Alexander - University of Economics, Prague

B Business Management/Economics
I couldn't put a price on the experiences I had or the friends I made. Best decision of my life

Academic experience

I Studied a total of six subjects while at VŠE, which was the equivalent to a full-time load at UQ. These were:
•    World Economy
•    Globalisation and its social and Economic Aspects
•    Environmental Economics
•    American Economic History
•    From Empire to 21st Century Britain 
•    Development Economics 

One thing I liked about the subjects on offer at VSE is that they allowed me to study a number of topics that I otherwise would never have had the chance to learn about.  While I initially thought that taking six courses would be difficult, I found the workload for most of the subjects to be less full on than UQ. Moreover assessment was comprised of much more group work, attendance and presentations than what I was used to at UQ. 

Everything to do with subject enrolment, assesment submissions etc. was done through an online portal called InSIS, which is similar to UQ's blackboard and MySinet in one. Unfortunately, it was only once I got to Prague that I realised a couple of my subjects on my approved study plan were not offered in my semester. However, the university allows you to add and drop courses on InSIS as much as you want in the first few weeks until you figure out what works.

Personal experience

My time abroad was undoubtedly the best experience of my life. I was fortunate enough to be able to travel Europe for a month before and after my exchange started, as well as taking a number of weekend trips to other countries during the semester. Throughout the semester I also got to experience a number of Local football games, university hockey games as well as attend VŠE’s annual University ball.

VŠE is really accommodating to exchange students and they offer a number of events at the beginning of the semester as well as throughout, meaning that there are plenty of opportunities to make friends with other international students.  Moreover, they have this thing called the buddy system which assigns you to a local Czech student who picks you up when you first get there and helps you out with whatever you need. I found this to be extremely helpful. 

As most of the people I spent time with were other exchange students, I definitely didn’t learn as much Czech as I thought I would, as most people (particularly the younger generations) all speak very good English.

Accommodation

I lived in one of the VSE dorms, Jarov III. F and would definitely recommend this as opposed to finding your own accommodation. Although it Is a university dorm, it is located about a 15 minute tram ride from the campus. While it is not the newest or most spectacular building, it has everything you need and is very well connected to the trams. Another benefit of living with the dorms is that is that most of the exchange students live in the same building so you ultimately end up living with all your mates. 

There are two options for dorm accommodation, single or shared room. I chose to have a single room which meant I got my own bedroom and shared a bathroom and kitchenette with one other person. I would highly recommend going for your own room if you can, while it’s a little more expensive (still only about $1500 for the semester), It is 100% worth it to have your own space.

Costs

One of the benefits of living in Prague is that the cost of living is relatively cheap compared to Australia. The following is a rough outline of general living expenses:
•A pint of beer is roughly $2, and will always be the cheapest thing on the menu (cheaper than water)
•My groceries roughly cost around $40 -$50 a week, but this varies depending on how much you choose to cook 
•A meal out will cost you about $10 
•A transport pass costs $40/ month and gets you on all the public transport 
•Accommodation for me was $1500 for the entire time 

I would say about $7000 - $8000 is enough for the entire semester but that depends on how much you want to travel, as this was the biggest expense for me.

Challenge

Going overseas for six months by yourself can be pretty daunting, particularly when stepping into an environment and culture that is so unfamiliar. There were some points at the beginning where I missed the familiarity of the way things are done at home, but I ultimately learned to embrace the differences and I definitely feel I have grown as a result. 
One of the main challenges I encountered would have to be the Czech Visa / Residency process. It is far from straightforward. My advice would be to start the process as early as possible as it requires a lot of paperwork and a lot of back and forth communication with the Czech Consulate.

Professional Development

Many of my subjects placed an emphasis on group assessment which allowed me to enhance and develop my communication skills through collaborating with people from a diverse range of countries and cultures.

Highlight

The highlight from my exchange experience would without a doubt be the number of incredible people I met and friends I made along the way. As cliché as it sounds, it was ultimately these people that made my experience what it was, and I am extremely grateful to have been able to make all these new connections from all over the world. Also, the ability to just get up and travel to a new country every other weekend with a whole bunch of mates was something that I will definitely miss.

Top tips

•Put yourself out there as much as possible, particularly at the beginning. Say yes to everything and try to start as many conversations as possible as it will ultimately make making friends a lot easier 
•As tempting as it is, try not to go away every single weekend, Prague itself has so much to offer and you will find yourself quickly running out of time to see everything. 
•Opt to live in the Jarov dorms as it is just easier and you will make friends a lot easier as well
•GOEuro is really good website for evaluating the cheapest transport options for trips away. SkyScanner is also a really good one for finding cheap flights
•Marks & Spencer and Tesco, although a bit out of the way and a bit more expensive, offer a lot of grocery products that are probably more similar to what we have at home and that aren’t offered at the local grocery stores. 
•Most Importantly, soak up every moment because the time flies by!