Exploring a brand new world is exciting, but the logistics of moving to a new place can be daunting. The Czech Republic is home to many students on exchange programmes. For example, the Charles University, one of the biggest in the Czech Republic, 1,350 exchanged students were enrolled during their 2012-2013 academic year. While knowing you are not alone is comforting, diligent preparation, before you report to your new college, will make your stay easier and more productive.
1. Legal Requirements
If you are from the European Union, Switzerland, Iceland, Norway or Liechtenstein, you do not require a visa to go to the Czech Republic. If your country is not among these, contact the immigration department to locate the nearest Czech Embassy, Consulate or responsible office, to submit your application. For your visa application, you will require a passport, letter of acceptance by your new college and proof of sufficient funds to cover your stay in the Czech Republic. You will also have to submit a confirmation of accommodation arrangements verified by a notary, proof that you have no criminal record in your country and school fees receipt. Upon arrival, the law does not require you to report to the immigration office, but your landlord or dormitory administration should be able to advice you on the legal procedure also.
2. Getting Around
Obtain a student pass once you report to your college to allow you to benefit from special rates when using public transportation. The main options are buses, trains and trolley buses. The cost of transit cards varies from town to town, and most colleges provide guidelines on how much it will cost you and how to get them. For example, if your college is in Prague, the capital city of the Czech Republic, you can choose to pay 260 CZK for a month or 720 CZK for three months. These benefits, however, apply to students aged between 18 and 26 years. If you are below or above this age bracket, you have to obtain an Opencard – a smart-card designed for Prague residents and visitors issued by the City Hall -to purchase a public transport pass. If you need a personalized drive around, telephone taxi companies are considered cheaper than street taxis.
3. Medical Care
The Czech Republic guarantees students from EU countries, Switzerland, Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein free health care as long as they have a certified E 128 form from their home country. A European Health Insurance Card also serves the same purpose. Legal regulations in the Czech Republic require international students to sign up for an insurance cover with a licensed insurance operator in the country. Consult the Czech embassy to verify whether the insurance cover you want to buy meets the requirements for a residence permit if your stay is longer than 90 days. Dial 155 to get an ambulance when in an emergency situation.
Czech is the official language and, therefore, not knowing the language can make it difficult for you to settle in. Most major schools offer study programmes in foreign languages, most commonly in English, Germany and French. If you have no time, or interest to master the Czech language, make an effort to learn a few common lines for the sake of getting around. Basic vocabulary include “děkuji vám” for “thank you”, “ano” for “yes”, “ne” for “no” and “prominte” for “excuse me.” “Dobrý den” means “hello.” If you plan to work part-time, knowing the language is a plus, and in some places a must. Most public offices, websites and platforms only offer instructions and forms in the Czech language. The situation is the same on the entertainment fronts such as radio, movies and television shows.
Most foreigners moving to the Czech Republic will experience some level of culture shock. The country has varied traditions and practices that may seem foreign, especially if you are from outside the EU region. Czechs are strict about keeping time, they are straightforward in their communication and regard family very highly. The country enjoys religious freedom, and people are very tolerant of each other’s lifestyles and life choices. For the most part, you will likely be won over by the art culture evident everywhere you go in the Czech Republic.
The Czech Republic has moderate weather conditions with four seasons; summer, winter, fall and spring. While the weather varies across different cities, the average temperature in the coldest winter seasons, which comes in January, is -4°C. The highest it gets in July during summer is between 24°C to 28°C. The weather is pleasant the rest of the months, but it can also be very unpredictable.
The adage that information is power is very real when you are travelling to a new country. Contact your new college, host, friends or professional agencies to gather as much information as you can beforehand. An easy transition will help you focus more of your time on your studies.