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Central European Studies: Ramping up International Experience at Rose-Hulman
June 28, 2011
Every four years, the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology football team makes a summer trip to Europe, where they play a game of American football against some European counterparts. Last time, the team played in Rome. When it was decided that this year's trip would take the team to Prague in the Czech Republic and Vienna, Austria, Associate Professor of Geography Mike Kukral was asked to help prepare the team for their visit.
Kukral was a natural choice, since he knows more than a little bit about the region the players will be traveling. "I was a Fulbright scholar and I lived in Prague for a year," Kukral says. Indeed, he wasn't just there for any normal year, either. In fact, Kukral lived in Prague during the fall of 1989 amongst the turmoil which would result in the Velvet Revolution and fall of the country's communist government.
"I was asked to help prepare the team for this trip so they could appreciate the places they're going," Kukral explains. He used his historical and cultural knowledge of the area to create a course within European Studies targeting Central Europe, which team members could take for credit. The genius of Kukral's Central Europe course is that it enabled football students to prepare for the trip while fulfilling a humanities requirement. "This is the first time we've had an accredited course to prepare for the football trip," Kukral says.
The response to the course was overwhelming. Kukral's class was filled to capacity at 32 students. "The football players have been very enthusiastic," he comments. "I probably could have had everybody," he says of the team members, had the classroom space and time been available.
This is Rose-Hulman football's third trip to Europe. The team traveled to London and Paris in 2002, and traveled to Rome, Florence and Venice in Italy in the summer of 2007. A total of 85 people, including players, coaches, parents, and Kukral are included in this year's tour. Kukral's course gave the players context for the sights they saw during their European tour, before they met the Austrian National American Football team in Vienna on June 5th.
"We want to promote more international education at Rose-Hulman and this is one of the ways to do it," Kukral says of the trip and its corresponding class. "It's a great experience to educate Rose-Hulman students about these cities."
The team, which departed on May 30, visited the Hradcany Quarter, St. Vitus Cathedral and the River Vltava in the Old Town Castle District of Prague, as well as Vienna's Schobrunn Palace, before returning home on June 7.