In second part of our series about international students at our faculty we introduce you two girls from Catholic University San Vicente Martir of Valencia – Lara and Alba. Both have been here since September.
Why did you choose our university for your Erasmus study experience?
L: I chose Palacky University to do my Erasmus because I was very interested in coming to the Czech Republic. At the beginning, I didn't know why, but now I believe that I chose this country because of its location in the centre of Europe and also because I thought Czech people can speak English, but that is not true. Those are the reasons why I chose this country but talking about this university, well, when my university told me that I could go to the Czech Republic, I was destined to Ostrava, but then my coordinator told me that I could go to Olomouc and I decided to come here.
A: First I wanted the Czech Republic because it is cheap to spend my whole academic year and it's in the centre of Europe and I can travel a lot. Ostrava was my first option also but I searched for some information about both cities and I decided to change my decision because I saw that Olomouc is smaller and more beautiful than Ostrava and there are different activities for students. Also, I knew that here I would have to speak in English and I needed to improve it.
Were your expectations different from the reality?
L: I think that the only thing I thought would be different is, as I said before, that I was pretty sure that almost every Czech person knows how to speak English, but in my opinion it is not like that. When I go to some restaurants, bars or supermarkets, I usually need help from waiters or cashiers and they don't know how to answer me.
A: I thought that Czech people would be friendlier and they would speak English very well but it's not true. There are exceptions but not too many. Anyway, normally I am with Erasmus people. About the weather, I thought that it would be cold but not like this. It's too cold.
Can you compare your study experience in Olomouc with the experience from your home university?
L: My life here is completely different from my life back home. In Spain, I need 30 minutes to go by car to my university, because I live in a village and the university is in the city while here I am living one minute from my faculty so I can wake up twenty minutes before the lesson and I don’t have to drive anywhere. Also, in my home university, I have classes only during the morning and almost without a break while here I have classes maybe two hours in the morning and one in the evening, or just in the morning or just in the evening. And I usually have half-an-hour break between the classes so I can come home and have a snack. Also, in Spain, I have to do homework for every class, like here, but at my university we have to work in groups.
A: It's very different. At my university, I study in my language and it's easier to understand the teachers and then study. About the classes, I do much more practice here than at my home university and I love it. I think that I needed it, it's another way of learning. Another important thing for me is the homework. At my home university, we always work in pairs or in groups but never alone and now, studying in Olomouc, I have improved the way I do my homework a great deal.
What were some of the biggest challenges you had to overcome as an Erasmus student?
L: I think the only challenge I had to face was to speak English. Before Erasmus, I have never spoken any English apart from the English classes, and to communicate, solve problems, meet people etc., speaking another language was a real challenge for me.
A: I agree. For me, English was also the biggest challenge. When I first arrived, I found it very difficult to understand the teachers, do the homework and also communicate with other Erasmus people.
How do you spend your free time?
L: I usually do sport, either alone or with my friends in my free time. We play football, go to the gym, running, swimming, hiking or climbing. Also, I watch English series and films to improve my English or I go out for beers or a snack with friends and to parties too. I also do my homework and I study English but I like to spend most of my free time with friends.
A: Normally during week, I do exercise, sometimes in the gym, some days I go running, it depends on the day. And I watch TV series in Spanish and in English. I try to watch them mostly in English but it's a little hard for me. Once or twice a week, I go to a party with my friends and we drink beer coz we like Czech beer. At the weekends, I often go on a trip with Erasmus people or if we don't have any trip planned, we go skiing or snowboarding if we can.
What is the single most memorable experience you have had from your Erasmus life so far?
L: My best experience was when we went hiking for a day in the Jeseníky Mountains. We knew that we were going to do a route, but we took a bus without knowing which one or where to start. We met one guy on the bus who told us that there was a path at the next stop and it went to the Jeseníky, so we decided to go. We started walking up and we were walking and walking for a long time and being higher and higher, there was more snow and finally we arrived to the top of the mountain. There was a restaurant which looked closed because it was covered with snow. It was -7 °C and we weren't prepared for that cold. After eating something and warming ourselves, we started walking back and it was amazing because I have never walked in a place like that, it was full of snow. For me, it was like being in Santa’s house in the North Pole. Finally, we arrived to the Jeseník town and we took our bus back to Olomouc.
A: I think the trips in general because we decided where we wanted to go on Tuesday and on Thursday we went. I have never slept in a hostel with maybe 12 people in the same room. Normally I travel with my parents to a city with a hotel and a guide and it is all organized but here nothing is organized and it is always like an adventure for me when we travel.
Have you changed because of your Erasmus experience?
L: In my opinion, I haven't changed much. Here, I do the housework but it is because I must do it. In my house, I don't need to. Maybe I am more mature, but I believe I am still more or less the same person.
A: I wouldn't change anything that I have done. I have been able to do what I want here, though maybe I would like to spend more time with people who aren´t Spanish but coming from other countries. I am trying to change that this semester.
How can this experience benefit your future career?
L: This experience will be very beneficial for me because I am sharing my daily life with flatmates and friends from different countries and I must learn how to do it. I am learning how to take care of myself far away from my home. Also, I am learning so much about different cultures which could be very useful in the future. Another important thing is that in our lessons here, we study in different ways from what I am used to and I believe that knowing different teaching methods is very useful for me because I want to become a PE teacher.
A: I think that doing Erasmus is very beneficial for our future because we are learning another language. I live with my parents in Valencia and in Olomouc, I have to do everything on my own and live with people from different countries and it's very interesting because every day, I learn something new. You can expand you mind and this experience helps you become more responsible.
Would you recommend the study at the Faculty of Physical Culture, Palacký University Olomouc to your friends? Why?
L: Yes, if someone tells me that they want to do Erasmus, I will recommend this place. I think this is a good opportunity to travel around Europe because you are in the centre of it. Also, this faculty offers many different courses in different fields of sport that you can choose and create your own timetable and if you have a problem, they help you solve it easily. On top of that, they have a good Erasmus system - we are separate from Czech students to have classes in English but if Czech students want, they can join us, though we also have our own Erasmus subjects.
A: Of course I would because here it’s different from my university and that's great because here you do more practice. The way you learn the theory is pretty much the same I think, but when you mix theory and practice in the same subject, you can learn much more. Another advantage is that you attend your classes in English with other Erasmus people and it´s great because you improve your English and you are with your friends.
If you had to describe your Erasmus experience in Olomouc using 5 adjectives, which ones would you use?
L: Funny, friendly, diverse, enriching, unique.
A: Surprising, cheerful, funny, intense, family.
Archive of interviews
EN: Francesco Serra /