You might have already read about the experience of Cassidy from the University of Alberta in Edmonton. Now we are bringing you an interview with two of her classmates, Monika Riechers (M), and Karen Wisheu (K) who are studying Science in Kinesiology and Kinesiology respectively at their home university in Canada.
Why did you choose our university for your Erasmus study experience?
Palacký University was one of three faculty exchanges offered to students at our home university.
M: I chose it because I have close family friends from the Czech Republic and was interested in learning and experiencing the country and culture. I also must admit that the centrality of Olomouc also played a factor in my decision because it allows for traveling around Europe.
K: I didn’t have family friends in the country, but otherwise my motives were similar. Additionally, I thought Czech was more exciting and different than the UK and cheaper than Norway (our other two options).
Were your expectations different from the reality?
M: Slightly, I expected the weather to be a bit warmer than it was but in comparison to home, it was still really warm. I was also expecting to be interacting with Czech students more than I did.
K: My expectations were completely different. I was told the classes were styled differently than in Canada, but I didn’t expect it to be quite so different. Honestly, I came into the exchange a bit blind, so for most aspects of the exchange I either had no idea what to expect or was completely wrong about what to expect going in. Now this didn’t really have a detrimental effect on my exchange as a whole, but it made the first week or so incredibly stressful. I highly recommend future exchange students talk to people who’ve gone previously or read a bunch of interviews (neither of which I did), so they go into the program with a better understanding.
Can you compare your study experience in Olomouc with the experience from your home university?
M: My courses were a lot smaller here than at home, and a lot more hands on. We had to apply knowledge that we had learnt to real life scenarios and there were a lot more presentations.
K: Back home you were taught things more directly (i.e. teacher reading off a PowerPoint), while in Olomouc it wasn’t uncommon to have to figure things out on your own as well. In one class, for example, we had to prepare two presentations (one short, one quite long) on two different topics. In both cases we were expected to teach ourselves about our selected topics on our own. This process was challenging and stressful at times, but it was incredibly rewarding once we presented.
What were some of the biggest challenges you had to overcome as an Erasmus student?
M: Getting used to presenting. I have a lot of anxiety when it comes to presenting so it was pretty stressful for me to have to do so many for classes. Also, getting used to not always understanding what is around me. At home everything is either in English or French, so I am able to understand everything; from what people are saying to the small things such as advertisements. It was definitely a strange experience and took a while to adjust to.
K: In addition to the language barrier, it was really challenging to learn to live on my own. I still live with my parents back home so simple things like cooking and getting into a regular schedule for groceries and laundry took some getting used to.
How did you spend your free time?
K: I’m not going to lie, I can be kind of an introvert. I spent more nights than I should have bundled up in my dorm room watching YouTube videos or TV shows, but I made a lot of friends and as the semester went on I spent more and more time with them. It wasn’t just partying or weekend trips either, sometimes they’d come over to watch movies on my laptop or we’d go out to a café for lunch. It was often super mundane things like getting groceries together or hanging out working on papers until 2am (not because they were hard, so much as because we procrastinated or forgot about them). I did do a fair amount of traveling at the weekends, but mostly it was just hanging out in my dorm or casually with friends.
M: We also spent a decent amount of time attending the local sport matches with my (Karen’s adopted) buddy.
What is the single most memorable experience you have from your Erasmus life?
K: There was one trip I had been planning even before I got to the Czech Republic that really stands out. It was a trip to London where I got to attend a Premiere League football match and a video game conference where I got to go to a meet and greet with some people I’m huge fans of. It was probably one of the best weekends of my life. In terms of my time in Olomouc specifically, however, the most memorable moment is near the end of my time here. One night at 2am, I went over to my friend’s room and we watched game seven of the eastern conference final (NHL). We stayed up until 5am cracking jokes about Don Cherry and the game itself even though I had to be up at 7am the next morning and he had a flight to catch. The next morning, we went out to a café with a couple other friends and I remember being surprised at how awake he was because the only thing keeping me conscious was my cup of coffee.
M: One of my most memorable experiences was when I got to attend an Olomouc ice hockey game with friends. It was really amusing to watch the game with my buddy Kate and our British friends who had never seen a game before. The Olomouc fans are very passionate about the game, and a lot more vocal about their opinions then the fans back home. It was also awesome to see Olomouc win and the player celebrations after the game (thank you Kate for making sure we stayed after the game :-) ).
Have you changed because of your Erasmus experience?
K: I feel like the exchange has really helped to make me more independent. There were a lot of things I had to do while abroad that I would normally avoid doing back home. The classes themselves also helped me improve my independence because the style the teachers used relied more heavily upon independent learning and active participation in class. The more frequent use of applying knowledge over memorization also helped me in that department (which was really helpful since I’m a lot better at memorizing than applying knowledge).
M: I believe that this experience has helped me become more independent. Along with regular everyday things, the teaching style here is reliant on the students wanting to learn more and coming to classes with an understanding of the course material so that they can participate. This experience has also helped to me to find my passions and what I am interested in.
How can this experience benefit your future career?
K: I feel the answer to this is pretty similar to what I said above. The independence I gained is probably the biggest advantage I’ve gained here. The ability to talk to new people (regardless of the differences in our backgrounds) is something I feel I’ve really improved on. I’m still kind of awkward, but I used to be much worse. Additionally, I’ve gotten a lot better at working with and around language barriers.
M: This experience has given me valuable insight into how people feel when they immigrate into a new country. This is incredibly valuable because living in a country such as Canada, there are so many immigrants and people from different backgrounds. It also, has given me an idea of specific areas of the field that I would like to further explore.
Would you recommend the study at the Faculty of Physical Culture, Palacký University Olomouc to your friends? Why?
K: The first week that I was here, during orientation, I was told that I would fall in love with this town and I absolutely have. Olomouc is a small town which makes it so walkable and easy to familiarize yourself with. Whenever I returned from traveling, I was always excited to be back. I can’t entirely describe it, but I really can’t recommend this town highly enough.
M: I would definitely recommend coming to Palacký, the teachers within this faculty are enthusiastic about their fields, are always willing to lend a hand, and are very personable. Along with the amazing teachers, you also get to meet many interesting and unique people.
If you had to describe your Erasmus experience in Olomouc using 5 words, which ones would you use?
K: New, challenging, rewarding, friendships, natural.
M: Adventure, exciting, humbling, fun, friendships.