Looking out of the window at the snowy fields behind the Neředín Campus, we thought it might make you feel a bit warmer to reminisce about May 2021 for a while. It was a very special month for two of our international students, who can proudly call themselves the first graduates of the master’s study programme Physical Activity and Active Living, which has been taught in English at our faculty since 2018. Following the rule “Ladies first”, we will start with an interview with Bianca Maria Gorgovan from Romania, who is an excellent gymnast also enjoying photography, travelling, baking, hiking and winter sports.
Why did you choose to study a master’s degree programme at our faculty?
After my previous Erasmus experience in Finland and France, I knew that I would be inclined toward starting a master’s degree programme taught in English. In the beginning, I moved to the Czech Republic with my boyfriend for only 6 months, working and doing an internship in Prague.
From there on, I was keen to expand my knowledge as a gymnastics coach and to start my master’s degree. The PAAL study programme in Olomouc seemed to have incorporated everything I have been looking for, so I thought it would be a great opportunity to study at this faculty and… it was!
Were your expectations different from reality?
My expectations were close to reality when I first came to Olomouc. The teachers were very supportive and communicative. It was possible to organise engaging individualised lessons, according to our study interests. The International Relations Coordinators were all kind and extremely helpful, answering promptly to all my questions or uncertainties. What exceeded my expectations was the Baluo centre with its modern design and innovative research technology.
What surprised you when you started living in the Czech Republic?
One thing that surprised me in the Czech Republic was that most Czech people I met own a cottage. They visit them often during weekends so that they escape the crowds of big cities. Other things that surprised me are that almost everybody goes for mushroom picking and many inhabitants own a dog.
The natural beauty of the landscape and hiking tracks also impressed me. It has been a very alluring surprise!
Can you compare your study experience in Olomouc with the experience from your home university?
One similarity between Ovidius and Palacky University is that both programmes offer practical courses, such as ski camp and gymnastics or swimming lessons. Another similarity is the focus of both institutions on the development of adapted physical activity: in Olomouc through the minor in Adapted Physical Education and in Constanta through the Sports for All Federation organised activities.
For me, some differences between these two kinds of study experience are that in Olomouc, I discovered a more intuitive and accessible online students platform, with a clear view of the courses, grades and the programme in general, a more frequent use of the ISIC card and the existence of a student canteen at the faculty where I could go for lunch between classes.
In Romania, on the other hand, while studying in Constanta, I benefited from free transportation by train across the whole country, the faculty was on the Black Sea coast, situated near a beautiful lake, which was wonderful during the warm season, and I was living as well with my family, which generated a different kind of study experience.
What was your favourite course and why?
The Internship in Physical Activity and Active Living was very stimulating as I could incorporate long-term coaching ideas for children gymnasts into a specific and practical framework. In Recreation, Leisure and Active Living I discovered the importance of social health, while during the Successful Aging and Physical Culture class I learned numerous possibilities to engage the elderly to a healthy living. Monitoring of Physical Activity lessons determined me to become more involved in doing sports and provided to me the possibility to monitor my activity with particular devices from the faculty. Sport Pedagogy was also essential for my future work with athletes of all ages. During Motor Control and Learning and Research
Methodology in Health Science classes, I discovered immense knowledge and I found tremendous support for conducting my diploma thesis.
Overall, it would be extremely difficult to pick only one subject, when so many lecturers provided a very captivating learning experience in my two years master’s programme.
What were some of the biggest challenges you had to overcome as a foreign student at Palacký University?
At the beginning, the language appeared to be the biggest challenge, like for most foreigners coming to the Czech Republic. However, in my opinion, it helps greatly to learn a few words in Czech and try to communicate with the locals. Language classes for foreigners, applications, books or online programmes help considerably to learn the language and integrate better in the country.
How did you spend your free time during your studies?
During my studies, most of my free time was divided between Olomouc, Prague and occasional visits to Romania or other holiday trips. I enjoy spending time in nature, but I equally love big crowded cities, and I accomplished to do both during my two years of study. I visited Pilsen, Kutná Hora, Karlovy Vary, České Budějovice, Český Krumlov and many wonderful castles that I recommend visiting in the Czech Republic. I was happy to meet new people and make new friends from different countries. At the same time, I spent my free time working as a gymnastics coach, travelling with the athletes for competitions and having workshops around the country or abroad.
What is the single most memorable experience you have from your student life at our faculty?
The most memorable experience from my student life in Olomouc is probably the 10 days winter training course on the slopes in Kouty nad Desnou with over 200 people. Five days of practicing and improving downhill skiing and five more days of didactics of skiing of people with disabilities. It has been a truly amazing and memorable experience!
Have you changed because of this study experience?
I feel that some things have changed. I managed to balance personal, work and study life successfully in another country than where I was born. I have accumulated valuable knowledge for my future journey. I also learned how to adapt to studying full time in a foreign language and how to switch to a completely new online lifestyle during the pandemic. Altogether, I realised that after these studies, I can do always more and always better in different fields and different places.
How can this experience benefit your future career?
This experience not only benefits my future career, but it was decisive in my case. After completing the Final State Exam and Master’s Thesis Defense, I realised that I am ready for a new challenge. Also, I was interested to carry on the research on the topic I analysed together with my supervisor of my thesis. Therefore, this study experience opened new doors for me to unfamiliar adventures and I am now a first-year PhD student in Prague, where I continue working as a coach of aerobic gymnasts as well.
Would you recommend the study at the Faculty of Physical Culture, Palacký University Olomouc to your friends? Why or why not?
I would surely recommend the study to my friends or to anybody else who feels ready for a new commitment and a beautiful experience. This journey has not always been easy, sometimes stressful, sometimes demanding, although, in my opinion, it was all worth it when receiving the much-desired diploma in a beautiful hardcover at the end of the study. This is just the story about my perception of this study, but I think that everyone would appreciate their time here differently.
I am happy to be one of the first graduates of this programme and I will always remember with gratitude my two years spent at this faculty.