Prague is, without a doubt, the ideal destination for a student exchange. Not only is it one of the most beautiful cities in the world, it is also totally affordable to live in, full of culture and history and it has one of the most vibrant nightlife scenes of Europe. On top of all that, Prague is home to one of Europe’s oldest and most famous universities – Charles University! Charles University is where I studied on exchange and as a third-year Journalism/Arts student; it was the perfect choice for me! I used the advanced electives I had as part of my Arts major (International Relations) while on exchange and I found it relatively easy to match up courses as Charles offers many classes in English.

I found the academic approach at Charles to be quite different to that of what I was used to at UQ. In my experience, the lecturers were extremely relaxed about course matters. While this is a positive most of the time, it can be troublesome when they somehow fail to mention things like due dates and compulsory exam sign-ons! All in all though, I had a really positive experience with all my lecturers as they were friendly and very knowledgeable and experienced (one of my European Politics lecturers was frequently flying in and out of Brussels as an advisor to the EU).

In Prague I was initially placed in the student dormitory of Hvězda but I soon moved out and found private accommodation. While I advise applying for a spot in the dorms at first (it is the easiest way to secure an address for your visa application), please be aware that dorms in the Czech Republic are NOT like dorms in Australia. While the dorms in Prague may be cheap, you definitely get what you pay for! If you like a few little luxuries like the privacy of your own bedroom or to have doors on your shared showers, please be aware that you may have to find private accommodation soon after arriving. This is easily done though and you can move out from the dorms at any time. In saying that, I have heard of many other exchangers who loved their dorm experience as they were surrounded by fellow students day and night and therefore felt more integrated into the exchange lifestyle.

In terms of finances, I would suggest taking atleast $10 000 with you (excluding flights) for a totally comfortable trip. I spent a little over this amount while on exchange, however I was very liberal with my spending and yes, I may have enjoyed the European shopping a little too much! I ate out almost every day whilst in Prague (it’s cheaper than cooking), went out with friends about 3 times a week and I travelled to 10 different countries all up so you could definitely make it work with less cash if you had to.

Five Top Tips!

  • Be a ‘‘yes’’ person! The second you arrive as an exchange student in Prague, you social life is instantly going to become hectic and fun-filled! Whether it’s meeting for a beer in a typical Czech bar, going for picnics in one of Prague’s many gorgeous parks or joining in on the travel events organised by the University – say yes to every opportunity that comes your way!
  • Travel around the Czech Republic! Whilst it is tempting to country hop at every chance you get thanks to Prague’s European centrality, make sure you take some time to visit some of the smaller cities and village the Czech Republic has to offer. Český Krumlov – a small medieval village with a huge castle – is one of these must-see little gems. Other places you should visit include Pilsen and Kutná Hora. Travel within the Czech Republic is easy and super cheap with the Student Agency Express bus service so make sure you get onto them!
  • Go East as well as West! Whilst almost all tourists who step onto the European continent flock to the Western hotspots of Paris, Rome and Berlin, you should make sure you take advantage of Prague’s central position by venturing to the countries not so often frequented by the mainstreamers. Prague is literally the gateway between the East and the West and I would definitely advise paying a visit to Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and beyond if you get the chance!
  • Immerse yourself in the O-Week events! I went along to my ‘Welcome Session’ alone and a little anxious (as I had got myself lost on one of Prague’s many trams and was therefore late). Later, I walked out with the friends who I would spend most of my time with during the whole semester! The mood of O-Week in Prague is great and everyone is so willing to make friends so make sure you attend as many events as you can!
  • Get cultural! Prague is full of museums, theatres, art galleries and live music so make the most of it! If you do just one cultural excursion while on exchange, make sure you go to the Czech State Opera which is in the centre of Prague! You can pick up tickets for less than $5 so there is no excuse not to go!

Whilst I now realise I may have bombarded you prospective exchangers with a little too much information, the main point I can stress here seize the opportunity while you can and go on exchange! The experience will challenge you, fascinate you, enrich you and change you forever. For the better, of course!

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