Over 200 mostly European students came to Masaryk University for the autumn semester as part of their studies abroad. While classes have been taught online and Czechia went into lockdown mid-October with serious restrictions of free movement and services, most students have decided to stay – perhaps also because other countries’ measures to combat the pandemic are similarly strict. Seven of the students have told us about their autumn on Erasmus in Brno.
Lara Fuge from Germany, exchange student at the Faculty of Social Studies
Even though I knew that my Erasmus experience at Masaryk would be limited, I still wanted to go. For me, there was not a real difference between sitting in front of my laptop in Germany or here in the Czech Republic.
And I am very happy that I changed the environment because I was struggling with my motivation as my spring semester was spent online. Thanks to my time in Brno, I could see something new – even just taking a walk to the supermarket was exciting as there were many new products I haven’t seen or tried before.
I am not a big fan of online teaching but there is one advantage – I can watch lectures from my bed. Otherwise though, there are many disadvantages: you are not able to meet new people, exchange ideas and have discussions as you would in class. And after a while of sitting in front of the screen, it gets harder to focus. But I really appreciate that some of our teachers are putting a great deal of effort to make online teaching as much fun as they possibly can.
I am glad that I didn’t miss out on the opportunity to study abroad and I am happy that I‘ve got the chance to get to know Brno and its streets, as well as Czech culture in general. But the best part of my Erasmus are definitely my new friends – they are the ones who make this Erasmus experience so special! Our most beloved activity is to walk around the city centre and get a coffee. We are a nice group of friends and I think this friendship will outlast our Erasmus.
Michele Trupiano from Italy, exchange student at the Faculty of Law
I’m almost at the end of my studies and I’ve always wanted to study abroad, so I’ve decided to go for Erasmus despite the pandemic situation. It was my last chance and I am happy that I didn’t miss out, because I am really enjoying my time in Brno. It is a small but very welcoming city. Everything is really close, which allows me to move around easily and reach all the services comfortably.
Online teaching is going well and I’ve noticed some profound differences from my home university – at Masaryk we focus on practical aspects such as analysing judgments and writing papers on practical cases. This helps me better assimilate theoretical knowledge and it is very useful to acquire the fundamental skills that students need at the end of their studies.
I’ve also met many international students and this has been one of the most wonderful aspects of my Erasmus: meeting new cultures makes you grow a lot. These days, when the restrictions are easing, we can finally meet in person more often and walk around the city centre and the wonderful natural places around the city. I am sure we will be able to enjoy our Erasmus in Brno more and more, even though it is wonderful already. I am glad that I didn’t miss this chance to study abroad because after my Erasmus, I will have many friends around the world and that is the most amazing part.
Isidora Navarro from Chile, exchange student at Faculty of Education
I came to Masaryk University in the spring semester, so right after the pandemic started in Europe. I felt safe here in the Czech Republic so I’ve decided to stay in Brno not just for the whole spring semester, but for the autumn semester as well.
Although there was a lockdown during the spring semester and another one right now in the autumn, I am still enjoying my time in Brno. I’ve met a lot of international students during the spring Orientation Week and we are still in touch these days. With social media it is really easy, we text a lot and we have a lot of video calls. The summer was beautiful here, we usually walked around the city and in parks a lot and we had picnics quite often. It was nice to meet all these amazing international students.
I also really like the teachers here at Masaryk, they are always willing to help us – we can ask them via e-mail, arrange online meetings etc. I am really grateful for that. I think they are handling online teaching very well, although I will always prefer in-person classes as they are more dynamic and enjoyable and you can meet other students.
Despite the pandemic situation, I am glad for the opportunity to study in Europe. I also really like Brno, it is a nice city with beautiful architecture, so I really enjoy walking around on my own or with my roommate, even though it is already winter time and it is cold outside.
Nicole Zoppolat from Italy, exchange student at the Faculty of Social Studies
My Erasmus at Masaryk University is different and unconventional because I am not in Brno as many other international students. Due to the epidemic situation I’ve decided to take all my classes remotely and I am very grateful that MU allowed me to do so because my courses are very interesting and they cover a good variety of topics I am interested in.
I signed up for five courses at MU and besides that I am also taking one at my home university – Sapienza University of Rome. And to make my Erasmus even more unusual, I am currently not in my home country either, but in Florida where part of my family lives. Luckily, I am able to handle early classes and assignments despite the difference in time zones.
Such a situation wouldn’t be normally possible in a traditional teaching environment and it is quite interesting to be in the U.S. while taking classes from two European universities. But I would definitely prefer more traditional in-person classes as online courses can never compensate for the interaction with classmates and professors and the opportunity to exchange and confront ideas.
I am sad that I’ve never seen Brno, but I’ve already been on Erasmus in Poland and Bulgaria, so it’s not such a tragedy for me. And I promised myself that as soon as the situation is under control, I will go visit Brno and the university.
Muhamet Konushevci from Kosovo, exchange student at the Faculty of Informatics
I’ve always wanted to study abroad so I’ve decided to go for Erasmus in the autumn semester even in these coronavirus times. I hoped that I would see lots of interesting places here in the Czech Republic and around, but the situation is what it is. The first two months were a bit hard for me but it was actually better than I expected.
The hardest part is not meeting new people and international students. I really looked forward to meeting people from all over the world and this was one of my main reasons for going for Erasmus. I personally haven’t had many opportunities to meet new people, but considering the circumstances, it hasn’t been that bad.
Inês Monteiro from Portugal, exchange student at the Faculty of Sports Studies
One of the reasons why I wanted to go on Erasmus was to meet new people from all over the world and I am happy that I’ve managed to meet a lot of them despite the current world situation.
So far, I’ve met students from 21 different countries including Brazil, Indonesia, Italy, Iraq, Chile, Austria and many more. I met a lot of them thanks to language courses from Erasmus Students Network – I am participating in French and Indonesian classes and it is pretty exciting. Before the restrictions, we were also organizing international dinners; it was nice to experience various customs and traditions through typical foods.
Online teaching isn’t easy, but our teachers support us and they try to keep us active. They’ve asked us for practical tasks, for example to go on a run outside, to walk around the city or hike in nature. I have been trying to stay physically active, so I’ve been doing more and more physical exercise outdoors and from time to time I would go running together with other international students.
The first months of my Erasmus flew by very quickly and I am happy that I was able to leave my comfort zone and that I had the opportunity to try living in another country, with a different language and currency. I’ve learned many new things and met new people from all over the world and I can’t wait to visit them in their home countries when it becomes possible again.
Tobias Heil from Germany, exchange student at the Faculty of Arts
I didn’t know for a couple of months if my Erasmus in Brno would happen. When I finally found out in summer that I could study abroad, I had to take the risk – Erasmus is such a big opportunity that I could not let it go by even if there was a pandemic going on.
I am okay with online lectures as long I can live in Brno, discover Czech culture and practice the language on a daily basis. Even though the lockdown was pretty hard and it took a lot of my energy, I love Brno. Its streets, the cafés and the overall cultural atmosphere were one of the reasons why I wanted to study here in the first place.
The online classes are going well and I am happy about the way teachers have dealt with this challenge. But of course, all courses that are based on discussion among students are suffering a lot. The social isolation is also very hard, I haven’t managed to meet a lot of students, but this may be because of my shy nature.
I’ve extended my studies in Brno for the spring semester, mainly because I am about to start writing my Master’s thesis on an aspect of Czech history. One of the professors at Masaryk is guiding me – he has already given me lots of useful advice and he will also help me next semester. I am very grateful for his assistance and this opportunity.