Thursday, 24 July 2014

My Erasmus - The Year I Made My Dreams Come True

From the moment I decided to move abroad, from the moment I decided to move to Brno, my life changed, my life took an unexpected turn dealing with the new, travelling learning, improvising, improving. My life changed in the very best way I could ever have imagined. New places, new habits, new challenges, new people. You learn to live with the word new and it becomes a part of your life and after some time you just cannot imagine yourself living without it.

with my Erasmus family in Brno
Writing or talking about my exchange year in Brno will always be my favorite topic. One year in this lovely city had been such an amazing experience. I arrived in September and I have to admit that in the beginning I was a little scared. New situations have always intrigued me, but at the same time I have been very sceptic about them. First days seemed so weird to me. Brno looked like a nice and very peaceful city, but still I had that strange feeling of dealing with new culture and with a new range of emotions. Starting from Czech people. They are usually very nice and polite and willing to help you anytime, apart from the fact that u may find it difficult sometimes to communicate in English and maybe sometimes they may look cold. But once you get to know them, you have to love them!

one of my favorite trips
Continuing with my Erasmus family. Yes, I really mean it when I say family. My friend, an ex-Erasmus in Brno suggested (actually it was a kind of an order) that I choose Vinarska as my dormitory. Well, she was right. I had never lived in a dormitory before that, but if I will again, I definitely want it to be like Vinarska. Of course it is not the most comfortable/best place to live in, but with amazing people you learn to love that place and it becomes your home. Regardless of the time you know these people, they become special to you so easily, and I am glad to say that I feel lucky to have met them. I met people from all over the world and I learned to live with them. Together we changed, travelled, learned, and evolved. Together we became a big family. I have heard many times the quotation: “Home is where the heart is”, but can understand what it means only now. I missed that place every time I was travelling and I miss it more now that I am far away. And you feel like you would give anything to go back to that place, even if it is just for a second, but then you think that it would not be the same as always. The magical conjunction of the right place, right moment and the right people would be missing. 

And as I mentioned before travelling, of course it is one of the best parts of being an Erasmus student. You know your life has changed when all of a sudden you are one weekend in Prague and after few days you find yourself in Vienna or Paris. “To travel, to live” becomes easily your moto and you just cannot imagine your life without this dynamic. Living in Brno helped me a lot with travelling. Its position in the centre of Europe, the facilities in transport made it possible to travel quite a lot and to visit countries and places I really wanted to and never imagined so early.

Moreover, telling about my new university life. Oh, I never would have thought that I could miss classes or a university. At Masaryk University I had the best classes ever with very professional professors and surrounded by very devoted students. I can say that I found there what I was looking for in my studies and what unfortunately I had been missing. Maybe you may think that as an exchange Erasmus student it was not so difficult, but I can say with conviction that the knowledge I got there will serve me for the rest of my life. Studying for a year at Masaryk University will definitely have a positive impact on my future professional life.

And coming to our favourite part, our Erasmus parties. Well, no need to explain or tell too much. Every Erasmus can fully understand what I mean. All the laughs, joy and crazy moments we shared together will be part of the big luggage of memories we will always carry with us.

one of our Erasmus parties in Vinařská basement

And then all of a sudden, without realizing that ten months have already passed, ten incredible amazing months, comes the moment to say goodbye. It is definitely the hardest part of being an Erasmus. That look on the faces of people you love and you may not see again makes you feel weak because you cannot do anything to change that. And you know that you will never be at home again, because part of your heart will always be elsewhere, it will always be with every single place or every single person you keep in your heart. But in the end you just have to let it go and cherish it forever. 

I consider all this experience a challenge and an opportunity to explore and identify ways of improving myself, know parts of me that I did not know existed and in the same time be able to expand knowledge, broaden my horizons and share different cultures and opinions. 

Everytime someone asks me about my life in Brno I always feel that I lack the right words to really express what I have experienced. I could write endlessly and never finish but still I feel that I have not told even the quarter of what I have been through. I think that only those who have experienced this can fully understand me.

our last days in front of Vinařská

I will always remember it as the year I was living in an amazing city with amazing people so special to me, the year that I travelled and made my dreams come true, the year when I was so happy!

Iva Caridha, a student of Faculty of Law, Albania

Monday, 14 July 2014

What about Brno?

Why have you chosen MU? After graduating from my university in South Africa I started working full time. Life was pretty good, I got myself a nice car, long term relationship and a nice cosy little apartment. Most of the things that you are told that should be important once you grow up....but I did not seem quite satisfied with settling down just yet.
So my university back home suggested me to take a chance and apply for an exciting scholarship opportunity. It was the Erasmus Mundus action 2 South Africa program. This special program was an European Union initiative to help students from South Africa grow and develop by doing either an exchange or full degree at one of a select few European universities.
After some days spent looking through all the available degree programs that are presented by the different partner universities, I finally decided on taking Service Science, Management and Engineering. A new degree field combining the worlds of IT, management and business. It seemed the perfect fit and Masaryk University with their close collaboration with IBM Brno seemed the obvious choice. 
So I applied for the scholarship and was accepted to do my two year full degree at the faculty of informatics at MU. 

What surprised me here in a positive way? The culture! The differences between our Afrikaans culture and the Czech culture is quite vast. There was so many things I needed to learn and understand, it was truly a great and exciting journey. Not only was I able to learn and experience the immense differences between the Czech and South African cultures. But because of the great International Student Club or ISC with their great many events and functions for international students, I was also able to become a truly world wise person. Meeting and making lifelong friends from over 30 countries! 

What surprised me here in a negative way? The cold. Not only that of the weather, but also of the way Czech people interact. At the beginning it was very strange to me how everyone was very quiet and withdrawn, I just could not understand it. I remember, right after arriving in Brno my tutor picked me up. She took me to the Tesco to buy some basic necessities. Having just arrived I was walking up and down the Tesco greeting every person I would pass, as is custom where I'm from. When my tutor saw this she ran up to me and said, what are you doing!? Shocked I asked her, nothing why? I'm only greeting the people. She laughed at me and told me that I should not do that, as most people will think I am completely weird. 
This was a strange experience, living in such an individualistic country and culture after coming from a very open and collective one. However, after meeting a few great Czech friends and becoming really close I realized that Czech people are some of the truest friends you could have, once you passed their initial defenses that is. 

What advice would I give your one year younger self? Never miss a Vinarska party, never say no to dragon boat racing and always travel as much as possible. The end of these adventurers come so much faster than you would expect. 

5 things I enjoyed about Brno: 

  • Everest Indian restaurant at Veveři street 
  • Behind the mirror tea house with their endless board game nights 
  • Drinking a beer with friends at Petrov 
  • Pub Quiz on Monday nights at Clubwash 
  • Electro swing nights at Kabinet Múz  
  • Doing assignments in Veselá čajovna  
  • Snowball fights at Veveři 

One special memory that I will always remember about Brno: Ten minutes before the hour, every night, past midnight. When hlavni nadrazi is completely empty and silent, the peaceful atmosphere that hangs around the cold bare station. Then suddenly, from nowhere, five minutes before the hour, hundreds of people swarms out of their pubs, clubs and places of recreation. Running with their Burek, burgers and pizza slices into their respective busses. Then, Exactly on the hour, the busses all mumble jumble back to life and proceed to leave at the very same time in a perfectly harmonized, beautifully orchestrated, frenzy..... After which, the peace endures again, until the coming of the hour.

Aubrey Oosthuizen, a student of Faculty of Informatics 

Friday, 11 July 2014


People generally say “thanks” to express gratitude, acknowledgement or appreciation to others. Even though cultures and languages differ around the world, people have similar practice of saying “thanks”. This is one of the lovely practices of human beings in communication. In my language, “Kye-Zuu-Tin-Par-Tae” means “thanks”. “Kye-Zuu” means “Benefit”. Whenever we get any benefits or advantages from someone or some people, we acknowledge him/her/them and say “Kye-Zuu-Tin-Par-Tae”. In Czech language, děkuji is familiar for most of the foreign students to say thanks. Some of them can use it fluently in communication with Czech people. If we can say the word, “thanks” in native language used with a particular country, it is emotionally beneficial and satisfactory for people of that country.
First of all, I would like to say, děkuji. The opportunity to study at Masaryk University in the Czech Republic was a great honour. During my studies at Masaryk University and stay in Brno, I faced professional and social concerns. For the professional ones, I was learning English language and teaching methodology at the same time. I faced a lot of challenges in the professional field, because my education background and language level were very different and low. For example, in exams, pass mark is 40% in my country from primary schools to universities, but here at universities the pass mark is a 65-70% depending on the individual courses. Studies, supplementary materials and learning methods are different from my country. Assessment methods (e.g. written and oral exams styles) are not familiar to me. Theoretical and practical aspects are trained at the same time. I have never taken more courses within one semester before. 
Although I had little experience in my part-time diploma studies at ACU (Australian Catholic University) online program, the mechanisms are not similar. For example, in online programme, we generally had to focus on only one course or subject for around 1 or 2 months depending on the courses. In my home university, I took 4 courses in one semester for Master Level. At Masaryk University, I had to take 12 courses in the first semester, 9 courses in the second semester and 8 courses in the third semester for compulsory courses (plus one selective) from two departments. I really tried hard to pass the exams, to finish the assignments and to arrange the presentations on time. On the other hand, I had to go to schools for teaching practices. I obtained a lot of knowledge as well as I had the practical experience. I know that I was improving professionally. Teaching practices were wonderful experience, as well as the most difficult part for me. It would not be possible to face and pass these challenges solely on my own without help from professors, lecturers, supervisors and my classmates from the departments. To them, I would like to say, děkuji.
As a foreigner, there were several difficulties in a new place for long time staying. I have been facing many social concerns, especially in language boundary. Whenever I had problem, I asked Czech friends. For example, once I had to go to the immigration office to show my birth certificate for visa extension. I did not bring it and I could not contact my parents on time. I had to explain this situation in Czech language. One of my classmates helped with translation to Czech, in order to explain the situation. When I had to send an official package to an embassy in my country on time, my Czech friend went to the post office with me and arranged for this. I could not speak even basic Czech and I had no clue to communicate in the post office. I needed some services for phone and computer problems, and sometime health problems and so on. In these serious cases, I requested to help my student tutor or classmates and other Czech friends.
In addition, among the strangers, I sometimes felt lonely that might be caused by homesickness or community differences. Because of this, I sometimes wanted friendly, warm and kind environment. This was provided perfectly by my Czech friend, Baclev, who invited me and some Asian friends to his home. His family served us with traditional food such as chicken with potatoes, dumplings, cabbage, cakes, different kind of juices and homemade wines. We (6 people together) stayed one night and we also made barbecue party in his house. His parents were also interesting and asked about our countries and cultures. My friend interpreted for his family and us. We were really happy and felt warm family life as well as community life. It would be impossible to face this homesickness if the Czech people did not help and socialize with me. Therefore, I would like to say, děkuji for above all gratitude.
In conclusion, I struggled for many challenges in the professional and social areas in Czech Republic. With the help of the people in my surrounding, these difficulties were overcome. One or two pages are not long enough to express the full extent of my gratitude. I heartily would like to say, děkuji.

Ywet Wai Aung, student of Faculty of Education

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

5 Reasons to Fall in Love with Brno

Brno: the City of Opportunities

Four years of my life in Brno passed like one day and each moment spent in this wonderful city was full of colors, willing to help people, positive emotions and numerous opportunities for both personal and professional start-up. From the viewpoint of my personal four-year life experience it is possible to make a short but very succinct list of 5 reasons to fall in love with Brno.

The first and the most important reason are Brno people. Yes, they are special sort of Czech people, completely different from inhabitants of Prague, Ostrava or Olomouc. Although sometimes they look very serious and busy, but if any problem happens with you, they are always ready to help you – they either go straight to solution of your problem or send you to the person who can directly help you. Also they are very proud with their fantastic wine and grilled sausages.

The second reason is that Brno is the City of Universities and Research Centers with all corresponding outcomes. Second after Prague, Brno holds the leading position by number of universities, labs, schools, libraries, museums and course centers among Czech cities – there are 5 public, 1 state and 7 private universities, 85 libraries of state, regional and municipal level, and countless number of student dormitories and student canteens make Brno to be a truly student city. The topic of special dignity and success of Brno R&D are two international scientific projects - International Clinical Research Center under operation of Faculty Hospital of St. Anna (FNUSA-ICRC) and Central European Institute of Technology (Ceitec), which perform numerous projects in fundamental and experimental science, employ top experts from all over the world and cooperate with leading universities and research centers of the world. By the way, the single office for the whole Central and Eastern Europe of Red Hats Co., the world open source leader is also located in Brno as well as offices of IBM and Avast.

The third reason is historical heritage and cultural events hold in Brno. Spilberk fortress, Cathedral of St. Peter and St. Paul and villa Tugendhat – they all are UNESCO objects of word cultural and architectural heritage attracting visitors and art experts to Brno from all over the world. As for cultural program so numerous cultural events such as cinema festival, wine festival and beer festival, Shakespeare’s days on Spilberk, Illusionists and Masks festival are held in Brno annually.

The fourth reason is that Brno together with its picturesque surrounding lands of South Moravian region is the seat of countless sporting activities – numerous professional and amateur facilities and tours for bicycling and motorcycling, walking and running, canoeing and kayaking, rock climbing and caving and many other types of sports are all available in and around Brno.

And the last but not the least reason is Brno wine making, which makes the City to be the heart of wine industry not only of the Czech Republic, but also of the whole Central and Eastern Europe. In the late summer the boundless wine fields around Brno provide a scene of unforgettable beauty, creating a traditional land mark of the South Moravia and the Czech Republic.

Oleksandra Lemeshko, international student of Faculty of Economics and Administration MU