My First Year at a Czech University – Beginning of Everything

I came to the Czech Republic because I had always dreamed of studying somewhere abroad where there is a better educational system than in Angola. I came in spite of not having had enough information about the Czech Republic and not having known what to expect. Prague is the capital – that was the only information I had. I also knew well the football national team.

I first joined the Czech language preparatory course for foreign students at UJOP (The Institute for Language and Preparatory Studies, Charles University) in Poděbrady. The duration of the course was 10 months. Czech was too difficult for me at the beginning because it was something completely new to me. Although I had heard Czech at the course for the first time in my life and the teachers would only talk Czech to us, this helped me a lot and I was able to understand the language quite fast. I frequented the course regularly all week from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., it was a little bit challenging at the beginning, but the teachers knew well the language was difficult for foreigners. In my free time I would go to the park and talk to people even though the dictionary was indispensable. That was a huge experience for me and I was proceeding fast with the language.

The course would run as follows – we always had Czech first and then Maths and Physics. Some of us studied Economics and Geography instead of Maths and Physics. In the summer term I continued studying Informatics because our class was focused on IT. At the end of the course, we had to pass a final exam composed of three subjects. As I had received a scholarship, the course was free for me.

I finished the course after ten months, and subsequently I had to prepare for the university admission exam. I sent three application forms to the following universities: Czech Technical University in Prague, University of Technology in Brno and University of Pardubice. Eventually, I decided for Pardubice. My friends asked why did I not want to study in Prague since I had been granted admission there, but I come from Luanda, the capital with five million people living there and the area is 2,257 sq. km so I wanted to find a bit of peace and quiet away from a big city.

The school year started in October and I was the only foreigner at the faculty. I was disappointed and surprised at the same time and I was asking myself why there were no other foreign students. I was afraid whether I had chosen the right faculty for me. I was also curious what my classmates and teachers would be like and if they would accept me well. In the end, I met two guys who helped me with everything important but it was not easy for me anyway. The teachers did not treat me in a special way, but I do not want this to become an excuse for being a foreigner. I wished to be evaluated honestly as the rest of the students and I would like the teachers to know that studying is three times harder for foreigners than it is for Czech students. For example, when I took an exam and I failed missing a few points, they would not take it into account even if they knew studying in the Czech language and especially communication in the language was too difficult for me. I was a bit sad about it in the beginning. Eventually, I got used to the teachers, their schooling methods and to their requirements first of all. Even now, I have to study a lot, but it is not that horrible any longer. I pursue my goal and I want to achieve something.

I asked some of my friends how they felt about their first year at a Czech school:

  • Nazariy, Ukraine: I have lived in Czech Republic for five years – it was quite difficult for me to study here, the difference between the education here and in Ukraine lies in the method and evaluation of the students. I had thought about going back. In my opinion, studies in the Czech Republic are complicated and students’ evaluation is not independent. There are two problems: 1. Czech teachers (at least the major part) do not like foreign students in my view, and therefore their study requirements are higher, which is a kind of discrimination (it is hard to prove, but you can feel it). 2. The problem of the universities is in the evaluation – the larger part of exams is written not oral. One can copy and cheat while taking a test and these are not able to show the real knowledge of a student. The oral exam, on the contrary, makes it possible to review whether the student understands the subject or not.

  • Krystina, Russia: The beginnings were good for me. I cannot compare and find differences between the universities in the Czech Republic and Russia. I never thought of dropping out and going back home. I think it is much better now, with minor exceptions. Some of the teachers are not that good, especially those who do not get along well with their colleagues.
  • Guisela, Peru: I have lived in the Czech Republic for two years, the beginning was very difficult for me, I had to learn constantly and there are many differences between the schools in Peru and the Czech Republic. For example, here we have modern laboratories and every student can use their own desk. Occasionally, I was thinking of dropping out and going back to Peru, but it is much better now because I understand more of the language and my teachers and fellow students are friendly.

  • Ariunjargal, Mongolia: I have lived here for almost seven years; the beginnings were horrible, especially because of the differences between the schooling here and in Mongolia. In the Czech Republic there are available a lot of reference materials. The teachers are helpful. The testing is fair, without any difference. Sometimes one has a “hard day”, but such days motivate me even more to know that I have a goal I want to achieve and I have to do my best. I also have to say I never thought of going back. In my opinion, not all the Czech students realize they have quite a huge opportunity of education here in the Czech Republic. Introduction of tuition fees might have a positive impact and make students appreciate university education more. I am satisfied with the work of the Academic Senate. I say that because I have had a good experience with it. Not only students, but also teachers support the new proposals.
  • Kangamba, Angola: I have lived in the Czech Republic for five years. The beginnings were not so hard for me, I adapted quickly therefore it was not a big problem. I think the difference between the schools in our country and those in the Czech Republic consists in the fact that here they teach you what you really need and what they require in the exams afterwards. Meanwhile, in our country the opposite is true. Students get a lot of useless materials; teachers think we are machines, not humans. Luckily, I never thought of dropping out and going back home. Now it is much better here because I speak Czech better than before. Studying is not difficult; the only barrier is the language. This is my opinion on the Czech education. If I should rate it on a scale from 1 to 10, I would give 6.5.

Author: Emiliano da Cunha

The article is part of the Migration to the Centre project funded by the EU’s program “Europe for Citizens,” the Visegrad Fund, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic.

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