For Birgitte Schmidt, a professor of Danish literature and history at the University of Copenhagen, this has been the tenth time she attended the summer school. She first heard the Czech language many years ago when she met a lecturer from the Czech Republic at the university. “She was very nice and spontaneous. We became fast friends and since I knew nothing about the Czech Republic and the language sounded very interesting to me, I decided to try and learn it,” explains Birgitte, who also speaks English, German, French and now Czech besides her native Danish.
This year’s lectures and additional programme of the summer school, which is organised by lecturers from the Department of Czech for Foreigners at the MU Faculty of Arts, was impacted by the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, which also hampered the students’ opportunities to meet each other. “Normally, students at the summer school are like one big family. This year we missed our favourite parties, kept social distancing at our lectures and I practically spent the whole time just with Tim, a student from Finland, and another Czech student,” she says.
Since Birgitte is now retired and only works part-time at the University of Copenhagen, she decided to rent an apartment in Brno and move there to improve her Czech language skills. “There are hardly any Czechs in Denmark. I don’t have the opportunity to practice the language there. If I want to improve my Czech fluency, I have to live here. I’ve fallen in love with Brno, its atmosphere and its people since the first time I visited the city,” says Birgitte, smiling on her way to an auditorium to get the results of the tests she has taken at the summer school. “Of course I want to be an excellent student and I would hate to get a bad result. But I’m learning for myself because I want to and I am always happy to improve, even if just little by little,” she adds sincerely.
The Summer School of Slavonic Studies was held for the 54th time this year, with 95 students from 34 countries taking part. “Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the courses of the international summer school were held both face-to-face, online and in a combined form to enable all students interested in the Czech language and Czech culture to participate. In the end, seventy students visited us here in Brno in person,” says Eva Rusinová, head of the Department of Czech for Foreigners, adding that the classes were held in blocks from Monday to Saturday and students were divided into nine groups according to their proficiency.