For today´s interview, we have questioned Monika Zawilska, a physiotherapy student from Poznań University of Physical Education in Poland. She loves water sports, adores all animals and, apparently, she is fond of Olomouc too…
Why did you choose our university for your Erasmus study experience?
I chose studying at Palacký University, as I have honestly never heard of Olomouc before. I thought it would be exciting to move for one semester to a completely new place and to discover and explore it on my own, without any previous experience or recommendations from my friends. The study programme has offered completely different classes than my home university, so I took it as an opportunity to learn something new.
Were your expectations different from the reality?
Actually not really. Olomouc and the university turned out to be exactly as I imagined. Polish and Czech cultures, languages and cuisine are very similar, so I felt at home. All teachers were very welcoming and helpful and that’s how I imagined and hoped my semester abroad would look like. I was surprised how close all facilities and faculty buildings were. It was a pleasant experience not to be stuck in the traffic jam everyday! I was also positively surprised with the quality of service and food at Menza in Neředín - the staff was really friendly and the food was delicious, making the students feel like it’s a one big family meal that we are sharing. I didn’t expect it to be so good, as I had bad experiences with canteens overall.
Can you compare your study experience in Olomouc with the experience from your home university?
The Palacký University itself reminds me a lot of my home university. The architecture, the infrastructure weren’t much different from where I study in Poznań. However, as I already mentioned, the study program was absolutely different. Back home, my courses are only focused on physiotherapy, whereas here, apart from doing the clinical practice at the RRR Centrum and learning different kinesiotherapeutic techniques, I got the opportunity to try out some new things like climbing, artistic gymnastics, rafting, slacklining and many, many more. It was amazing to be able to gain all these skills together with the people from all around the globe. It surely broadened my horizons and helped me see the world from a different perspective.
What were some of the biggest challenges you had to overcome as an Erasmus student?
I think the biggest challenge was getting used to living in the dormitory and sharing the flat with six other people. I have never had to live in the dorm before as Poznań, the city where I currently study, is also a city where I originally come from, therefore there was no need to move out to a shared flat. I really value my privacy, silence and tidiness and unfortunately those values not always come together with living with a bunch of other people. I think that was the biggest challenge I had to face when I moved to Olomouc. But they say – have you really been a student if you haven’t lived in a dorm at least once in your life?
How did you spend your free time?
I tried my best to spend the free time in the most active way as possible. I went on hikes with friends, we played laser tag, practiced yoga in the park or went to relax by the lake. On the days when I felt like I need a moment for myself away from the crowds, I would just let my legs guide me wherever they wanted to go, among those cozy streets of Olomouc Old Town - I found it really relaxing to be able to discover tiny cafes, romantic parks, architectural gems and just get lost for a moment. Then in the evenings I would go grab dinner with my friends and enjoy the city at night.
What is the single most memorable experience you have from your Erasmus life?
I think the most memorable experience was Orientation Week and all social activities that came with it. Some of them required a team work like PubCrawl and it was amazing to do it with a bunch of people from all around the world who I have just met, learn their names and make friends and work hard to make the best memories. Orientation week was memorable as it was a mixture of „the unknown”, excitement, fun, people and freedom.
Have you changed because of your Erasmus experience?
I stopped drinking coffee, as surprisingly I was getting enough sleep! It definitely changed me when it comes to having a healthy lifestyle. I was exercising a lot, trying different sport disciplines. I think it changed my mindset and showed me how important is the balance between school, work and social life. I will try to apply this lifestyle to my life back home.
How can this experience benefit your future career?
One of the Erasmus moments that will definitely benefit my future career is taking part in the Hippotherapy class thanks to being a physio student at the Faculty of Physical Culture. We spent the whole day at Ryzáček - the hippotherapy centre nearby Olomouc, learning the therapeutic techniques with the use of a horse. It taught me a lot and reassured me even more that I would like to help the patients in the future by working with animals. I also got to perform a lot of presentations and gave a lecture at the Students’ Minisymposium - I think this experience has a positive influence on improving public speaking skills, which are useful in the researchers’ work.
Would you recommend the study at the Faculty of Physical Culture, Palacký University Olomouc to your friends? Why?
I would definitely recommend Palacký University to those of my friends who would like to study abroad but at the same time not far from home. Studying in Olomouc means studying in the modern but cozy environment, with the English speaking teachers who are eager to teach us something new and share their Olomouc life. It means studying in a city, where every fourth person you meet on the street also represents Palacký University and everything within a walking distance, so the whole city becomes your home of which you know every corner. It means being able to improve the language skills, make friends for life and being a part of unique experience.
If you had to describe your Erasmus experience in Olomouc using 5 adjectives, which ones would you use?
Adventurous, beneficial, multicultural, smooth, inexpensive.