My Journey to the University of Hradec Kralove, Czech Republic.
When I was offered the opportunity to study in the Czech Republic, I was extremely excited since that was going to be my first time travelling outside my country Ghana. Aside my excitement, I was pretty nervous too since I was going to be far away from home and around different people from different parts of the world in a totally different environment. The first thing I did was to research about the country and find out about the educational system, culture, food, reception towards foreigners among others. The positive feedback from Ghanaians who studied there calmed my nerves and made me look forward to spend the next five months in the Czech Republic. Another thing that made me look forward to going to the Czech Republic was the huge assistance offered to us by the international office in Hradec Kralove University with regard to our visa acquisition, our flight arrangements, giving us buddies among many other things.
I arrived there on the 10th of September 2017 and was warmly welcome at the Praha Airport by my buddy, (Jana) who brought me to the dorm in Palachova from Prague. My first impression of the city was that it was very serene and calm especially in the evening. It was interesting for me to see the street virtually empty after about 9’oclock in the evening which was quite strange for me because I was used to a very busy and crowded city back in my home country. Another surprise I encountered was the language! It was quite rare to find someone on the street or even at the supermarket who speaks English. This was quite challenging for me because buying and asking for directions became a problem. I nearly got lost couple of times because nobody understood me when I spoke. However, I gradually got used to it as I began to learn few basic Czech words for daily communication. The first few weeks were characterized by welcome parties, getting a bus card, opening a bank account, orientation and other few things.
I began my first day of class on 25th September, 2017 and it was a very interactive lesson which made me look forward to my subsequent lessons. What I realized here was that because students are few in the classroom, the instructor seems to know everyone and has time for everyone. This is quite different from my home university where there are at least 150 and above students in one class. So it is quite difficult to get to know all your classmates. Also here in the Czech Republic, almost all my classmates were Erasmus students so we were close since we lived in the same dormitory. I had a very nice relationship with my roommates and flat-mates. The unfortunate part of this was that, we did not get to know a lot of the Czech students because we do not have classes with them and do not live with them too.
With extra-curricular activities, I participated in almost all the events organized by the Erasmus Students Network (ESN) and the faculty. These included trips to Prague and Kutna-Hora, Researchers’ Night, Welcome Party, Meeting of Nations, Country Presentations, International Day, Skiing and many more. I also engaged in the photo competition organised by the university where I was the third runner up ( view my profile and photos at www.studyin.cz. It was a very lovely experience as I got to meet with different people from different parts of the world.
During the Christmas holidays, I got invited by the few Czech friends I knew to visit their homes for dinner. I also got the chance to visit other surrounding countries like Austria, Vienna, Slovakia, Germany, Netherlands and France during the Christmas break. The examination was during the first weeks in January 2018 and they went really well for me. It was the first time I had an oral examination.
However, I have few issues which I would like to bring forth. First include the dormitory where 6 people use one bathroom, toilet and kitchen. I think the number of people using just one facility was too much. In addition, I suggest there should be at a library or study room at the dormitory so that we do not have to come all the way to the faculties (about a-30 minute walk from the dormitory) to use the library.
In conclusion, my stay in the Czech Republic was overall fruitful, fun, educative and successful. I am truly grateful to Hradec Kralove University for this amazing opportunity. Through this exchange program, I have been able to establish networks with people from different parts of the world. It has also broadened my horizon about many aspects of life. I really look forward for another opportunity to go back and have my graduate studies.
Sophia Abena Otoo
29th January, 2018