Shannon - University of Economics, Prague

B Economics/Commerce
Semester 1, 2019
I am so glad that I put myself out of my comfort zone and went on exchange, making friends for life and seeing so many new places.

Academic experience

I studied International Financial Management, International Business Operations, Environmental Economics, Macroeconomics 2 & 3. 
The main differences I enjoyed in the academic system were that the classes are generally much smaller, class attendance usually forms a part of your grade and most courses involve group presentations . 
As I took 2 masters level courses (Macroeconomics 2 & 3), I was very challenged academically and had to work much harder than I expected. However this gave me the opportunity to interact with more Czech students and become more immersed in the culture. Friendships developed with the Czech masters students played a big part when I needed some extra help in the courses. 
The registration process is quite different to what I was used to at UQ. I had much fewer options than I expected due to timetable clashes and since the class size is much smaller, there is a first-come-first-serve basis when registering for classes. You have to first pre-register for classes you are interested in and then enrol in available classes closer to the start of the semester. 
VSE also offers "intensive" courses which are whole courses condensed into a few days and are often in different parts of the Czech Republic or neighbouring countries. I had friends who did intensive courses and I wish I had too!

Personal experience

I made fantastic friendships with my roommates and the other exchange students. Since I stayed in a dormitory dedicated to exchange student accommodation, I met so many people from all over the world. 
I travelled on most weekends and got to explore 15 different countries throughout Europe. 
I picked up invaluable skills navigating through foreign countries and I feel like I went through a lot of personal growth from these experiences.

Accommodation

I lived in the exchange student dormitory accommodation, Jarov F (now called Eislerova) a 15 minute tram ride from the university campus. Although it isn't exactly a 5 star hotel, it is everything you need and comes at a great price (roughly 30,000 CZK, under 2,000 AUD for 4 months). 
My favourite thing about the dorms was Tuesday nights when all the students would go out together for the Nation 2 Nation parties. 
I would highly recommend to stay here since it's the best way to make friends during exchange. Make sure you pay your deposit when you apply for the dormitory because I didn't and almost missed out on a place! 
Not only were VSE very helpful in organising accommodation but they also arrange a Czech "buddy" for exchange students who answered my questions and even collected me from the airport!

Costs

Prague is notorious for being one of the cheapest destinations in Europe. Accommodation, as I mentioned before, was less than $2,000 for the whole semester. I spent roughly $30/week on groceries, $20/month on a phone plan (Vodafone) and the 3 month student tram pass was about $9. Travelling to neighbouring countries like Austria, Germany and Poland was also very cheap. 
Of course, it depends on how much travel you want to do, but I would take more money than you expect so that you have nothing holding you back when you make friends and want to go on weekend trips. Most of the other exchange students travel on the weekends.

Challenge

I was quite homesick after a couple of weeks; missing friends and family back home and the 9 hour time difference didn't help... However, I made a group of very close friends and was quickly distracted by focusing on making the most of my time in Prague.
I was also confronted with the culture shock of not being surrounded by friendly Australians! Czech culture is very different and I was not used to it to begin with. Once I settled in, I become more accustomed to their way of interaction and learnt how to fit in with their culture.

Professional Development

I feel that I have become much more independent and adaptable from going on exchange. Not only on an academic level, but the places I travelled to and the people I met shaped my experience. I feel more confident and assertive than before and I aim to carry those skills with me after my university career.

Highlight

I really enjoyed the ice-breaking weekend and travelling throughout the semester with friends that I made. The Tuesday night "Nation 2 Nation" parties organised by the buddy system were also a great way to see different bars/clubs around Prague and have fun with other exchange students!

Top tips

1. Stay in Jarov F/ Eislerova!!!
2. Travel on the weekends- most people travel Thursday-Sunday 
3. Try to schedule classes on Monday & Tuesday- Tuesday night is N2N so avoid Wednesday morning classes!
4. Get plenty of courses approved. The sign up process was much trickier than I anticipated and I had to go back and forwards with my UQ advisor to get more courses approved. Also look into the intensive courses that VSE offers.