Fall 2024

Students will live and study in Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic and one of Europe’s most beautiful cities. Since the Velvet Revolution in 1989, which brought an end to 44 years of communism, Prague has been at the forefront of the sweeping social, cultural, and economic transformations of Central Europe. To help experience the culture and history of the region firsthand, students will participate in discussions, cultural events, and walking tours, as well as excursions to historic sites and towns both within and outside the Czech Republic.

The program’s academic focus will be on how social, cultural, and political forces shape human experience broadly and mental illness in particular. Through assigned readings, classroom discussions, and visits to psychiatric institutions in Prague, the group will explore, among many other topics, the political abuse of psychiatry under communism, the rise of eating disorders in post-communist Eastern Europe, and the radical means of treating paraphilic sex offenders in the Czech Republic. Along the way, students will be asked to reflect on their pre-existing culturally-based assumptions regarding mental illness.

Message from Faculty Director

Ken Abrams

Dobrý Den! If you’re interested in studying mental illness through a cross-cultural lens in a location with a rich history and beautiful architecture, this program may be a good match.

I taught in the Czech Republic for two years in the mid-1990s and at the time didn’t imagine that this experience (and speaking Czech) would connect to my future career as a clinical psychologist. As it turns out, Czech history over the past century, including transitions into and out of communism, has led the Czechs to a highly unusual approach to the diagnosis and treatment of mental illness. How fortuitous for me – and I’m eager to share that good fortune with you.

We’ll learn of this Czech approach through multiple excursions to psychiatric hospitals and clinics to meet with clinicians and their patients. Within the classroom, we’ll study psychopathology more broadly and consider cases from cultures around the globe. It is my hope that the program will provide students greater awareness of — and even occasionally challenge — their culturally-informed attitudes toward mental illness.

Prague, in my opinion, is also the perfect spot to study Central European history and view styles of architecture that span centuries. I’ll add that the Czech Republic is considered one of the safest countries in Europe. Beyond our base city, I’m excited to take you hiking through the snow-capped mountains of northern Slovakia, touring the Wawel castle of Krakow, Poland, and wandering through the picturesque medieval town of Český Krumlov, Czech Republic.

A bit more about me: As a member of Carleton’s psychology department, I regularly teach courses on psychopathology and have previously directed ten study-abroad programs in the Czech Republic. I stay active in the field of international education, have co-organized two conferences on study abroad in psychology, and in 2016 co-edited a book titled Internationalizing the Undergraduate Psychology Curriculum. I received my Bachelor’s degree from Dartmouth College and doctoral degree from the University of Minnesota.

Professor Ken Abrams, Professor of Psychology, Dartmouth College, BA; University of Minnesota, PhD, Licensed Psychologist, Minnesota (LP 6356)



Learning Goals

  • To appreciate the extent to which sociocultural factors influence the symptoms and scope of mental illness
  • To learn to critically read and evaluate primary literature in the field of cross-cultural psychopathology
  • To gain a humanized perspective of mental illness through meetings with patients and their clinicians
  • To gain an awareness of and tools to challenge one’s culturally-informed attitudes and assumptions toward individuals with mental illness
  • To gain, through direct immersion in Czech, Slovak, and Polish cultures as well as classroom experiences, an appreciation of modern Central European history and culture


The Seminar is open to students in any major at Carleton. Students must complete Psychology 110 prior to the start of the program. Ideally, students will have taken Psychology 254 (Psychopathology), although this is not required. There is no special language requirement.

Course of Study

18 Credits

Required Courses

PSYC 358: Cross-Cultural Psychopathology (6 credits)

In the West, mental illness has traditionally been approached with a biomedical model that views it as independent of culture. By contrast, the “relativist” position assumes that, to a large extent, human behaviors are culturally determined and that the etiology and manifestation of mental disorders are affected by society and culture. This course will address such issues and their implications for assessment and treatment through an examination of several Western and non-Western societies, with a special emphasis on Czech society. There will be several guest lectures by Czech psychology professors as well as excursions within Prague to psychiatric hospitals and clinics, where students will meet with Czech clinicians and patients. Counts as the capstone seminar for senior psychology majors.
Instructor: Ken Abrams

EUST 278: Politics and Culture of Central Europe in the 20th Century (6 credits)

This course covers important political, social, and cultural developments in Central Europe during the twentieth century. Students will explore the establishment of independent nations during the interwar period, Nazi occupation, resistance and collaboration, the Holocaust and the expulsion of the Germans, the nature of the communist system, its final collapse, and the post-communist transformation.
Instructor: Local Faculty

PSYC 290: Directed Reading in Cross-Cultural Psychology (2 credits, S/CR/NC)

For this course, students will be provided with readings on cross-cultural psychology to be read prior to the term in Prague as well as with questions and problems to serve as study guides. Students will be tested on the material at the beginning of the term in Prague.
Instructor: Ken Abrams

Elective Courses

EUST 101: Elementary Czech Language (4 credits, S/CR/NC)

This highly recommended language course will meet twice per week and emphasize basic listening and speaking skills. Students will be challenged to utilize their new language skills in everyday situations.
Instructor: Local Faculty


ARTH 215: Czech Art and Architecture (4 credits, S/CR/NC)

This course will examine key developments in Czech visual art and architecture from the early medieval to the contemporary periods. Slide-based lectures will be supplemented by visits to representative monuments, art collections, and museums in Prague.
Instructor: Local Faculty

Program Features


Students will stay in carefully selected, four to five-person furnished apartments in Prague. Commute times from apartments to classrooms (and to the Old Town) will typically be 10-15 minutes.


There will be a number of single-day and multi-day excursions to other sites in the region, including Krakow and the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland, Poprad and the High Tatra mountains in Slovakia, and the historic towns of Karlovy Vary and Cesky Krumlov in the Czech Republic.

Hiking in Slovakia. Left to right- Jing Jing, Bryn, Miriam, Lev.
Side view of the St. Vitus Cathedral. I had to crane my neck just to see the top.
Hala and Catherine showing their confidence in the inevitable victory of Sparta Praha in The 02 Arena in Prague.
Snowy Dawn in Prague
Miriam, Claudia, and Miller on the platform leading out of the castle keep.
Snowy Dawn in Prague
Terezín Prison
Prague castle, stained glass window
The ruins of Spiš Castle, near the town of Spišské Podhradie, Slovakia.
Jing Jing at the top of the world..jpg
The river Dunajec on the border between Slovakia and Poland.
Prague astronomical clock. Our group occupies the right four fifths of the photo.