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From NHL to Masaryk and Czech Extraliga

Thanks to the CzechMates programme, American student Brynn Smith had the opportunity not only to study at Masaryk University but also to get a behind-the-scenes look at Czech hockey.

Even though one-fifth of Masaryk University’s student body comprises international students and Brno regularly places highly in international rankings of the best cities to study in, young people from other countries are more drawn to famous Western destinations, such as London, Paris, and Rome.

But not American Brynn Smith. Her interest in history and love of hockey brought her to Czechia. Thanks to the CzechMates programme she spent part of the summer here – three weeks studying at Masaryk University and the rest travelling back and forth between Brno and Liberec, where she did an internship with the Bílí Tygři Liberec (Liberec White Tigers) hockey team. “I asked Kometa and other teams, but no one else could offer such an opportunity this summer,” she says when asked what made her want to travel six hours every week from Brno to Liberec.

The CzechMates programme, which is headed by Michael Elavsky, an American who lives in Brno where he teaches at the Department of Media Studies and Journalism of the MU Faculty of Social Studies, provides American students the opportunity to study and work in Czechia. Every year dozens of students come to Brno through the programme; here they get to experience life in the Czech Republic and gain experience in fields ranging from IT to science and public relations.

“Michael is a great teacher, and I think it’s great that you get the opportunity to spend some time studying alongside other international students, who you have a lot in common with, before you go do an internship in a new environment. It would have been much more challenging to do it the other way around,” says Brynn.

Last summer, she had the chance to put her theoretical knowledge of public relations gained at the University of Pennsylvania into practice when she did an internship with the Pittsburgh Penguins, an NHL team. When we asked her about Jaromír Jágr, the most famous Czech hockey player of all time who once donned a Penguins jersey, she said with a smile that they still remember him fondly in Pittsburgh.

Pittsburgh and Liberec have similar communication strategies

This summer Brynn had the chance to compare the NHL with a humbler league and meet a man who was once nicknamed “Baby Jágr”: Michal Frolík has just joined the Tigers and is set to become one of the stars of the upcoming Czech Extraliga season.

“The announcement of his signing was bigger than the average press conference,” says Brynn, describing one of the things she worked on during her internship this summer. “I did a lot of social media work. For example, I developed a communication strategy for the club, and I came up with specific suggestions for growing followers on different platforms.”

According to Brynn, Pittsburgh and Liberec have similar media communication and marketing strategies. “At least as far as social networks and fan shops go. I have the feeling that Czech hockey has adopted some trends from abroad and adapted them so they work in the Czech Republic,” says Brynn, who is sure her experience in Brno and Liberec will help her find a job in the future. She plans on working in America, but she won’t forget about Masaryk University and will continue to root for the White Tigers.