Author: Caitie Maciver Cowan
Making the Move – the decision to study abroad
When I was offered my place on Study Abroad, I was ecstatic, however, the doubts soon rolled in. It’s an incredibly daunting thought to move to a country that you don’t know, that you might not even have visited, leaving your friends and family at home. I was very nervous and I almost withdrew my place on several occasions, but I cannot emphasise enough how glad I am to have had this experience.
For anyone who is deciding whether or not to take this step, I would completely recommend it. Studying abroad has changed my life for the better, I met so many amazing friends and had so many experiences that I will remember forever.
Life in Prague
Prague is an amazing city, with a huge amount of culture, history and excitement. The tourist attractions are all that they are made out to be, with Charles Bridge, the National Museum and Prague Castle providing the most magical and picturesque places to explore. However, I discovered the real beauty of Prague once I had lived there for a while and had time to explore the hidden secrets of the city, with public gardens, art galleries and independent cafes making me fall more and more in love with the city. Prague is so much more than it is often portrayed as a destination for a stag or hen party, the city is full of free places to visit that the weekend tourists don’t venture that capture Prague’s true character. There is great nightlife, and ESN and OhMyPrague regularly organise nights for Erasmus students. There is often free entry, or a free drink on the door for students with an ISIC card.
My close friend from my time in Prague created a website providing advice on where to go with insider’s view to the best places. I would thoroughly recommend looking at this if you are considering studying there, or even just for a visit. She has perfectly encapsulated the magical nature of Prague from an insiders perspective: http://pragueexchangeguide.tilda.ws (compiled by Ciara O’Callaghan from the University of Otago).
On top of all these great attributes, Prague is an extremely affordable city. As a student this is a great bonus, as it is affordable to explore the city, eat out and experience the nightlife and still be able to afford to travel during the weekends.
One of the best things about studying in Prague is that as it is so central, it is cheap and accessible to travel around Europe. My friends and I spent almost every free weekend we had travelling around Europe, visiting Kraków, Vienna, Budapest, the Netherlands, Bohemian Switzerland, and lots more. The public transport is much better than in the UK and often with ISIC student cards you could get very cheap travel, most of our buses/trains were under £30 return. ESN and AvenTouro also organise trips around Europe which are a great way to make friends while getting to explore a new place!
The travel within Prague is also fantastic, the buses, trams and underground are extremely reliable and quick, and you can get everywhere in the city with your transport pass. For students, the transport pass is only £12 per three months so you really couldn’t get any better! They also have lime scooters, which are great fun for a whizz around the beautiful parks in the city.
Courses and Studies
Charles University is the oldest and largest university in the Czech Republic, founded in 1348 it was the first university in Central Europe. Charles University is split into faculties, so all of my classes were within the law faculty, “Právnická Fakulta”. This was a different experience than I have had in Glasgow as the only people you encounter within university are law students, as the faculties are located far away from each other. The law school is very well regarded, and there is a great choice of classes for international students. There are separate classes for internationals students, so in most classes everybody was new to the city and in the same position which made it very easy to make friends quickly.
The classes are all lectures, so without seminars or tutorials the workload is very manageable. There were different forms of assessment, and dependant on the class there are presentations, essays and mock trials throughout the semester which count towards your final grade and an exam at the end of the semester. One of the interesting things about assessment at Charles University is that for several of my classes there was an option to submit a paper instead of the exam. The flexibility around assessment allows people to play to their abilities and work their strengths, and really helped myself and my peers achieve results that we could be proud of.
The one thing that is often seen to be a drawback about studying in Prague is the accommodation. The university accommodation is much more basic than we are used to in the UK, and the standard is shared rooms. Although this can be a deterrent, several of my friends had a great experience and ended up with friends for life – and very cheap accommodation. A shared room in the University halls is around £130 a month, making it extremely affordable. In addition to this, the international students tend to be placed together, meaning the halls are a great place to meet friends and you get to bond over the perils of being back in student halls. Be prepared – the halls are of a much lower standard, all of the law students from Glasgow were placed in Troja, which have flats of two twin rooms connected to a very small kitchen, shower and bathroom. There is no oven and a very minimal amount of space, but after a few days of getting used to it – they are completely liveable!
If this isn’t your cup of tea, there are plenty of other options, there is private student accommodation and flats available ranging from around £300-£500. A great place to find flat shares with other students is on the ESN Facebook group as there are lots of adverts for flatshares.