FForeign: Queues, Confusion and Absent Professors


As an Erasmus student in the Czech Republic you will soon realise that the biggest obstacle in getting your grades is not the studies themselves, it is getting to study. It is at least my experience from last year.

It was the second week of October. Me and my two friends E and J had, among other, two things to do: to pay for a language course and do some other errands in the main building of the Philosophical Faculty, and to go to Jinonice to see one of our teachers in her office hours about a course we were scheduled to take. So we went to the faculty a little after ten o’clock and got in the queue outside the room 103 to get some documents signed and stamped. It took a while and a friendly young man behind the desk told us that he himself had no clue what it was he was signing and stamping, but he gave us our stamps nonetheless. Then I went to pay for my language course to the “Faculty Cash Office”, in the room 123. The language course teacher had given us a form to fill out and show at the cash office, so I had carefully and legibly filled in my name and the sum of 100 Euro. At the bottom of the form it said that it should be paid in the room 123. So there I went.

Confusion and no English

The time was a quarter to eleven when I got in line in front of the room 123. There was an old lady standing behind the counter. She didn’t speak any English. She looked at the form and the bills I had in my hand. She seemed confused. She tried to explain something to me in Czech and when she realised I didn’t understand a word she made a phone-call. I understood that she asked the person on the phone to spell out something in English. She hung up and wrote on a piece of paper: “Room 103”. So I went to the room 103.

Again, I stood in line for a while. The time was a quarter past eleven. When it was my turn I explained to the young man who had given us the stamps what happened. He seemed confused. He looked at the form and said: “It says here that it should be paid in the room 123.” I explained again. He looked at me inquiringly. He made a phone-call and then another one. Then he turned to me and said: “Go to the room 123 again and if they don’t understand, come back here and I will follow you and explain it to them. The form is to be paid in the room 123.” So I went to the room 123.

Now there were two people before me in the queue. The first one there was a young woman with three thick envelopes containing rolls of receipts. She put them on the counter and the lady that had told me earlier to go to the room 103 seemed confused again. Then she began to read the receipts line by line and for each line she exchanged them into money. An older woman standing before me in the queue sighed loudly, sat down on a chair and gave me a knowing look. An old man standing behind me breathed heavily into my ear. It was getting on twelve. I realized it was time to go to Jinonice to see our teacher so I had to leave.

Office hours a la Czech

When we got there we eagerly knocked on her door, excited that we would finally begin our studies, at last, after a week of standing in queues for stamps and signatures (I am not going to tell you about the queue at the Immigration Office, wait and see for yourselves…huge!). A voice called out: “Vstupte!” We stepped in. “Are you Mrs P? We are the Erasmus students that are taking your course” one of us asked. A young woman smiled mildly at us. She said: “No, she is in Karlovy Vary. At least until tomorrow. Try to send her an e-mail, she might answer.” E and J looked stunned. I asked: “Are you Mrs D? Can we ask you about your course instead?” She answered: “No, it is not me, either. Unfortunately she isn’t here. I don’t know when she is coming back.” We thanked her and went home bitterly disappointed.

Later that day E got an e-mail from Mrs D which said that she was on vacation until the 30th of October and that she would contact us after then. Our other teacher mailed us a few days later, telling us that she was going to take her maternal leave soon and probably wouldn’t be able to teach the course. When it comes to the language course, I paid for it a week later. I still don’t know what was wrong with my form the first time because this time I showed exactly the same form to the cashier and paid without any problems. The only explanation I was given was that, according to my teacher, the first time I “did not fill in the proper name.” Well, so it seems I must have forgotten what my name is then…

All‘s Well That Ends Well

Eventually, everything was sorted out. Our teacher came back from her vacation and we did have the course after all. We exchanged the other course for another one and I almost learned Czech. Almost. But, if I should give you some advice, then it would be to be prepared that the plans you made at home for your studies will most probably not work out, secondly to prepare yourself for queues everywhere and thirdly to use the help that you get from the university. Have a nice year in Prague – just as I had!

Magnus Holmberg (27)
Student of Library and Information Science at College of Borås in Sweden

Sdílej článek


1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (2 votes, average: 5,00 out of 5)

Napsat komentář