Nobert Chingwara

When it came to my knowledge that l could study abroad under the Erasmus+ programme l was excited and couldn’t wait to apply. The time for application came and l was successful, l was exuberant. The moment of truth came when l realized l had to settle for Czech Republic because the grant that was on offer wouldn’t have seen me through a semester in Finland which was my preferred choice. l didn’t want to spend double what l spend in Poland on top of the grant, yet, had l gone to Finland it would have been inevitable. The truth be told, l didn’t afford it.

On one cold spring day, a visiting professor from Jihlava conducted a lecture, it would be an intensive week that also accommodated another from Germany. We literary begged for mercy as we were bombarded with information and tasks, we were saturated by the end of it. I was impressed by the method of teaching, command of the language of instruction and etiquette and that is why and how Czech Republic became a natural option when reality sank in that Finland was too expensive.

As a non EU citizen, l had to apply for a visa to study in Czech Republic because l was going to spend more than 3 months away from my country of residence (Poland) even though l had a temporary residence permit that extended way after my scheduled return. I found it odd because l had travelled in the Schengen area and l got the impression nobody took notice of my trail due to the beauty of no border controls and here l was trying to travel for education and suddenly there is this red tape.  The process was cumbersome long and expensive despite the visa itself being free.

By the time the visa came out, all the zeal that l had initially was long gone, l had developed cold feet and wished l hadn’t applied for Erasmus+. Eventually the day of reckoning came and l headed south. Previously l had visited Prague but this time around l was going to a small city.

It turned out good things come to those who wait. By the time l arrived in Jihlava, it was all smiles on my face, the landscape is stupendous, the traffic jams on the highway was alarming. Haulage trucks were the dominant feature and for me l saw a functioning country and a working economy.

Upon arrival, the reception was unbelievable. My roommate and other peers in the hostel were the best you can ever wish for. The weather was brutal but l pulled through perceptibly not without being bed ridden for a good week. Internet speed was just great. At uni everything was organized and well-coordinated. Access to personalized profiles and customized emails was very easy. Each student had a tag that they could use on printers that were dotted around the campus. The same tag could also be used in the canteen which has delicious menus that are cheap.

The classrooms were very standard, you wouldn’t feel any difference moving from one classroom to the next. A whiteboard, a chalkboard, a projector screen, a computer, sink with running water and sockets were ubiquitous. Sending an email to an administrative staff or lecturer, you would always get a satisfactory response in a reasonable timeframe considering their busy schedules. Outside offices were letter boxes that could be utilized in case the addressee of your correspondence wasn’t around.

The computer laboratory was almost always full with folks doing their research. During exam period one would be excused that the school really needs to consider expanding the library. The teachers’ methods of teaching and sharing their knowledge whilst encouraging participation and preparing students for exams still reigns supreme in my mind. We were a proper united nations in microcosm as every continent except Australia was represented. The local students were always at liberty to make us feel at home.

The nights out in the cold were marvelous, travelling to other cities and experiencing the warmth of the Czechs and getting to know their traditions as explained by students cum friends who really understand their culture. The discipline of drivers on the road calms the situation and makes it safe to stroll along the road. I will forever miss my stay in Czech Republic and my Wednesday nights of playing violin, the crazy nights of drawing and watching cricket on lazy Sundays in bed. Walking on the streets felt like everybody knew me because whoever l made eye contact with, smiled and that was a good feeling.

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