Choose them or not? Three Different Opinions on Czech Universities

The Czech Republic has become an important destination for students when choosing their university.  The interest has increased as many universities opened their doors for foreign students, offering them a possibility to study among Czech students as well as programmes taught in English. In 2010 there were 37,700 foreign students studying in the Czech Republic, representing 10 % of the total number of university students. By comparison, in 2001 foreign students represented only 4 % of the total number of students. In this article, we are going to present you with three different opinions on the Czech university system seen from a foreign student’s perspective.

Three students are exchanging their (sometimes controversial) point of view on this topic. Runya is a 25-year-old Chinese student in Brno. She is studying sociology in English. Nazarii is a 23-year-old Ukrainian student in Pardubice. He studied Regional and Information Management in English, and then after a preparatory course, moved to the Czech programme of the same field. Irina is a 24-year-old Russian student in Prague. She studies Intercultural Communication focused on the Czech and Russian profile.

We will begin with motivation. Why did you decide to come and study in the Czech Republic?

Runya: I am interested in the transition of society, and the Czech Republic has its special history on this issue, that is why I am here.

Nazarii: It was an intention of my parents. They wanted me to study here.

Irina: Some people I know advised me to come here. Moreover, I heard a lot about the quality of studies in the Czech Republic.

Would you please describe your entrance examination? What exams did you have to take?

Runya:  I didn’t have entrance examination. I just applied and then got admitted.

Nazarii: My entrance examination was done through the Internet. I had to pass two exams: maths and English. It was also necessary to have the IELTS certificate from the British Council to study in English. When I decided to switch to the Czech programme, I didn’t have to pass any Czech language examination because I had attended the Czech language course during the first year and finished it with an A.

Irina: The entrance examination consisted of two parts – oral and written. In the written part we had to write a test on the Czech and Russian languages, make several translations and answer some questions related to the Czech and Russian literature and history. The people who succeeded in the written part are allowed to take the oral examination. This examination consisted of an interview conducted by a commission of three members from my faculty. In this part I was also required to present the certificate of finishing the Czech preparatory course.

What impressions do you have from you first classes?

Runya:  Teachers here speak good English. Besides, due to my study field, I had some readings and homework every week.

Nazarii: It was really difficult to study in Czech in the beginning as I could understand what the teacher was telling us, but I wasn’t able to answer his questions. However, later on as I was improving my language skills in Czech, it got better.

Irina: It was not easy to absorb such amount of academic information in a foreign language. Even if, during the preparatory courses, the pace was intense, it’s incomparable with the university level. However, in a few weeks this feeling disappears.

Are there a lot of foreign students at your university?

Runya:  Yes. Most of my classmates are foreigners because I study in an English-taught programme.

Nazarii:  Yes, I can say that we have a lot of foreign students in Pardubice.

Irina: Yes, quite a lot. But anyway, Czech students represent the majority.

Are there any privileges for foreigners (for example extra time at the exam, etc.)?

Runya:  All the exams of my programme are in English. No privileges for foreigners, I would say.

Nazarii:  No, I didn’t have any privileges as a foreigner. Furthermore, sometimes the requirements for the foreign students were stricter than for the Czech students. For example, for a Czech student it is enough to answer a question asked by the teacher to pass the exam. But if you are a foreigner, it isn’t enough and the teacher asks you additional questions trying to push you.

Irina: No, we have the same conditions at the exams as the Czech students.

What is the attitude of the teachers at your university towards foreign students?

Runya:  Their attitude is very good. They are friendly and nice.

Nazarii:  My personal opinion is that most of the teachers at Czech state universities don’t like foreign students; they don’t want them to get Czech education here because then these graduate students can stay in the Czech Republic, they can find a good job here and live here all their life.

Irina: All are very kind and ready to help. You can come to any of them for consultations and ask questions about the course. In this case, it is recommended to arrange the meetings by email.

What is the attitude of the Czech students towards foreigners? Is it easy to work with them in teams?

Runya:  The Czech students are friendly. I have no problem in working with them.

Nazarii: Mm, it varies from person to person. Some people are okay; some of them don’t like foreigners and don’t want to collaborate with them.

Irina: I would say that the Czech students are opened to cooperation and friendly, always ready to help explain or share their notes.

Do you see yourself integrated into the Czech labour market?

Runya:  As I am studying in English, my Czech language is not good, so I don’t think I am competitive on the Czech job market.

Nazarii: (already working) Nowadays, when there is still financial crisis in Europe, it is really difficult. There are a lot of barriers for foreigners to get a job here in the Czech Republic and they are doing this to protect the local workforce. But I think this is not the right solution in this particular situation.

Irina: Yes, I think I am able to find a placement on the Czech labour market.

Would you recommend your friends the Czech Republic as a study destination? Why?

Runya:  In general, it is a good place for studying because the study cost is relatively cheap compared with other European countries and the quality of the university is also good. But it also depends on the interests of the individuals.

Nazarii: No, I wouldn’t do this. I think that there are better countries to study in Europe.

Irina: I would recommend my friends to come here to study because of the high education level provided by professional and highly qualified professors. Exchange programmes and scholarships are also available.

After sharing their opinions with us, we can conclude that there are obvious challenges for a foreigner to study here without even mentioning that we have not developed bureaucratic competence in the area of residence permits as well as financial costs. Plenty of students cannot go for holidays for the whole summer due to visa regulations.  Moreover, the cost of the visa for students out of the European Union is high and needs to be paid every year. Another important problem of each foreign student is the medical insurance. Despite having a valid insurance, they encounter obstacles in finding a doctor who is willing to see them in a critical moment. Even if the living expenses are not so high, one has to consider that a foreign student comes with a single suitcase and has to buy all the things they need for basic living. However, in spite of all the barriers, the number of foreign students in the Czech Republic keeps increasing every year, which is a good indicator.

Author: Sabine Binzaru

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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