Imagine this. It’s the early 1990s. You’re a Czech high school graduate, sitting in a new university’s classroom.

Your first experience with western-style education. The lecturer, an Englishman, strides purposefully into the room. Students imperceptibly straighten up in their chairs a bit. After surveying the room, the lecturer orders all the students up on the table.

At first the students disbelieve the order, sure they misheard something. But no. Up on the table. One by one, the students climb on to the desk in front of them. Nearly the whole class is now standing, following orders.

Not one student, though.

“No,” he says, arms folded. “I want to know why.”

The lecturer gave the student an approving nod.

In a perfect anecdote, that student would have been Darja Zajícová. Instead, she was one of the students up on the desks. The school was Anglo-American University, the year was 1996 and the lecturer was Keith Crawford.

The exercise, as he then explained to the students, was to explain the practical definitions of the terms “power” and “authority,” especially in education, where we do things simply because we are told to do them. At the time, it was also an indictment of what she perceived as a hang-over communist approach to “indoctrination education” in Czech schools, where students were taught to act without thinking, to memorize without analyzing.

“It was powerful,” remembers Zajícová. “It was a living example. That was the moment I decided to stay at AAU.”

Since her graduation, she has explored several different opportunities in Prague.( worked as a journalist for couple od major lifestyle magazines including being a member of launching team of In Style magazine in the Czech republic) Most recently, she found herself involved in public relations for product launches at L’Oreal. To stay involved in the community, she decided to begin volunteering some of her spare time to various electoral campaigns.

“It was powerful…That was the moment I decided to stay at AAU.”

Thanks to the rigorous years of her study in English at AAU, she settled in to working as a writer, creating and editing material about the candidates. Her work and her ethic eventually caught the right eyes, and she accidentally ended up in a drastically new stage of her career.

She is a communications systems specialist in railway and infrastructure administration for state organization Správa železniční dopravní cesty. The company emerged in 2001, and has over 15.000 employees, including the ones transferred from České dráhy. While the world of logistics and rolling stock might have been relatively new to her, she found the transition logical.

Part of the job is helping create a new corporate identity, particularly in a time when the competition is increasing. She is a negotiator in addition to her work in external relations. Zajícová keeps clients and journalists regularly informed about reconstruction and utility of all rail lines, issuing advisories and press releases and preparing and developing special events and projects to present the company externally.

She credits AAU with having given her the inspiration to be involved, to take chances and to keep close the ethical principles of open communication and debate.

She is currently again taking some classes at AAU, and even considering returning for an MA. She’s paying it forward, too. “It will be interesting to observe, now that my own kids are in Czech schools.”

They will most probably “want to know why,” too.

Publication date: May 21, 2014