Dharmapriy, a Bangladeshi student of Buddhist philosophy and psychology who moved to Sri Lanka to study in a Buddhist monastery at the age of ten had long dreamt of travelling to Europe but had always been hindered by the high cost and the difficulty in obtaining a visa.
When he saw an announcement on his university’s notice board offering students the chance to study in the heart of Europe – at Masaryk University in Brno – he did not hesitate. However, he was not the only one: 35 other students at the University of Peradeniya, the largest and oldest university in Sri Lanka, also applied.
“I think I must have been the only foreigner among the applicants; all the others were Sri Lankan natives, so I couldn’t believe it when I learned that it was me that had been chosen for this wonderful opportunity,” says Dharmapriy. The Erasmus+ ICM programme he was selected for meant that he received a scholarship for one semester of studies at Masaryk University and a return ticket to Europe.
When Dharmapriy arrived in Brno in February, he saw snow for the first time in his life. However, an even bigger surprise was the large community of international students at Masaryk University. “While there are many tourists in Sri Lanka, there are hardly any foreigners at my university. In the course of just one semester in Brno, I met people from all over the world – from the US, France, China, Belgium and many other countries. It has been an incredibly enriching experience to learn about so many other cultures and ways of thinking,” he describes.
Another pleasant surprise was finding that whenever he needed something, he only had to wait a couple of hours for the answer to arrive by email, rather than a couple of days, and that his international coordinator at MU was always on hand to help navigate the difficult process of acquiring a visa and many other issues.
Masaryk University is miles ahead
Dharmapriy enthusiastically talks about the quality of teaching in the Czech Republic. In Sri Lanka, he was used to classes where only the teachers would talk, while the students would just listen and take notes: “In the classes at Masaryk University, students speak very often and the lessons are much more interactive, which means that the quality of teaching in Brno is miles ahead compared to Sri Lanka.”
His favourite lessons were three psychological classes at the MU Faculty of Arts focused on various topics, such as stress management, mental health and human nature. He appreciates that the information is directly applicable to real life and that the teachers would illustrate the point by referring to various studies and experiments.
Dharmapriy also attended Intercultural Communication at the MU Faculty of Education. “It was a great course taught by an excellent teacher – one of the best I ever had. I simply adored his lessons and learned a lot of interesting information about different countries and cultures,” he says.
A turning point in life
Even though Dharmapriy only spent one semester in Brno, he found the time to visit a Czech Buddhist monastery in Liberec and to travel to other European countries: he visited Munich in Germany, Bratislava in Slovakia, and Poland, and spent six days in Paris and five in London, where he met the local Buddhist community of over 160 people from Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.
“I also visited several monasteries, but my most memorable experience is from London. I was there in mid-May when we Buddhists observe our most important holiday – Vesak, commemorating the birth, enlightenment, and death of Buddha as the three most key points in his life. Celebrating this holiday on the other side of the world was a completely different experience.”
After the exam period in June, Dharmapriy briefly returned to Sri Lanka and then headed back to London for a three-month monastery programme. When this is over, he plans to return to the University of Peradeniya to finish his master’s thesis.
“When I complete my studies, I would love to become a university lecturer, so I’m planning to enrol in a PhD programme – and Masaryk University is a strong contender. I will never forget my semester in Brno, it was a complete turning point in my life – words cannot describe how invaluable it was. I wish the Erasmus programme had never ended and that I could just spend the rest of my life in Brno,” says Dharmapriy with a laugh.