Many students have two major goals when they first enter university: studying and traveling. Student exchange programs offer students the opportunity to achieve these goals. However, it is hard for most to study their majors in foreign universities. Since Czech Technical University in Prague (CTU) specializes in engineering and has an advantageous location, many students who consider choosing an exchange university will be satisfied with CTU.
About Living in the Czech Republic
Czech Republic is located in the middle of Continental Europe and connected with Germany, Poland, Austria, and Slovakia. This allows students to visit other adjacent countries easily; it takes approximately only four and a half hours by bus from Prague to Berlin, for example.
“Prices, especially foods, are lower than in Korea,” Hwang Sang-il (Dept. of Mechanical and Information Engineering, '12), a former exchange student to CTU, said. In Prague, students who buy a long-term transit pass, which only costs about 60,000 KRW for five months, can use public transportation easily. Moreover, Hwang also said that the most expensive monthly dormitory fee is about 200,000 KRW, which is much cheaper than the cheapest dormitory at UOS. Considering these lower expenses, Hwang said that he was not worried about money in Prague.
Traveling and Cultural Opportunities at Czech Technical University in Prague
Hwang pointed out many other advantages at CTU. Unlike students at UOS, those at CTU do not take mid-term exams. Instead, exam periods last for four weeks after finishing 14 weeks of classes. According to Hwang, this policy is attractive because students whose classes all schedule exams in the first week of this period, can take trips during rest of the exam period.
Although exchange students do not live in the same dormitory as regular CTU students, there are many chances to hang out with them thanks to CTU's international programs. Hwang described one of these programs: “The most impressive event at CTU was the ‘integration party’ where more than 300 students gathered and introduced each other's countries. At that party, a Korean team prepared traditional food, Jianzi, and performed face-painting with the Taegeuk mark the yin-yang symbol on the Korean national flag.” In addition, there is a Korean language mentoring program, and students who participate in such activities can easily mingle with foreign students.
Studies at Czech Technical University in Prague
Although it is true that many exchange students cannot earn credits toward their majors at CTU, Hwang was more fortunate. “After acquiring permission from the exchange program, I found a lecture called ‘Programmable Controller Applications’, which is similar to the lecture ‘Control and Machining Experiments’ at UOS,” he said. “Many students may not be able to earn major credits from exchange universities, and this may cause them to postpone their graduation. Therefore, it is important to check available major subjects in the curriculum before choosing an exchange university,” he added.
When The UOS Times questioned how difficult it was to take classes in English, Hwang replied that thanks to professors who tried to consider the exchange student's level, it was not that hard to understand. When he took a course called “Heat Transfer Equipment,” for example, there was no problem in understanding because he had already taken a similar subject at UOS before. However, he said that he found “Programmable Controller Applications” more difficult because he had no background knowledge. Even if some courses are hard for exchange students, Hwang stressed that CTU can help students to understand the engineering field deeply. This is because, unlike UOS which consists of many departments in different fields, CTU specializes in departments of engineering.
One inconvenience that Hwang experienced, however, was the process of registering for classes. Students who want to enroll in lectures outside their departments register through the Internet using the university's KOS system, which is similar to WISE at UOS. Students who are majoring in Mechanical Engineering, on the other hand, must complete course applications offline, completing forms by hand.
Advice for CTU applicants
Yet there may be another hurdle to overcome before even traveling abroad: obtaining the visa. To get a student visa for the Czech Republic, applicants need to prepare 11 documents, and the approval process takes about two months. Hwang said the process is complicated, so it is important to prepare early. Hwang had a hard time because he started to prepare documents during the exam period at UOS. He also pointed out that there will always be some unexpected variables when applying for a visa. For example, a statement of criminal history is required, and this must be translated into Czech by a professional translator. This takes a few days, and even when the translation is completed, visa agents may treat minor police records as serious crimes. As Hwang noted, one should try hard to complete the visa application process on time before traveling to the Czech Republic.
Some students hesitate to join an exchange program because they are not sure about the advantages of such a program. Hwang recommended that such students should apply for it anyway. “My life was totally changed after the student exchange program at CTU. If a time machine existed and I had a chance to go to the time I want to, I would like to go back to the moment before arriving in the Czech Republic,” he said. Furthermore, Hwang emphasized that one should not save money for trip, as that could discourage students who want to travel. Hwang borrowed much of his travel funds from a friend, although he repaid after returning to Korea. He said he did not regret the cost.