I loved the experience of living in a different country

Lauren in front of some street art
Lauren Bird
Summer school at Charles University in Prague
Lauren attended a summer school at Charles University in Prague

How did you find the Summer School, academically?

I found that the summer school required more work than I had anticipated. One of the classes I chose - 'Reading Prague: Literature, Architecture and Cultural History' required a lot of reading every night, and while I did expect reading from the title of the course, I didn't expect there to be so much. However, only 2 of us opted to do this class so there was a relaxed atmosphere and a chance to discuss freely with our knowledgeable professor. Also, he was completely understanding of the nature of the summer school and we were never had any repercussions if we hadn't completed it all. We had this class Monday-Thursday 3pm-6pm, and would leave the classroom for at least one session a week to visit the subject of the topic we were learning about which really brought it to life and made it more interesting. My other class 'Czech Language for Everyday Use' had to be split into 2 classes because it was so popular. I made the decision to take part in this class after arriving in Prague because I knew it would help me around the city and it proved to be useful and a skill I now have for the future. These sessions were 9am-12pm and were interactive, including games, tests, oral and written examinations as well as leaving the classroom here as well to explore the city and put the skills we had learnt into practice. We also had homework for this class but again it was pretty relaxed overall.

What extra-curricular activities did you take part in?

I chose to take part in as many extra-curricular activities as I could while I was there, and was usually able to do so because of how inexpensive the city is. During the first week the programme organised for us to go on a boat trip under Charles Bridge and provided free food and a drink. This was a good way to get to know other people on the course and see one of Prague's most historical features in a different way. I also visited Terezin Concentration Camp and memorial which was actually one of my favourite parts of the summer school. We had a great tour guide and learnt a lot about the history of the camp and surrounding area. Walking to Vyšehrad was also a highlight because of the views of the city you get from the top and the history in the cemetery. The school organised a trip to Lidice Memorial where again we learnt a lot and had access to the videos and stories from people with memories of the massacre from the Nazis. Following this we visited St Cyril and Methodius Church, where there had been a memorial the day before visited by the President in memory of the Czech Soldiers who had hidden there following the Anthropoid Operation. Also, as my summer school was during the World Cup I took the opportunity to visit Prague's incredible beer gardens, in particular Riegrovy Sady which has the best view of the sunset, as well as Letná Park. Other trips included Free Radio Europe, a hike through Bohemian Paradise, the John Lennon Wall, Prague Castle and Petrin Lookout Tower. The programme also organised and farewell party for us.

What was the accommodation like?

The accommodation was probably the most disappointing part of the trip. The rooms were pretty basic and unappealing. However, the staff were friendly and helpful, breakfast was provided and always appetising, it was in a good location and I had my own room. The conditions were by no means poor but it was not what I had expected from the pictures provided.

How did the experience enhance your international outlook?

I improved my language skills, I increased my international network of friends, I have a better understanding of a new international culture, I have developed a better understanding of my own strengths and weaknesses, The experience has increased my interest in international travel

How would you describe the experience overall and why?

I really enjoyed my summer school experience in Prague and have missed it a lot since I got back. I loved the experience of living in a different country, experiencing the culture and learning so much every day. It surprised me how quickly I adapted after finding the first few days extremely confusing and a little difficult as many of us didn't know any Czech, but by allowing ourselves to take some time to accept new experiences and ways of living, we soon adapted. I think it is an amazing way to learn, grow and enhance your independency, and I would advise anyone to do it.

What advice do you have for future students attending this summer school?

For attending this summer school I would advise that you remember it is still a European climate, so to pack accordingly. I packed for the summer expecting it to be much hotter (occasionally it was), but it was unpredictable like the UK so there were a few rainy days too. I would be prepared for the language barriers, and therefore advise maybe learning a few key phrases before going. Take part in as many opportunities as you can as there is something to learn from them all, in particular the trip to the Terezin Concentration Camp. Also, outside of the main tourist spots living in Prague is relatively inexpensive, so plan and be aware and you won't need to take too much spending money. It takes a couple of days to settle so don't be alarmed if you don't love it straight away. Mostly I would advise future students to enjoy their time there as it does go quicker than you anticipate, and try to make plans so you can fit it all in!