Bachelor of Arts
Bachelor of Arts

I enjoyed an amazing warm spring in Prague within the Faculty of Humanities at the oldest university in Central Europe – Charles University while completing my second year of my Bachelor of Arts. I am a Sociology major and used this semester to fulfil my elective components, which is a great opportunity to utilise the knowledge provided by another university as well as feeling less stressed to achieve higher marks for my major courses back home. Charles University provided a nourishing environment and diverse field of English language courses in the faculties of humanities, philosophy and arts. This enabled me to understand from within the context the concepts I had learnt theoretical knowledge from in practical modules earlier in my degree. I was required to be self-motivated, determined and creative in my research but ultimately I believe the work I put out helped my future writing style and drove me to find more what I love about the academic world. I was able to make good acquaintances in the smaller classes, and the conversations and debates I had after seminars will be cherished forever; much different to the larger classes back home.

Coming to Europe for 4.5 months for my first time abroad was quite daunting and I had many moments of fear, but I am so overwhelmingly glad I did this first trip this way. I confronted myself and became more true to the world. I felt more relaxed and accepting of how things were because of the passive state created by the trust in others I had to take. I have made some incredible friendships I do not know how to shake off. I did not expect to make such friends as I knew I'd be leaving in such a quick amount of time, but as this also made me be very honest with people, and my inhibitions were often let go much more easily.

When I arrived in Prague I was accommodated in a dormitory arranged by Charles University and largely habited by Erasmus students – Hvezda Kolej. There are other dormitories in Prague of differing standards but I have heard that this is the most basic. The cost is quite low and this may suit many people. I am a person of low maintenance and needs but the rooms in this kolej were such that sharing would not be preferable for most unless it was something one was used to. I was able to find alternative housing within my own budget and in the inner city district of Prague 3/10 sharing a flat with my own room quite happily. This was something I took on for myself and was not an unhappy arrangement to get out of the Kolej. Concerns of safety and privacy may also limit your enjoyment of these buildings, depending on your needs and you may decide you need to do so as well. Charles University has a fabulous “tutor” system with their international program that partners exchange students with domestics to help assimilate, and mine, Mirka, was most helpful for my housing, public transport, and navigational moments when I was getting started.

Prague was inexpensive to me. I was able to live quite comfortably on Austudy and the OSHELP loan awarded to me. Food was incredibly cheap and the further out of the city centre, the cheaper. Meals were very large too. Czech traditional food is quite heavy and meat-reliant but as a vegetarian I didn't find myself lacking choices.
I was able to find a great amount of activity in the underground music scene, local contemporary art and theatre culture after 2 months of becoming comfortable and then breaking out of my shell. Making friends with locals and learning local language was very helpful in finding these kinds of things and also made my stay more comfortable. Learning the language (offered as a course at Charles University) also helped me to understand Czech people and culture in other ways too. The sense of humour and customs that are embedded in the stories and the history of the words as a part of Slavic etymological roots, became all very interesting to me too. It also helped me to understand how Czechs spoke English in a particular way that sometimes made more sense than native English, and how some Czech customs that at first seemed rude (like only asking “how are you” to people you know very well, rather than everyone you meet) started to make more sense than those from overtly friendly Australia.

Prague is an amazing city! It was never touched by the wars and as such, is still arranged in its 15th century lustre and picture perfect UNESCO sealed postacard, with communist era and cubist designed modernity snuck in and around the peripheries of the centre and sprawling outwards. The Czech lands are a gorgeous place that I fell in love with and its people are such strange and lovely folk. You may feel quite daunted to meet them at first, but once you start eating and drinking with them, soon you'll be laughing and philosophising with them too.
Prague is a fabulous choice to study and stay in. There are very cheap routes to almost anywhere you might want to travel in the Central European region via bus and train, and it is so quick that as an Australian, I was laughing to wake up at the end of a bus trip having gone through two countries and landing in Budapest, another beautiful City!

My favourite places in Prague were the markets – Kolbanova, a remnant of Communist junk in the suburbs of Prague, had anything you might want or not want for sale, and the Trhy Naplavka, markets by the river which had great fresh vegetables and often another flea market. I loved the Rudolfium contemporary museum, and the Alchemy museum. Near Hvezda, if you are settled there for a moment, there is a gorgeous summer palace in the middle of a deer park that is shaped like a Six Pointed Star. In early Spring Mornings it, to me, glowed like a snowflake. I was lucky enough to travel to other places in Czech such as Brno, Susice, Melnik, Kutna Hora, Karlovy Vary, Cesky Budejovice, Karlstijn and Beroun. I only wish I had more time but I vow to return! I recommend for any exchange student, in any place to try to take a year rather than only a semester as it takes at least a semester to begin to acquaint yourself with a place you've never lived or been to before you start becoming comfortable, and then you truly can live as yourself there. I was starting to become quite myself in Prague and connecting with the place and people when suddenly it felt all too soon I had to leave!

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