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Erasmus in Brno in defiance of coronavirus

Eleonora Fioravanti had always dreamed of studying abroad and as a second-year student at the Sapienza University of Rome, she took the opportunity to do so and left for Brno – just before the coronavirus outbreak.

Eleonora chose Brno due to its location in the heart of Europe, the excellent travel opportunities and the low cost of living. Although her studies at MUNI became rather complicated within just one month when all in-person classes were cancelled as a preventive measure and the government declared a state of emergency and a national quarantine, she fell in love with Brno and the university and would like to come back for her master’s studies.

She did not really consider returning home during the semester and the pleas of her parents only confirmed her decision to stay: “When the quarantine measures came into effect here in Czechia, the situation in Italy was very serious and my parents did not want me to risk getting infected on my way home, especially as Czechia was much safer. And I thought it was better to spend two months in quarantine than lose a whole semester. As they have slowly started easing the measures now, I’m sure I’ll be able to enjoy my Erasmus stay some more before I go home at the end of June.”

Thankfully, classes at Masaryk University continued online throughout the six weeks of strict quarantine measures so Eleonora did not miss out on her study experience and will be able to complete her semester: “The teachers have tackled the situation head-on, they are always available for us and we can get in touch with them any time. I really admire how they are coping with this challenge – I know it’s not easy for anyone right now.”

Eleonora, who studies political science and international relations, signed up for four classes – three at the Faculty of Social Studies and one at the Faculty of Law. Two of the four teachers held regular online classes every week, while the other two shared voice recordings to accompany their lecture presentations and regularly met their students over Zoom, where students presented their team projects and could take optional quizzes and tests to revise.

Although Eleonora had to stay at the dormitories most of the time, she tried to remain productive, getting up at eight and studying until lunchtime. She attended her online classes on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday afternoons and a Turkish class organised by the Erasmus Student Network on Saturdays. After her classes, she would go for a walk, exercise and then after dinner would study until eleven at night.

While in Brno, she also started working on her thesis, which revolves around the Visegrad Four: “I find the V4 immensely interesting: they are all countries with a fascinating history and path to freedom. I think my thesis will focus on their relations with the EU. So far, I have been going through the sources available at MUNI and I’m seriously considering coming back to Brno to do my master’s. The Faculty of Social Studies offers a programme called ‘Europe from the Visegrad Perspective’.”

Despite the coronavirus upheaval, she says she has found a new family among the other international students in Brno. “I have friends from all over the world and although we could not see each other, we were in touch over the phone every day. I’m looking forward to meeting everyone at a pub and planning a meetup all over the world from Mexico to Turkey.