A Russian and Czech student’s third year is a good opportunity for him or her to go to Russia and the Czech Republic and speak some Russian and Czech; to encounter Russian and Czech people; Russian and Czech food; Russian and Czech music and Russian and Czech linen (unless he or she happens to value certain forms of cotton such as, for instance, the Egyptian type, and packs it in his or her luggage for the journey to Russia or the Czech Republic.)
Over the past few months, I have bizarrely found myself copying, step by step, the exact movements of a typical Russian and Czech student. It all started when I got so angry at my Uncle, who kept on tearing up and destroying mysterious letters addressed specifically to me and my cupboard-based bedroom, that I thought “screw it, I’m flying to Prague to study on a month-long Czech language course and then I’m going to teach English as a Comenius assistant in a 5000-population town’s primary school. That’ll show him”. So before I knew it, I was flying to Prague to study on a month-long language course.
Turns out that my rash, vengeful decision may not have been such a bad one. The month I spent in Prague was one of the cooler months I’ve ever spent anywhere, and I’m not talking about temperature! People had raved to me about it before coming – “Oh my God yah I went there on Inter-rahl it was so beaut mate. Also the Lobkowicz museum is the centerpiece of Czech national artistic heritage so you must go there”. I have to say though that I have since become Prague’s latest superfan.
It’s beautiful, impressive yet modest, not too big, fun, and immensely more enjoyable when wandered around with a really cool group of international students who all have at least one thing – the probably accidental learning of Czech – in common with you. Oh and about that, I learnt some Czech language too, for instance “Nevzpomínám si, jak jsem dostal šrám, mÄ›l jsem to celý mÅ¯j Å¾ivot” means “I don’t remember how I got the scar, I’ve had it my whole life”. By the end of the course I was quite sad to leave, and travelling around Germany for a week helped remedy any post-Prague blues.
And what am I doing now, I hear a small group of family and close friends say just to avoid an awkward pause in conversation? Well, I’m actually in Budapest now. But normally I teach English in a primary school in a town called Rosice, which is a 30-minute bus ride away from the second biggest Czech city, Brno.
It’s a pretty mixed bag. I like the teaching part a lot and I’m a minor celebrity in the town as it is (merely by virtue of the fact that I’m English and living here), but in school it’s a whole other thing – the kids had never even seen anyone from another country before and now they’ve got someone from the same place as One Direction teaching English to them. Other bonuses include training with the B squad of a third division Czech football team (and all bragging rights attached) and the fact that it’s pretty easy for me to get out of the place when I so wish and meet up with friends in Brno. Yes, this does unfortunately mean that the town itself is heinously boring – it’s got a population of just 5000 people, a minimal selection of shops (one of which, to my initial amazement, is Tesco) and hardly anything to do whatsoever. What’s more, I’m living in the town’s only ‘hostel’ (a bunch of rooms above a restaurant) and I have no access to a kitchen meaning I eat all my meals in restaurants, or make do with cold sandwiches.
Despite those downsides, though, life out here has proved to be much more than bearable. I’d travelled for long periods in foreign countries before, but never for as long as this or completely alone – and that’s the big difference. Being alone for a long time, you’re forced to become the hyper-social person that you probably weren’t before, to try absolutely everything that’s put in front of you and to engage, willingly or not, with a totally foreign lifestyle. It’s been fascinating so far and I’m mega excited for the rest.