Hi! Or, as they say in Czech, dobrý den!
To begin with, please let me introduce myself. My name is Daria and I first entered JAMK’s doors in far 2016 when I had passed the entrance examination and was invited to study International Business. I still remember my excitement (and a bit of trembling hands!) when I discovered an acceptance letter in my inbox. It’s crazy how time flies! It’s 2020 already, I’ve graduated and.. got stuck at my own home due to the pandemic. Now that the only thing left is reminiscing about my previous travels around Europe instead of planning new ones, I would like to share my exchange semester experiences with you, which hopefully someone will find helpful for their own upcoming semesters abroad.
As you can guess from the greeting, I’ve chosen the Czech Republic as my exchange destination, precisely a small town in the eastern part of the country – Ostrava. I expected that this location would provide traveling accessibility to the countries nearby, such as Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, Germany, and others. And I was absolutely right!
Street views of Ostrava
Actually, the transportation system inside the country is well-organised and relatively cheap, especially if one has a student ID card. This ID can come in handy in various situations and is indispensable for students-travelers. So, if you plan to travel around Europe, I highly recommend getting an ISIC or ESN card, as the former offers up to 70% discount on intercity trains. As for me, I always used an ISIC card, as it is claimed to be a universal student ID card in Czech, which is accepted everywhere. I will cover more details regarding traveling tips and interesting destinations in the next blog posts, so stay tuned!
There were no direct flights to Ostrava from where I intended to depart, that’s why I took a flight to Prague. For those, who continue their journey to Czech cities other than the capital, I recommend taking a shuttle bus from the airport to Praha hlavní nádraží, which is the main train station of Prague*. The ticket costs around 2€ and allows you to get to the station fast. It might be a bit crowded inside the bus though but the ride is definitely worth it if you have lots of heavy luggage and almost no fluency in Czech language. Yeah, it can be overwhelming at first when you leave the airport and face the reality: most people speak only Czech (including the shuttle bus drivers) and you need to figure your way out of the airport zone by yourself. Hence, it was the most painless option for me to find a shuttle bus in front of the airport and buy a ticket from the driver thanking him in Czech (I came prepared! 🙂 ), hoping no one’s feet would be run over by my luggage.
Speaking of accomodation, there are mainly two options on where to stay. The first one is the students’ dormitory, which is the place where all gatherings and student parties take place. If you want to be in the middle of the action, I suppose the dorm can be a viable choice. Besides, it is quite cheap to live there (about 120€ per month depending on a room type).
My room view and the dormitories
However, living in the dorms has its own downsides. First, a student is expected to share a room with one or two other people, which sometimes made me feel that there was not enough personal space. Good news is that it’s possible to have a whole room for yourself if you’re ready to pay twice (in case you’re supposed to share a room with one person) or three times more (if you have two roommates). On the top of that, the dormitory is located quite far from the Economics campus, which is right at the city center. So, if you’re not an Engineering student (their building is on campus), prepare to reserve some 30-40 minutes to get to the center. The best option is to do it by tram. As for transportation, I recommend purchasing a transportation card that cost me around 25€ for 5 months. It is also faster if you apply for the card online on this website https://odiska.dpo.cz/ and then collect it at their office.
The second accomodation option is to rent a room or apartment on a private market but I suppose the price is higher than at the dorms and a fluency in Czech is needed for both searching the accommodation and communicating with landlords. Fortunately, you can ask you tutors (or what they call them “buddies”) to help you with this, as usually buddies are local Czech students who know the local life inside out.
I hope you enjoyed reading and will find something helpful! Share your thoughts and questions in the comments if you feel like!
*If there are people here who go to Ostrava like me, I recommend taking a RegioJet train from Prague to Ostrava Svinov. Most likely, I will mention RegioJet many times in the future, as it’s so far the best way to travel around Europe from Czech.