Professor finds new culture, new challenges in Prague

With her infant daughter and husband by her side, Jessica Wilson packed up her belongings and moved to Prague for a semester to teach Southern culture to master students.

Wilson, an assistant professor of creative writing at John Brown University, holds a professorship in the American studies program at Charles University.

“I thought the idea of living in Prague for a year, and getting to teach in a new environment with new students, and getting to see my area of study, which is Southern culture, from their perspective would be priceless,” Wilson said in a U.S. Fulbright Grantee Experience interview.

Previously, Wilson has lived in London and Italy and also traveled all around Europe. She said that having this experience did not give her much of a culture shock in living in Prague.

“I’m in love with everything that I see in Prague,” Wilson said. “I can walk all day from Vinohrady to Prague Castle to Kanovo Namesti, just can’t get enough of drinking in the buildings–especially the way the sun hits all of the building and makes everything look like the most beautiful puzzle that you can ever create, I’ve enjoyed trying all of the different food.”

Charles University is one of the oldest universities in the world and is known for their work in research.

As a research university, most of the faculty delves into their research by studying and translating books, publishing their findings and giving lectures on their specific area of study, Wilson said.

“[Charles University] sees its raison d’etre as bringing together teaching and research, building on the premise that high-quality education is best ensured when teachers are also active, internationally recognized experts in their respective fields,” Charles University’s website stated. “Research is therefore never regarded as a second-order priority that comes after educational goals, but as an integral, essential part of what a university is and should be.”

Wilson discovered that the students at Charles University come ready to learn.

“They come into the class eager,” Wilson said. “They have notes written all over their pages. I find students are willing to learn.”

Having been in Prague for two months, Wilson noted that not incorporating integration of faith and learning is a major difference between teaching at Charles University and at John Brown.

“As the ‘most atheist country in Europe,’ the Czech citizens pride themselves on not having religion,” Wilson said. “While I am here officially as an ambassador of America, I am always called to be a missionary for Christ.”

In one of Wilson’s blog post entitled “Do you believe in Buh,” she writes about her experience with an attempt at talking about religion with her colleagues. One of the colleagues mentioned in her post was a Czech, Krystof.

“Moreover, Krystof also informed me that they see the church as corrupt (‘fat pedophile priests’), especially in connection to America–‘a Christian nation’–which they view as greedy and violent,” Wilson stated. “I look at their beautiful churches and hear the bells at noon each day, and then I’m disheartened to think of how empty are those tall stone cathedrals that point to God with no one paying attention.”

Krystof also warned Wilson not to talk about religion with the students, who might receive such conversation with “some antagonism.”

Wilson is currently teaching the courses Southern culture and Religion and Literature.

“When I asked my Czech students why they had chosen to take my Religion and Literature course, one responded, ‘I wanted to see how the enemy thinks,’” Wilson said in her blog post titled Salty Living.

As a Christian living in Prague, Wilson has had to learn how to be salt and light.

“I cannot help but think of those moments in Dostoevsky’s fiction where a character blurts out, ‘Do you believe in God?’ I wonder if anyone around me has been asked that in a long time.”