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2nd Year, TESOL Major, One of the students having participated in Summer Program in Central Europe
I am Ron Leat, a TESOL student, Faculty of Education at Paññāsāstra University of Cambodia, Siem Reap Campus. Davann, who is an international relations student, and I had been nominated and selected to join the summer school program at Masaryk University, located in Brno, Czech Republic for three weeks.
The summer program “Waves and Ebbs in Democracy: Lessons Learnt from a Central European ‘There and Back Again’” aims to explore the transformation processes that are shaping countries’ policies, now as well as after the Soviet Union collapsed in 1989 and also find out to apply the experience to countries facing similar challenges in the contemporary world. The course tends to familiarize the students with theory of history, sociology, political science, economics, and law. The course started from June 16, 2019 to July 7, 2019 placed at Masaryk University in Brno, Czech Republic. There was a diverse group of students came from more than 10 countries that had joined the program. It was so interesting, exciting and notable course. There were four modules in the course. We spent four days in the classroom and three days field trip to see the historical sites. From the beginning till the end of the journey in Central European, the experience was satisfying and challenging. It was an unforgettable memorial life experience I have ever had.
From a poor little countryside girl who wishes to get a good education, it was such great opportunity to attend the summer course as the international student and alumnus at one of the well-known universities in the world, located in Brno, Czech Republic. I had such as mixed feeling with anxiety when I first arrived at the Vienna airport. I would have never been to Central European in the whole of my life if the Masaryk University did not create such as a rarely brilliant opportunity. This program provided both lessons learnt and reality in the society. The school did such as a great job of arranging the accommodation and public transportation in Brno including during the field trip, which was so amazing thing for participants of reducing the expenditure. There was such great advisor and recommendation during my stay in Central Europe.
My first expression was so surprised. I extremely appreciated the way of social order. I felt so touch with the atmosphere. The weather was so friendly. Before we arrived, the school coordinator mentioned that the weather could be unpredictable. It might rain a lot even it is the summer time. The weather is mostly like Cambodia, which is good for me. The environment is so beautiful and clean, and the clean water accesses everywhere. I can drink water from the tap.
The road and public transportation systems are amazing. It contributes such a nice innovation of technology for developing social order and reducing wasting time to transport from place to place. I took a tram to commute to school and somewhere else inside the city. It usually shows up between 3 and 5 minutes. The traffic system was so organized. Also, all of the drivers I saw respected the traffic law and always gave the priority to the pedestrians. The city was so nice without traffic jam. It was so secured to travel there. I am particularly appreciated how well society is.
The food was great, and especially, the Czech beer tastes so good even though it was quite expensive for me, it was worthwhile. In Brno, Czech Republic, things are not so expensive if we compare with Vienna, Austria. Billas minimarket was great. My friends and I could shop grocery stuff and food with good price. It was so convenient for us because our residence is just right opposite to the shop.
I enjoyed the sightseeing tours. Our summer school program made up of diverse nationalities and cultures, but all participants made such excited and full of fun during the field trip. Before the first exam, I confirmed to join the activity, led by Lucia to take boat trip to visit Verer Castle. It was so nice to see people go sailing and spending time with families and friends along the lake. We hiked in order to reach the castle on the top of mountain after we took off the boat. I usually love to take pictures wherever I go. When I walked through the castle, I felt something special. I selected one picture, at which I took to go for photos contest that Martin imposed. On our last day in Brno, the school organized a farewell party. While I was sitting with other friends at the table, Erin started playing the slides to demonstrate which pictures were selected. Unbelievably, I was so surprised when I heard my name, was one those winners. I got brilliant award.
I had a very nice roommate. Her name is Byambatsetseg Gantsog, and she comes from Mongol. I was so happy to stay with her. We got along so well even I had never used to stay in the dormitory and with stranger. Masaryk University set up this program which gave me a great opportunity and completely changed my life. We shared lives experiences, common interests, food, culture, tradition, and discussion about school tasks. We really like each other. She was not just my roommate, but she is my sister and best friend, not a stranger at all. I felt like I am in my home country. I did not feel homesick or bored. It was incredible for me to imagine how nice it was!
Beside the satisfaction, there were some challenges along a way. I experienced jet lag and culture shock. I did not realize that most of the people there cannot speak English Language until I landed and needed helps, and all the signs are in its own language.
Vienna Airport to Brno
Davann and I followed all instruction from Masaryk recommendation from the Vienna airport to Brno. When we first arrived, we went to pick up our luggage; I realized that my suitcase was broken. So, we discussed if there is a possible solution. We decided to go to do reporting. After waiting for quite long time, we considered not continuing the process because it would waste time and affect our arrival to the residence. We were having troubles about how to get to Brno from Vienna Airport, Austria. We walked around in the airport to find tourist information. After that, I bought the train tickets, which costed 45 Euros each. We went straight away to the train station and waited. It was so difficult for us to know which train direction is because everything was written and spoken with its own language. Also, I was not familiar with some kind of this advanced technology. I was so worried whether I pick the right one or not. I moved a lot trying to figure out how to get the best solution. Then as we noticed several trains have approached with the code and window block before ours, we got the right one. We had the connecting train at Wien Station, but unfortunately, our previous train was postponed because of some technical problems. We missed the next train that made us so concerned. Because we misunderstand of train systems, we had a trouble to find our train gate number and direction. We looked for a train official to see how it would work for us. Finally, we were waiting around one hour for the next train of our destination. As we were strangers and did not understand the languages, we were so confused and concerned whether we would do something affecting the culture or not. I often looked at the tickets and figure out if someone came to check it. After we took off the train, we had to rush and figure out how to get to the bus 61. Every time we made decision, we determined to confront all challenges because it was so difficult to make communication with local people. Luckily, we got help from other passengers in order to get from place to place. Imagine when you were at the place where no one speaks the same as your own language, and you were a stranger – what and how you would do!
Another thing I was surprised about was drinking water. I did not realize that they have two different kinds of bottle water. There are still and sparkling water.
When I was in Budapest, Hungary, I was left behind the group tour at the Parliament Monument. After we had finished our mandatory session, some of us went to use the toilet. Unfortunately, when I came out and walked into the building, I did not see anyone there. Then I came out to see if they went up there to continue seeing around, but I found no one. They all left to the hotel. I did not have the tram ticket, and there was no place around there where I could buy one. Therefore, I did not know which direction I should take to the hotel, and my phone was not accessing with data roaming. Fortunately, I was not alone. The two Mongolians were there with me too, and they had the tram ticket. They actually followed me and read all instructions of what to do next. I tried to connect my phone to the public wifi. Because the country has advance technology, I usually can access to the internet. However, it was not so strong sometimes. After we walked around trying to get information, we could not get help from anyone and even the signal because all were written in their own language. Few minutes later, I could connect to the internet and Davann texted and told me that they had arrived at the hotel. It was so hard for me to communicate with weak connection, which sometimes no signal at all. Those Mongolians just followed. I had to make decision to take the tram and find the way to our hotel. Finally, we survived. It was about adventuring because it was not about taking risks but also helped improving my leadership skill. I was not disappointed when they left me. It was such a rare opportunity which no one else would experience the same as I had.
Masaryk University summer school program was assigned so many exciting activities for both inside and outside of classroom. Beside the mandatory activities, I enjoyed seeing around and doing some activities. I went visiting Low Beer Villa and historical sites and museums. In the class, we all cooperated so well like answering questions and sharing opinions.
In conclusion, the summer program “Waves and Ebbs in Democracy: Lessons Learnt from a Central European ‘There and Back Again’” was a great program and opportunity for me to participate. I had all kinds of anxiety and satisfaction feeling during my journey in Central Europe. I gained more life experiences and confidence which inspired me to believe and trust in myself more in any circumstances whenever I made decision, wherever I went, and whoever I met. I strongly recommend this program to everyone, friends and other students to take an advantage from such a brilliant program, which provides both lessons learn and practical reality in the society. It was worthwhile. I wish I could be there once again in the near future. The educational system plays a significant role for social development. After taking this terrific course, I observed so many things besides just sitting in the classroom. Cambodia has been undergoing a societal transformation to develop democracy as like as Czech Republic and other countries in Central Europe. Yet, Cambodia has not been successful compared to Central Europe. Cambodia started from zero point after the Genocide Regime, led by Pol Pot collapsed. We lost almost all educated people, so it has been created so many challenges and struggles for society transition.