MY STAY AT UNIVERZITA HRADEC KRALOVE.
As the plane left Ghana on the 15th of August 2018, I could not help but think about all I had left behind; my family, my friends and the familiarity of a country I had lived in all my life. I had heard stories about Europe, all kinds; Some reassuring, others not so good. I looked forward to representing my country and school in a place I was not sure what to expect.
Being chosen for an exchange program, on Erasmus scholarship was an opportunity most people do not get and I looked forward to it in spite of my fears. I arrived in Hradec Kralove on the 16th of August 2018 and was shown to my apartment immediately as all the forms to fill had been sent early on by my coordinator.
I later learnt that I was going to be in a room with four girls, three from Columbia and one from Argentina. For someone who had never been out of my home country, I was particularly excited to meet these Latin Americans.
More exciting was when they agreed to help me with my Spanish. I attended a summer course that introduced me to a little more than just the basics of the Czech language. That class was very interesting, and I really wished it could go on when it ended in September 2018.
Regular lessons began in October as well as other extra activities which I found interesting. My favorite activity was the buddy system’s country presentation on Wednesdays where I got to learn more about other countries. This event was very educative and fun as well. It had a healthy competition to it as the best presentation got a price.
One of my favorite memories was when Ghana presented on the same day as Nigeria and Cameroon. The schedule for this particular Wednesday was amazing and exciting. My friends from Nigeria tried to scare us, (Rashida and I) but in the end, Cameroon took the chocolate home with Ghana in second place. I was sad not to have won but happy I did not lose to Nigeria as they came third. I also enjoyed the International day very much in November 2018.
It was a beautiful event where culture was displayed at its very best. Countries represented from all over the world with a lot of food, art forms and dance on exhibition. I had the chance to participate in the event and was glad I did. Each country was expected to cook a local meal for the event. My Ghanaian counterpart and I made a local dish called “waakye”. it is a meal made from rice and beans served with hot sauce and cassava extract called “gari”. the amazing thing was when we arrived and my friends from Nicaragua had made almost the same dish. I found that incredible as the dish was a very local meal from Ghana, at least that was what I thought.
Learning in Univerzita Hradec Kralove was very different and at the same time somewhat similar to what I had been introduced to in my university. Most lecturers I had encountered in my home university stressed on the development of our abilities as students to think and critically analyze situations. I found that here as well as almost every class I took was very interactive with seminar parts that allowed students the opportunity to question, probe and even criticize certain ideas and historical happenings. My favorite classes were my Just War class, my Central Europe during the Cold War class, and my Modern Chinese history class.
I liked these three classes the most because of how the classes were handled and how distinctly different they were from one another. I must state that this is not to say I did not enjoy my other classes but rather that these were the “first among equals”. Studying at Univerzita Hradec Králové (UHK), helped to further develop my analytical abilities amongst others. I had the chance to study issues of the world first hand rather than in abstract terms. It allowed me the opportunity to visit places and see sights I only read in my history books. One experience that stands out was my trip to Terezin during the summer. As a student of history, it gave me a first-hand feel of what the captives of the Nazis felt, especially the Jews when being camped there. It also brought out some parallelism with the treatment of Africans during the slave trade. I was not only educated but exposed to this reality of the Jews and other Nazi victims in that era. It however also gave me the opportunity to meet new people and make friends from all over the world.
I made friends from other African countries, from Latin America, and from Europe. My acquaintance with these people helped me to understand a lot of socio-cultural and socio-political issues like I had never before. These people introduced me to different ways of life and even to different types of meals which I particularly enjoyed. In most of my interactions with these friends, I learnt key virtues such as patience, tolerance and how to be a team player.
I may have felt a bit threatened when coming to Hradec Králové but I realize I will be leaving another family behind when I return to my country.
The experience, the friends and family I made may not have replaced exactly what I left behind in Ghana, but it took away the feeling of bereavement I felt on the 15th of August when I left. I have a global family now and it makes all of this worthwhile.