''It felt fantastic to live and study in the heart of Europe.''
- Oli from the UK
Why did you choose to study abroad?
As I got closer to graduating from high school I began to consider dedicating a year or so to travelling, either before or after studying at university. When I learnt that the bachelor’s program I was applying to offered an exchange year abroad via the Erasmus program, I didn’t think twice about putting my name forward. I was really excited to venture outside of the UK, and combining my education with living in a new country seemed like the ultimate learning experience.
Why did you choose to study abroad in the Czech Republic?
I approached the application process with an open mind and didn’t think too much about where I would end up, my only preference was spending the year in a European city. I put forward a tentative shortlist of five desired locations, and left a lot of it to fate and the decision of my university. This was a calculated risk, but when I eventually found out I’d be spending my exchange year in Prague I had no idea of how much my gamble would pay off!
What were the best parts of being an international student in the Czech Republic?
It felt fantastic to live and study in the heart of Europe. I had a longstanding interest in the art, history and culture of Central Europe and I soon discovered that Prague was the hub of all three. I was fascinated most by the city’s architectural variety. From Gothic church spires to communist-era blocks, each street seemed to tell its own tale from the Czech Republic’s divergent past.
In terms of accessibility for an international student, the difficulty I had with getting to grips with the Czech language was alleviated by the difference in living costs compared to the UK. It was a breath of fresh air to be able to rent a generously sized apartment in a great area for a fraction of what I would have paid back home. I found public transport, food and world famous Czech beer to be very reasonably priced too. Nazdraví!
Perhaps above all else, the greatest pleasure was sharing my experience with other international students and getting the chance to make friends from all over the world. It didn’t take long to feel part of a vibrant international community, and we found no end of interesting things to do during our spare time both in Prague and beyond. Every moment outside of study presented the opportunity to visit a new gallery, bar, restaurant, market, park or historical site. I also participated in student trips to the Munich Oktoberfest, Budapest, Berlin and Vienna, all of which were accessible by bus within a few hours.
What was it like to study in the Czech Republic?
Student life at Charles University was fast paced and varied both inside and outside of class. I had the chance to pick up credits in subjects outside of my chosen degree, and it was exciting to be granted the freedom to jump into something new. I took classes in philosophy, film, history and Czech language, as well as a wide array of literature modules. Adapting to the different methods of assessment and teaching styles in each class was challenging but a very rewarding experience overall.
A highlight was having my final class of the week in a room with an idyllic sunset view across the Vltava river towards Prague castle. The biggest challenge was staying focused on the lecture!
How has studying abroad impacted you and your career?
Aside from looking great on a resume and providing a valuable discussion point in interviews, studying abroad has given me the confidence to continue pursuing opportunities that lie outside of my comfort zone. I also feel a new appreciation for different languages and the importance of communication. On my return to the UK I began to consider living and working abroad as a concrete postgraduate option, and two years on from my time in the Czech Republic this is now a reality!
Do you have any advice for students who are considering studying in the Czech Republic?
Be prepared for both ends of the weather spectrum and don’t feel too disheartened if you struggle to master Czech! You will find that most Czech people are proud of its difficulty and don’t expect foreigners to try it out (Czech is ranked as the second most difficult language to learn by the US Foreign Institute). However, picking up the basics and using a few words of Czech in everyday life is worthwhile, and likely to bring a smile to the face of any native you meet!