Interview with exchange student: Eliska Melicharova

Welcome! Tell me a little about yourself.
Hi, so my name is Eliska Melicharova, I am from the Czech Republic and I came here to Amsterdam as an exchange student to study the minor Political Science. I am now 23 years old and about to finish my bachelor degree in Political Science, besides that I am also studying Journalism.

You’ve almost finished your study period at the VU. Time flies!
Yeah, that´s true. The time is flying so fast.  I didn’t really have that feeling before my exchange, but I cannot believe that I am almost about to leave.

What made you decide to come to the Netherlands and study at the VU? What did you expect to learn?
Mostly, because of the rating of Dutch universities and I also wanted to try a different education system. Many people told me that the  Dutch education system is pretty demanding, but that I will learn a lot. Also, another reason was that my bachelor thesis is partly about Geert Wilders and his political party.

How important was this opportunity for you to study abroad?
It is very important for me, because I improved my English. Also, I did want to try to live in another country, because I hope that someday I will be able to work outside of the Czech Republic. Also, I have met many great people, who made an impact on me.

Did your study in Praque prepare you enough for this minor?
Not really, although I have to say that I have had some basic skills in Political Science. However, it is important to mention that I believe that studying this minor will help me in my finals back in the Czech Republic. Also, thanks to Nana de Graaff, I have decided to do my  master degree in Internationl Relations. Before my exchange I was not sure, which master I should follow. So, I am very grateful!

And how did you prepare yourself  for being away from home?
I did not prepare that much. I must say that the International office made it quite easy for me. They have sent me all things, which I needed, and were always willing to help when there was some problem. Besides, I got a scholarship from the European Union, since I am in a programme of Erasmus. But also my grandmother helped with finance. I would not be able to survive here just with the money from EU.

How did you get used to your new study and living environment?
Well, it was not very easy for me from the beginning.  I did not apply for student housing, so I had troubles with finding a room, which is really difficult in Amsterdam. After a while I gave up and I am now living at my family friends´ house. But overall I love it! It is so different from the Czech Republic. I like how people here are trying to live more green. For sure, I am going to miss cycling everywhere!  The new study system was quite demanding for me from the beginning.  Especially all the readings and I was also not used to study with such an intensity, but I am grateful for that now.

Is there anything unique about the VU?
I have to say that I am still surprised when I cannot find a spot there to study, haha. But I really like the campus and how modern everything is.

What was it like to study in Amsterdam compared to Prague?
As I already said the biggest difference is definitely in the intensity. Also, in Prague we usually have around eight courses per semester and we have all the exams in one month. So to give you an idea – from September to December we follow the courses and then in January we have all the exams. After the experience here, I find the Czech system really bad. You do not have to do a lot during the semester, but then you are overwhelmed with studying, finishing essays and so on in January. Regarding the teachers, they’re more professional here than in the Czech Republic. The teachers here seem to always be prepared and they always have time for students.

What activities did you do or join while studying abroad?
I have joined the Green office and I have to say that I have really enjoyed that. I learnt a lot about the environment and it is really nice to see young people working so hard to help others students to understand the issue of it. After being a member of  the green office, I feel more responsible for my behaviour towards the planet. Maybe it sounds silly, but it did really help to see the world with different glasses.  Also, because my time here is limited, I usually bike somewhere to discover a new part of Amsterdam or I hang out with other people.

Did you meet other exchange students?
Well, I did not meet a single Czech student here, but I have made good friends with other exchange students. Amsterdam is a pretty awesome place to live in, everyday something is going on. There are so many places I haven’t seen yet!

Are there any challenges being an exchange student in Amsterdam?
I don’t think so. The hardest thing is definitely being away from your family and friends and to be strong to cope with some challenges on your own.  Just be smart enough to get the accommodation before you get here. Besides that it is pretty normal as anywhere in Europe. Maybe this: be prepared for a lot of studying on your own.

What have you gained from doing an exchange here?
I have become more independent and confident. Also, as I said before, now I kind of know what I want to do in my life. Or at least I do know which direction I want to take.

 What recommendations would you make to the VU about improving their minor Political science, or towards foreign students?
I really enjoyed the minor, but I was really lost when we were working with the SPSS system, because I have never worked with that before. And like I mentioned before , the International Office is always there to answer questions and help you with any problem foreign students have.

Whats your plans when you’re back in  Praque?
Oh. I really don´t want to think about this yet, haha. But I have to pass some exams there as well in February and then I will have to go back to work and I need to finish my bachelor´s thesis. Hopefully, it will go smoothly.  One thing is for sure, I do want to come back here. Netherlands is a lovely country and I believe that the job opportunities are good here. I have also met  many foreign students, who were doing their internship here, so maybe I will do that in the future.

What’s your  final advice to students who are planning to study abroad?
My advice would be that everyone should do it. Besides the obvious reasons as improving your language skills etc., your horizon will broaden and you will learn a lot about yourself.

Dit artikel is geschreven door Politeia-redacteur Elaha Razeq. 

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