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MU launches programme for Czech compatriots

It is estimated that as many as 2 million Czech compatriots live in various parts of the world. Many were born abroad and have never known the Czech Republic. A newly launched programme for compatriots aims to attract them to Masaryk University, allowing them to get to know the country of their ancestors.

In May MU launched a special website for compatriots, and from next academic year it is also preparing several activities for descendants of Czech and Czechoslovak emigrants –⁠ for example, special summer schools and semester programmes, new courses focused on Czech folklore, culture and history, and Czech language courses for beginners and advanced students. There will also be interactive content on the website that introduces the Czech landscape, culture and cuisine, as well as a newsletter for compatriots, which will be sent regularly to e-mail inboxes and embassies and Czech compatriot associations abroad.

“We see great potential in activities for compatriots and want them to study at Masaryk University, where they can learn about local culture, practice Czech and be part of a large community of students from all over the world. We believe that the programme will not only help attract potential students but will also strengthen awareness of MU abroad and support the spread of Czech culture across borders,” explains MU Vice-Rector for Internationalisation Břetislav Dančák.

From across the world back to the Czech Republic

Czech compatriots communities operate in more than 90 countries, including the USA, Canada, Israel, Australia, New Zealand as well as a large part of South America, for example in Brazil, Argentina or Chile. However, numerous groups of compatriots also exist in Europe, in Austria, France, Germany, Great Britain, Ireland, Switzerland or Sweden.

Masaryk University wants to attract students from all the continents to Brno, both for a short-term and long-term placements, during which Czech compatriots can complete bachelor's, master's or doctoral studies.

MU graduate Dale Kalina from Canada and Ecuadorian student Mirek Houdek have Czech roots.

It is not unusual for compatriots to return to the Czech Republic. For example, the Ecuadorian Mirek Houdek, who was born and raised in Ecuador, knew of Masaryk University since he was a child thanks to his grandfather. So, when he was choosing a university, he decided to move to the Czech Republic for a few years, because he saw it as the best way to get to know the country better. And gradually he got to know the part of the family that lives in the Czech Republic.

The Canadian Dale Kalina, whose father emigrated to Canada in the 1980s to escape the communist regime, had a similar feeling. Although Dale spent every holiday in the Czech Republic, he wanted to better get to know the local country, people and culture, so he completed a six-year course in medicine at the MU Faculty of Medicine. Today he is back in Canada working at a hospital near Hamilton, and many Canadians know him because he appeared as an infectious diseases expert almost every day in the Canadian media during the pandemic. But he has not forgotten the Czech Republic –⁠ this April he returned to Masaryk University after a decade to reminisce about his studies, and at the same time he also met with MU students who are thinking about specialising in infectious diseases and working in Canada.

Czech compatriots also come to MU for shorter placements. For example, thanks to a scholarship from the Ministry of Education, four students with Czech roots from Argentina, Mexico, Ukraine and Romania came to study Czech at the MU Faculty of Arts. One of them is Olena Lukovets, a Czech from Volhynia who was born in Ukraine. Her great-grandparents moved to the Czech colony near Zhytomyr in Ukraine in the 1880s, where the inhabitants of the settlement were the first to start growing Czech hops and adapted them to the local climate. Breweries based on traditional Czech craftsmanship even began to emerge in the area later.

“I came to MU to improve my Czech and to work in the company of Czechs in Zhytomyr, thus helping to preserve the legacy of ethnic Czechs living in Ukraine. I am very happy for this opportunity to get to know the Czech Republic and improve my Czech. I really like it at MU, we have great teachers and I also met a few other Czech compatriots. It is great that MU tries to establish and maintain relations with compatriots, and I am pleased that it has prepared a special programme for them, thanks to which they will get to know the history, traditions and local culture more closely. That's exactly what I needed,” explains the Volhynian Czech.

Czech compatriots will already be able to come to MU this year. For example, in the summer the MU Language Centre organises the summer school Taste Brno, Taste Europe and Develop your English and Communication Skills, but next year a special summer school focused specifically on the Czech Republic is already being prepared.

“We also want to launch one- or two-semester programmes primarily for non-European students who, unlike European students, cannot come to MU through the European Erasmus+. Thanks to this, they will be able to study specialised scourses and at the same time enrol for courses created especially for compatriots, so students will spend more time in the Czech Republic, while not extending their studies, so it's like a two in one deal,” plans Violeta Osouchová, director of the MU Centre for International Cooperation, which is organising the new programme for compatriots.

From the new programme, MU promises, among other things, that it will bring talented and motivated students to the Czech Republic, who will then return home and spread its good name in compatriots communities and beyond, for example among their classmates. MU also plans to use foreign graduates with Czech roots for promotion at foreign post-matriculation fairs or high schools, where they would share with local students their experience of studying at MU and of life in Brno.

If you too are a Czech compatriot and are studying or have studied at MU, share with us your story and experience of staying in the Czech Republic and subscribe to the newsletter for compatriots and stay in touch with MU.