Clara Gràcia - Pilsen, Txèquia

I’m Clara Gràcia and I did the best choice ever doing an Erasmus exchange in Pilsen, Czech
Republic at the University of West Bohemia. It was the first semester of my 4th and last year.
When I saw and entered the building I was amazed by the Faculty of Arts and Design Ladislav
Sutnar. It is so big and it seems a modern and remodeled industrial factory. From the first view, I
could see that the university system was so different from ours in Barcelona. It is an open space
without classrooms. There are no walls between the different departments of the faculty, and some
ateliers with crystal walls. You can see what everybody is creating and I think that this is so
stimulating.
 
The teachers also have their own system to teach, classes are not theoretical, they present the
project to be done and you start working. There are few students in class so it is easy to ask or talk
to them or the teacher. When I went to class, it was just for a follow-up. I talked to the teacher,
showed him my progress and there was a feedback. I just had to go to the faculty twice a week, and
that let me travel a lot with all Erasmus students.
 
The Faculty itself was brilliant, really well-equipped: computers and printers available for the
students, tools and material for all the courses and activities (ceramics, metal and jewelry, wod
carving, illustration, all the deisgn disciplines, etc).
 
There is also a great system of attention and help to the Erasmus students. There is a “buddy”, a
czech student who gets in touch with you one or two months before your arrival. The buddy helps
you with so much stuff: the registration in the virtual space of the University, the acommodation, the
arrival at Pilsen, the JIS card and so many things you need in your staying.
 
The JIS card, done in the University, is useful to have discounts in some stores in the city, you can
also put money inside and use it for the canteen or the printing machine at the University, which are
so cheap. You can use this card for the public transport credit by putting money inside it too (I paid
43€ for 7 months of public transport credit). My buddy helped me with all this stuff and it just took us
the morning of the first day.
 
The buddies come from the ESN, the Erasmus Student Network, which helps the incoming students
with almost everything they need and organizes activities for them. The first weeks were full of
meetings, excursions, and night activities to make students get to know each other and have fun,
like gymkanas in little groups, pub tours, a welcome dinner, themed parties, a trip to Prague,
excursions to some cozy parts of the city, a visit to the Pilsner Urquell Brewery, etc. I think it was so
great to have all these activities prepared and to take part in them, so I could get to know so many
people easily and in a funny way.
 
I stayed in a dormitory of the University, in Bory: Machova 20. The location is perfect because there
is a bus which takes you from the dormitory to the University in just 5 minutes. There is also a tram
which takes you to the city center in just 15 minutes, where you can find so many pubs, night clubs,
cozy cafes, good restaurants, a shopping center, professional printing shops (like Copy General),
touristic places like St Bartholomew’s Cathedral, the jewish Synagogue or the Opera. In the winter
semester there is a beautiful Christmas market in the main square of the city. Nearby the dormitory
there are also some good Czech restaurants, some hospital and a shopping center with a big
supermarket where you can find food, stuff to cook or things you will need in your room. You can get
everywhere on foot.
 
The dormitory is quite old and it is not the tidiest space in Pilsen although the kitchen and the WC
services in the corridor are cleaned every morning. This was the reason why the first day that I saw
the dormitory and the room, I wanted to move to an appartment. However, I really loved to stay in
the dormitory because you live with other Erasmus students and it is so funny to live with them,
meet in the kitchen to cook or share moments in other friends rooms.
 
The price of the dormitory is so cheap, I just paid less than 100€ per month, and I lived in a room
with two beds (a girl from my home University) and a fridge, toilet and bathroom which we shared
with just another room (two Czech girls). It all was pretty simple and old, but we get used to it and in
the end we really loved to live there. The kitchen is shared with all the rooms on the same floor, and
there are also shared toilets and bathrooms. They were all clean.
 
Although I had classes and we lived with Czech people, I didn’t really had so much contact or
friendship with them. I had more contact and made so many more friends amnog the Erasmus
people, than with the local ones.
 
I am so greatful to have lived this experience because I grew as a person, the stuff I learned from
the experience and above all the people I met. You have an intense relation with all people there,
because you live with them 24 hours in 6 months. So I think you can “take away” these friendships
with you forever.
 
English: we didn’t take any theoretical classes. All the classes we did were workshops or
explanations about some project that we had to do. Sometimes we spoke individually with the
teacher. Anyway, the teachers had all a very good level of English and spoke to us in English. There
was no problem with language. However, the rest of the Czech students spoke in Czech, of course.
Most students spoke English and we could ask them about doubts and they helped us all the time.