnessing new areas and hearing people’s stories on a different side of the world from you,” Green said.
Houston senior Caroline Krempa said the trip was a humbling experience.
“Throughout the trip I was so humbled by the beauty of Prague. I loved being able to see the history of the city through the different churchess and the John Lennon wall,” Krempa said. ” It was humbling and exciting to see how much I have to learn about the world
Reed has been teaching the B.E.S.T course for the last 12 years, and three of those years she took the students to the Dominican Republic.
She said this last week has been her most memorable trip yet.
One of her favorite moments from the trip was a fellowship the students hosted for the Praha Youth on Friday. She said three students shared their testimonies, some helped with worship and others played games with the kids. She said Prague is one of the most unchurched – little to no religion – cities in all of Europe.
“It was a great experience for the Praha youth and for the Baylor group,” Reed said.
The B.E.S.T is a yearlong course that takes over a strategic management credit. To be affiliated with the program, a student must go through an extensive application process. The application for the upcoming year will open in January.