Invigorated by the Ivy League Experience

What do you get when you mix three brilliant students, The Dalai Lama and an Ivy League school? Inspired! Over a few months in 2014, Liyousew Borga, Vít Hradil and Branka Marković, journeyed to Princeton University to undertake their Doctorate in Economics alongside top scholars. Now back in Prague, these three CERGE-EI prodigies share their endeavors in the American dream.

As part of the Student Mobility program, PhD students are encouraged to conduct part of their dissertation research in a prestigious university overseas, including Princeton University. With this opportunity Liyousew, Vít and Branka were able to access a wealth of knowledge, guidance and connections that enlivened their PhD experience and enhanced their personal and professional development.

Liyousew reveals how Princeton’s “state-of-the art facilities made life easier. The organization and efficiency of how things are run is so assuring. The faculties were humble and down-to-earth enough to lend their attention and provide insightful comments.” Most of all, Liyousew was invigorated by the intellectual culture that surrounds Princeton University. “I was amazed to see the most respected and successful professors attend brownbag seminars of second year graduate students… I have had a chance to attend occasional high table dinners at the graduate dining room where we have had a dinner table conversation with distinguished guests. I was lucky to listen to His Holiness the Dalai Lama sharing his thoughts with the campus community. I have on more than one occasion attended seminars and had an informal chat with top economists (including Nobel laureates John Nash and Chris Sims). Chatting with students (who come from almost all corners of the world) in the dormitory common rooms, strolling down the magnificent gardens and sidewalks, having dinner and Sunday brunch with fellow students were all great sources of inspirations in their own right.”

Likewise, Vít enjoyed that Princeton students “are genuinely interested in their own field of study, and do not hesitate to discuss their dissertation research even in their free time, such as at dinners, coffee breaks, or parties.” According to Vít, the professional progress and skills achieved at Princeton was most rewarding.

“Not only did I receive a tremendous amount of specific advice with respect to the appropriate methodology and potential pitfalls but I also had the opportunity to present my work at a Princeton seminar. While I do admit was very nervous about the whole thing ex-ante, looking back I have to say it was certainly worth it. Even abstracting from the comments I received there, which were obviously relevant and useful, just the fact that I managed to grab the attention of the audience, and successfully walk them through my paper, keep them interested, react to questions, and convey the main message, feels like a major success to me. This will without a doubt help me become more confident about presenting my own research in the future.”

Branka praised the wealth of knowledge she gained during the experience, stating that the, “lectures were extremely valuable in obtaining deeper understanding of financial models as well as learning practical tools for solving and estimating these models.” She reveals that it was through a discussion with a professor at a Princeton conference that prompted the idea for her third proposal. For Branka, “staying in contact with some students and professors who could give me feedback on further progress of my work are valuable contributions to my dissertation progress.”
Succinctly summarized, Liyousew says he “felt inspired by the success of most, aided by the resources availed, energized by the majesty and beauty of the campus, entertained by the countless fun events – all in the company of wonderful students whose hope, experience and support is an education by itself.”

Undoubtedly, the time spent at Princeton University was, for Liyousew, Vít and Branka, an enlightening and empowering experience. We are proud to harbor such talented students and look forward to see what amazing things they will achieve in the future.


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