Isobel - Charles University

B Arts/Laws
Semester 2, 2018

Academic experience

While I was at Charles University I used 4 of my Law Electives. 4 UQ subjects translated to 30 ECTS, and there were law courses available which were 3 or 6 ECTS. I ended up taking 6 courses – Czech Constitutional Law, Private Law (Czech Civil Law), Administrative Law, International Protection of Human Rights – Universal and Regional Standards, Emerging Legal Disciplines and Legal Reasoning First Amendment case law. The class sizes are quite small and the teachers are great. On the whole, I had a great experience learning about international law and the Czech legal system, and in particular how that changed/was influenced by the major political changes in the country over the last century. 

In particular, my Legal Reasoning course which focused on the constitutional protection of freedom of speech in the United States was very interactive. I had a few friends which studied the Czech Language course – which I didn’t do but would recommend as I heard it was good. The classes are unrecorded and I went to class pretty well everyday – but as the law school building is in such a great spot right on the river I was more than happy to not miss classes and head into town. However, if you can swing a Monday or Friday off while still studying courses you are interested in I would definitely recommend it to allow for long weekend trips!

Personal experience

I found the best thing to do was to just give everything a go! Everyone on exchange is in the exact same boat – wanting to make new mates and try new things.  There’s lots of social events  - parties, hikes, tours etc. - offered within faculties and the Erasmus/international student network generally.

Accommodation

I was able to get a single room at a Komenskeho Dormitory. I was with three other girls who all had small single rooms in a larger room which we shared with a small kitchenette and bathroom. There was also a laundry available for use for a dollar or two for one load of washing and a cafeteria (that I never tried) for breakfast you could pay extra for. I absolutely loved living at the dormitory and made some really good mates there. Even paying extra for a single room (most of the rooms were 2 to a room) it was approx $300 a month. Although it was very small, and there was only a hotplate and minifridge – the location and price really outweighs the whole ‘no frills’ thing. It was safe, pretty quiet, had a bunch of study rooms and the dormitory is literally a 5 minute walk from Prague castle, and a few minutes from several tram stops. It was a beautiful 40 minute walk down the hill, across a bridge parallel to Charles bridge to get to university. Staying at a dorm is a really way to meet people, and from what I understand much less stressful then finding one’s own accommodation.

Costs

The tram and metro system is incredible and so cheap, I paid about $30 for 3 months of public transport costs (within Prague). There are loads of free tours you can do in Prague (as well as day trips – eg. a few times I went hiking in this lovely spot bordering Germany called Bohemian Paradise, its about 2 hours from the main train station).  Czech Republic is known for pretty hearty meat-based fare, but there are actually a fair few vegan/veg restaurants around – as cooking options were pretty limited in the dorm I ate out a decent amount, which was again very affordable and wound up being about as cheap as cooking anyway.

Challenge

The language difference can be pretty difficult but even if you can learn some basic phrases (like I did) you can get by. Fortunately my law courses were all taught in English so I got really lucky in that respect.

Professional Development

My courses were really diverse, interesting and pretty challenging - particularly not being from a EU country so I had to get my head around that system of law as a precursor to understanding other aspects of Czech law. I was really grateful I got a chance to study these courses and gain understanding into different systems of law in general.

Highlight

Prague is a beautiful and very affordable city. I would recommend just getting out there and going for massive walks and seeing what you find, which was one of my favourite things to do.

Top tips

•    Visa application  - it is a long process – but I promise its worth it! Make sure to get in touch with someone who has applied for a student visa before. It is the easiest way (if you get a long term residence visa, you have to do an interview with police when you arrive and find a Czech translator), just make sure you start as early as your exchange gets approved. 
•    Make sure you balance spending time in Prague, the Czech Republic and visiting all the incredible cities – Bratislava, Berlin, Vienna etc. Take advantage of the cheap train and bus fares (Flixbus is great, the trains are good but note that they often run late).
•    Free walking tours are offered pretty well in all the major European cities – just make sure to give a tip at the end/when you leave it (anything from about 5-15 euro per person, depending on how long the tour is/how much you enjoyed it). 
•    Buy one of those chargeable battery pack things for your phone – absolute life saver for me on so many occasions, and just generally carry around money for emergencies and contact numbers for friends/family (I managed to get stuck in a small town in Slovakia at 8pm at night with no way to contact anyone because my phone turned off for 30 hours from the cold – but all is well that ends well haha).