Last academic year, more than 24,000 foreign students enrolled at Czech universities. More than 6,000 of them signed up for courses in the capital, at Prague’s Charles University. This record-breaking number of foreign students was made up mostly of Slovaks – in fact, two-thirds are from Slovakia. But some students came from slightly further afield as well… Tolulope Toyin-Oke is an undergraduate medic from Nigeria. She has been in the Czech capital for one year now, attending Charles University’s English-language medicine course. Over a coffee, she told me how life had led her to the Czech Republic:
“Well there is this organisation in Nigeria which helps people get abroad to countries like England and America. But they told me it was going to be very difficult to get into a university in England. So, they had a foundation programme which I could join in England. And then from there – if I passed the entrance exam – I could come to the Czech Republic.”
What were your first impressions of the Czech Republic when you came here?
“I first came here with the group from England for about three days. And I loved it. It was snowing, and I was with my friends. I called my dad and said to him ‘Dad, this is so cool! The Czech Republic is the greatest place on earth’.
“And then I came to study. And at first I maintained my initial impressions, that touristy idea, that Prague is such a beautiful city, with the architecture and everything. But after a while, well, I was received differently here than I was in England and America, definitely.”
You’ve been here for one year now, at least, so have you met a lot of Czech people and become friends with a lot of Czech people?
“Actually, no. I just don’t interact with that many Czech people, because we have classes separately – there are no Czechs in our classes, just international students. Then from there, it’s straight home to study. And then maybe later there’s time to hang out with friends who are also international students.”
And how is your Czech language coming on? Is this something you are being taught alongside your studies? And is it something that you are practising on a day-to-day basis?
“We’re being taught three hours of Czech every week. And it’s not coming along well because I am too shy to speak it. And also sometimes I might want to study Czech, but I have anatomy and histology homework to do first. You have to make a choice, and my priorities are anatomy, histology and even physiology. So Czech tends to be brushed aside.”
Do you see yourself staying in the Czech Republic after you graduate, or do you want to go straight back to Nigeria, or even somewhere totally different?
“I don’t think I can see myself staying here. I mean, it’s a nice enough place, but I think there will probably be better job opportunities elsewhere. So maybe Nigeria, maybe America. We’ll see.”
What do you think the good things about studying in the Czech Republic are? And what do you think is less good about studying in the Czech Republic?
“The good things? I’ve met a lot of people. And I like meeting people and talking to people and having different experiences. So that is probably one of the best things. And I like the fact that they drive us hard, it’s very competitive.
Do you think it is good thing that Charles University has so many international students? Do you think it makes Prague a more diverse, exciting city? Or do you think it is just a way for the university to raise lots of money?
“I think they do raise a lot of money through us. But at the same time, I just love the idea of studying with all sorts of different people. You’re not just with the same people, with the same mindsets as you. You get to talk to people and listen to their views and ideas. And so you learn about what medicine is like for them in their countries.”
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