Why did you choose our university for your Erasmus study experience?
When I checked my possibilities, I compared the study programs and courses of various universities, their geographic location, facilities for students such as dorms, canteens and so on, and also the recommendations of people who had an experience with those institutions. After looking at different universities in different locations, I figured that Palacký University Olomouc is the perfect choice for me and I am very happy about my decision.
Were your expectations different from the reality?
Of course, not everything was as I expected. It was somewhat different from what I had imagined but not a whole lot. The facilities, dorms, transportation, some of the management, and few more things were different, but it only took some time to get used to it. It was no better or worse than what I had expected, just different. It was not difficult to adapt and overall it was all good and I learned to like the place very easily.
Can you compare your study experience in Olomouc with the experience from your home university?
Actually, it is very difficult to compare. It is different in many aspects, the number of students in classes in Israel is a lot bigger, which requires different teaching techniques and methods of course management, which I have to say is not better or worse, only fit for different conditions. A good thing, which I have to say about the relatively small number of students in class in Palacký University, is that it creates a possibility for more active participation and practical experience during the courses. In addition, I like the way the teachers encouraged us to get to the core of the topic and to learn it through our own ideas, interests and creativity. The facilities, canteen and dorms are also very different; it took me a little time to get used to the possibility of ordering food from the website, or coming to the canteen and finding out that the food is available only during lunch hours. I enjoyed the study process and learning experience in Palacký and I learned a lot from the differences between the two institutions.
What was/is your favourite course and why?
It is very difficult to pick one course that I liked the most, there were a few courses which were taught in different ways and with different contents, and they all were very good. As I wrote above, in most of them we had the possibility to study the topics creatively, which gave me a wonderful learning experience. For example, in the courses of Julie Wittmanová, who teaches the topics of physical activity of elderly people and people with disabilities, she let us make the presentations on our chosen topic among this general field and to teach the class about it by presenting and creating a practical activity which should demonstrate the examples of working methods and activities. I felt that it was the best way to learn for me and to enjoy the learning experience in the course. I can say that in addition to the courses taught by Julie, who is a wonderful person and a very good teacher, other courses such as English for International Students, International Dimensions, and Balance training in Kinesiotherapy were also very good and I feel that I gained an excellent experience and knowledge in all of them.
What were some of the biggest challenges you had to overcome as an Erasmus student?
As we all know, this time the Erasmus stay was different: along to the typical thing that one has to adapt to when living in a foreign country, there was the global COVID-19 crisis, which eventually also arrived to the Czech Republic. The uncertainty and quarantines that it caused, were not easy, especially in the beginning. After about 6 weeks in the Czech Republic, it all started very fast, we did not know if stores will be closed for a long time and if we will be able to use the basic services such as public transportation, shops and even grocery stores. Experiencing such a situation is not easy in general, and for most of us, it might be even more difficult while living in a foreign country. I felt pretty much everyone around me worried about this issue but we dealt with it together (the people who chose to stay), supporting and helping each other and I think this is the best way to deal with any kind of crisis.
Besides this situation, I had to of course adapt to the difference in management, language, transportation, procedures, and other related issues, but I take it as a positive experience overall. I think that this experience gave the others and me better tools for dealing with issues in life and more importantly, we became friends for life as we were together in a challenging and very extraordinary situation. We got through this together by making this crisis a challenge; we managed to deal with it successfully and to make it a good experience after all.
How do you spend your free time?
In the beginning, I was participating in all the social activities and trips with the other students, which was a great fun and a unique experience, which I had for the first time in my life. However, it lasted only for slightly more than a month, as the COVOID-19 issue arose and it looked like things were going south. When the ordinary Erasmus+ and study abroad times changed as a result of this crisis, most of the things I wanted to do were not available, so I spent my time hiking in nature next to my faculty (fortunately there is a lot of nature around), training and shooting outdoors and meeting with other students. Of course, besides that I was studying and I also used the time to make progress in my assignments. After things got gradually better, I started to travel again in the Czech Republic, met more friends from other dorms and visited more places I liked and which became available again, such as shooting ranges, pubs and restaurants that we used to visit before the Corona quarantine, natural sites, etc. I see it, I took the best I could out of the conditions of the situation and had slightly strange but overall good times.
What is the single most memorable experience you have from your Erasmus life?
It is very difficult to pick only one best memory, but if I must choose one to briefly talk about, it would be our common meal we organised after the Corona crisis was mostly over. After we finally could be together as a group and almost all the limitations and restrictions were over, we organised a meeting in Envelopa dorms and met all together for a big meal, with music, and every good thing we needed and missed during the quarantine. Yair, Hadas, Shay, me, and a few more students from other countries bought groceries and made Israeli food together (Humus, Falafel, Shaksuka, Musaka, Pitta, etc.), and put large amounts of it on the big table in the common space. We opened this evening for everyone and eventually, there were about 40 students participating. Even though there were more people than expected, there was more than enough food for everyone and we all agreed that it was the best! More than the tasty food, the most exciting thing was that we all met after more than 3 months and that was the time we felt how much we had missed each other. It was one of the most exciting, fun, and amazing events in my life, even if it was so simple and it does not sound like anything special, it was beyond words. The mood and spirit were very special; we did not feel the time passing by. I talked to so many people but still felt very close to each and every one, even to people that I saw only once or twice before. It is impossible to describe the real experience; I think only the people who were there would understand. I think that our common trips and things we did together in the beginning, the crisis that came after it and the freedom we gained back after such a long time, all of this contributed a lot to the situation. We had a lot in common and it felt like we could understand and connect with each other, even though most of us did not know each other very well. It was a very rare but special and wonderful thing, somewhat like a dream.
Have you changed because of your Erasmus experience?
I feel that the Erasmus experience did not really change me as a person but did contribute a lot to my life experience and made me learn about myself and learn how to adapt new perspectives. It helped me to realize what is really important in life. The spirit and attitude I experienced and was exposed to during studying abroad, gave me very important values and experience that I would have never gained in other situations or conditions. I take it with me in my heart and I feel that Olomouc became a second home for me and I know it might sound weird but I feel like a part of my soul is still there and it will be a part of me forever. I know I will come back there for sure and I am looking forward to the next adventure and experience there to come.
How can this experience benefit your future career?
The Erasmus experience definitely may contribute to my future career, whether I choose to work only in my home country (I doubt that), to continue studying or maybe to even work and live abroad in the future. This experience gave me the clue of what the life in a country in central Europe is like and I certainly like it a lot. I can see myself studying my PhD at Palacký University and maybe even living in the Czech Republic in the future. I think that the fact I am considering studying there says a lot about my experience and what a great value it has. As I said, even if I eventually will not choose to study or to live in the Czech Republic, this experience gave me new tools and attitudes to work with and to adapt to, which might be useful in my future career. During my stay, I improved my English language, which is also important for my future, and this experience provided me with a lifetime comrades to cooperate and to work with, whether it is from my home country or directly from the Czech Republic.
Would you recommend the study at the Faculty of Physical Culture, Palacký University Olomouc to your friends? Why?
I definitely recommend studying at the Faculty of Physical Culture of Palacký University Olomouc to everyone who is serious and wants to advance in their study career, to get good professional background and knowledge and more importantly, to develop their creativity, to have an interesting and fun experience and of course to enjoy a great time with wonderful people. From my experience, Palacký University offers the combination of all the above and the fact that I am considering to study my PhD there, says a lot.
In conclusion, it is very difficult and almost impossible to compress this great experience in one interview; all I can say is WOW! Never had I imagined that I would have such a unique and wonderful experience. It will always be one of my best times in life, during which I learnt a lot about myself and got friends for life. The emotional and spiritual impacts on me are far beyond words and of course they are a lot more significant than the technical aspect of the professional and academic experience (which is also a part of it and of course, it is very positive). I am very grateful that I took this once in a lifetime opportunity. As I previously mentioned, I will be back, because this amazing thing cannot be over for me and no matter how long it will take for me come back, I know it will eventually happen! Although in the beginning, it looked like my experience is finished because of the Corona crisis, it was not and I think it was still the best, despite everything.
It is also important to emphasize how good the environment and conditions are in Olomouc and what a great potential there is in this program and place, even in hard times. I more than recommend everyone who can and who is ready for such an experience to take the chance and go for it without hesitating! I am positive that after you do so, you will understand how right it is and what an amazing time and experience it can be. As I said, beyond words.