Ahoj! It is of great pride in Prague that Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart loved Prague so much and felt so at home there that he said, “my Praguers understand me.” After living in the bustling city for 5 months, I completely share his sentiments and can now understand the Czech author Franz Kafka in his quote, “Prague never lets you go.”
Prague was an easy decisions for me destination-wise, as it was completely different to any other city I had previously visited: it was neither Western nor Eastern Europe, it was influenced by the Austro-Hungarian Empire, WWII and communism, it had an (initially) incomprehensible language and was an EU city that still enjoyed the benefits of its own currency. Even though I had no real preconceptions or expectations about an exchange in Prague, my time there more than surpassed anything I could have hoped for.
I spent the end of my 4th year of a dual Law and Biochemistry degree in Prague, completing four of my law electives at Charles University. The exchange is part of a set program for law students from around the world who all take their classes together in English. This set-up proved to be a fantastic way of meeting other exchangers, as you take all your classes together. In terms of academics, there was a mixture of both Czech-based and comparative law subjects, and although the lectures were on the whole quite good, the standard was lower than in Australia, leaving more time for non-academic pursuits! Although not directly useful to our Australian law degree, both types of courses provided an interesting (and unique) Czech perspective on government, law and society, which at times was quite a contrast to that in Australia. If you are there in our semester 2, I really recommend taking Central European Judicial Culture, as Professor Kühn is a fantastic lecturer and the subject provides a really interesting insight into the communist influence in Czechoslovakia and explains a lot of things that you will see/get annoyed with in everyday life!
Prague is an amazing, yet still very affordable, place to live. You can choose to live in the student dormitories (which have to be seen to be believed) or in a flat for around $300 a month, get a long-term student public transport card (Prague has an excellent public transport system) costing approximately $25 for each month and spend as little as $5 a day on food if you wish (bread rolls for 10c and lunch at the university for $2). That’s not to mention the $2.50 last-minute ballet and opera tickets, $5 coffee and cake at the old grand cafes, $15 three course meals and $9 ice hockey matches! In many ways, Prague is like a ‘choose-your-own-adventure’ novel – it has everything to offer, it’s just about deciding what you want your adventure to sentail!
My five top tips for Prague:
1. Live like a King: As I said above, living is cheap, but don’t forget to move beyond the cheap beer (pivo, $2) to also experiencing lots of different restaurants, old cafes, performances, Czech cities, massages etc. Make the most of the exchange rate and try things you could never afford at home!
2. Meet Czechs: Although somewhat gruff and unfriendly at first, Czech people are some of the warmest and most generous people you will ever meet, and they have a simultaneously pessimistic and hilarious view on life that has to be seen to be believed. I had the fortune of making some truly amazing Czech friends while on exchange and they showed me the true Czech Republic, including ‘real’ Czech pubs and cafes, Czech home-cooking, quaint Czech holiday cottages in remote towns, Czech Ball Season and even a Czech Christmas! I will admit, however, that the Czechs are hard to find, especially when you are spending all of your time with exchange students. Nevertheless, like all good things, if you seek you shall find: try striking up conversations at the ‘Let’s go for one’ nights organised by the Common Law Society, join the buddy program, link up with them through the ERASMUS Facebook pages or look for Czech-English tandem partners through CUNI.
3. Czech it out!: Prague’s location means that it is a fantastic base for exploring other parts of Europe (StudentAgency and Eurolines have great bus connections). However, don’t get caught up in the excitement of Prague’s accessibility and forget to visit other parts of the Czech Republic as well! The Czech landscape is beautiful and there are great hiking tracks within close distance to Prague as well as a number of lovely castles and towns that are definitely worth a visit (Karlštejn, Český Krumlov, Kutná Hora).
4. Never say ‘no’: This should be your mantra on exchange and should apply to everything from trying different types of Czech food (guláš to tatarák) to sampling different types of drinks (slivovice to kalvados) to taking all kinds of trips. Make the most of every opportunity.
5. Time flies when you’re having fun: It’s the reality of exchange that it is over much sooner than you would like, and with that in mind, don’t forget to take some ‘time out’ during exchange to just enjoy Prague. Prague is a crazy city that is as vibrant as it is contradictory as it is beautiful, and so whether it be in Petřín Park or Pražský hrad, at Charles Bridge or the Národní divadlo, or in one of your favourite pubs or cafes, remember to take a moment to soak up the unique city that you are living in!

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