Comments from Vaclav Havlicek,

I came to Bradley University in 1998 after finishing VSE and with a 3-year work experience in the Czech Republic. Both obviously helped, it made life easier on and off campus. At VSE, I concentrated on commerce and financial economics, at Bradley I majored in finance. After I graduated from Bradley in 2000, I stayed in the U.S. for next four years working for a leading financial institution. In 2004, I transferred to London while keeping my employment with the bank. My area of expertise is financial derivatives and it's been a very rewarding experience.

My reasons for joining the MBA program at Bradley were hardly different from those of any young man or woman. I wished to improve my career opportunities by pursuing a well-regarded degree and get an exposure to a vibrant and interesting country. In nutshell, it sounded like a great adventure. Looking from behind, I think I was not disappointed on either count.

Peoria, by Czech standards, is a large-sized city, but possibly due to its mid-western roots and location, it feels smaller. It's a typical American city with suburbs, malls and city pride. Some students welcome it, some not, but it gives one a better idea of mainstream America. For those lacking in thrills, Chicago is a 3-hour drive away and with a well-entrenched Czech community, it's been a favorite destination of many Bradley students during my days in the U.S. An obvious attraction is travel and it can be done on the cheap, but hardly for free. If possible, I'd advise everyone to spend some time cruising the country, those will be the memorable days years back. America is extraordinarily beautiful, it's also very different, and getting to know it is certainly part of the adventure.

Anyone who managed to finish VSE and can follow an hour-long instruction in English should be prepared to do well. I would put Bradley on par with VSE in terms of quality of coursework and a notch or two higher in terms quality of instruction. Bradley, however, having relatively small-sized graduate programs compared to VSE, lacks somewhat in flexibility; not all classes are available each term, planning is necessary. Some students may find a bit surprising that their studies are monitored and course work discussed, not exactly an attribute of graduate programs in the Czech Republic. Course participation, let alone presence, is expected as a matter of fact. It's easy to follow, though; there is plenty of inspiration coming from classmates.

Apart from course work, students are expected to fulfill their duties as graduate assistants to members of the faculty. The work load varies, but it rarely reaches the statutory limit of 20 hours a week and comprises mostly of administrative and research responsibilities. I believe one of the strongest impressions is made by people who work and teach at Bradley, so being close to them as an assistant gives one a welcome opportunity to get to know them a little better. Do not be surprised to find yourself invited to their homes.

After graduating from Bradley, I decided to try my luck and find a job that would help me stay in the country for a few years. Finishing a U.S. school gives one an opportunity to seek a paid job for a year after graduation as part of practical training. Any work past a year-long period must be grounded in a regular work visa scheme. As a result, not all companies and industries are readily opened to foreign applicants. Despite all legal and regulatory difficulties, the single largest obstacle in finding a paid job is, in my mind, America's mono-culturalism; despite all-evident diversity that Americans overwhelmingly welcome, it's the American experience that counts in the end. Unless one can point out a job related history in the U.S., it's not easy at times to get the interest. However, there are companies and industries that are open to foreign talent and with some perseverance, it should be possible to find a job and get a full taste of life in the U.S. A degree from a U.S. university is always the entry ticket.

On a closing note, I'd encourage everyone to read, watch, and get involved. Whatever a personal preference, I believe you will get hooked and over time you will feel a part of your new home. And over a longer time and with some luck, even once you come back to Europe, the feeling might not leave you. You will gain friends, get to know places, learn something new. It will be part of you and you will feel richer for it. I believe it's obvious I remember those years fondly, so I wish everyone to make the same, happy journey.

Vaclav Havlicek

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