My name is Tomas and I am a first year student at the United World College Of The Adriatic in the north-east of Italy, not far from the borders with Slovenia. I have a full scholarship, which means I don't have to pay for school, food or residence. How? Well, I used to go to a 'normal' high school in Prague and I was looking for opportunities studying abroad, and I found an organisation called United World Colleges, which offers scholarships to colleges all over the world, and it was exactly that kind of school I was looking for.
The selection process was oriented not only on applicants knowledge, but also towards point of view on world, non-academic life i.e. how is one helpful for society where he lives, or for society generally? The aim of application is to choose people who are able to follow in an active sense the mission of the UWC: "UWC makes education a force to unite people, nations and cultures for peace and a sustainable future." There were definitely a lot of aspects as to why I got the scholarship, but I can say that what helped me was my active participation in the Czech Scout Boy Organisation.
I went to the UWC for just half a year, so it's probably too brief to write a general judgement of my life and studies there, but I can at least write down a few ideas. Firstly, I am really glad that I made the decision to apply and study there. The most important thing, which college has already given me, are the people I met. There are almost two hundred students from sixty countries all over the world and this source offers huge number of opinions on a lot of topics, and if I had to characterise an atmosphere here just with one word, it would be freedom. I don't mean just a physical freedom, but mainly a mental freedom ? freedom of opinions. Don't think that in the Czech Republic I could not have my own opinion, but here everybody is more open to listening to others.
From an academic point of view our college is (more or less) of a higher level than I used to have in Prague, but we can't apply this generalisation to each and every subject and teacher. The biggest drawback is an absence of friends I know from Czech, but when I came back after half a year I realised that this is not such a big deal and that our relationships are too strong to be broken, just because of physical distance between us.
When friends ask me if am I planning to study at university in the Czech Republic, I say that I do not know. Before I left Prague I thought that I was going to return for university studies, but now I have a much larger view about possibilities in studying abroad and eventually working there. A barrier of studying abroad seemed to be bigger than it actually is. This possibility is easy thanks to fact that I ? as a citizen of the Czech Republic ? am also a citizen of the European Union.
My general vision for the future is to get a creative job that does not become monotonous in few weeks, and I can see sense in it. I know that these ideas are very general and quite naive ? every job becomes, in a way, monotonous and any sense of every activity can be sooner or later questionable.
More concretely, one of my ideas for my future profession is as a high school teacher of biology and geography. For many people it might sound strange, but I can see in this type of profession ? the education system ? my requirements. There is definitely an influence following my previous contribution in the Czech Scout Organisation.
Why a teacher and why these subjects? I believe that through teaching biology I can make students interested in the subject and hopefully not just the subject but the whole environment, and it would result in their environmental activities. And what about geography? I do not imagine geography in a classical way, it would be more philosophical, political and oriented more towards people and their behaviour instead of empty memorizing on whole capital cities across the world. This would instill in students an international understanding and active social (civil) and political life.
In the college I really felt the benefit of being a citizen of the European Union. There are a lot of people here who need visas, almost for every country, and if they get it they are in most cases just for the time of study and it can create difficulties - for example if one would like to work in the EU.
I would like to share my personal experience within the EU. When the Czech Republic was becoming part of the European Union (1 May 2004), I did not agree with the entry. There were a lot of reasons for my opinion, mainly based on a book written by the president of the Czech Republic, but one of the reasons from my current point of view was my nationalism. But later I realised that nationalism has no sense, and it just leads to defending an opinion without a broader point of view, and finally this misunderstanding can even lead to war.
Another thing I realised is that with the Czech Republic joining the EU, new changes appeared in the law. For example, when I was helping to organise Scout Boy camp we now had to observe much stricter laws, mainly about hygiene. There are a lot of jokes about European laws in the Czech Republic. They target nonsense regarding some laws and the opinions of officials in Brussels, who do not know what to do and so come up with ridiculous laws.
I got a sense of the EU mainly through projects which are organised or supported by the EU, and one of them is the European Volunteer Service. EVS is a project which is subsidised by the EU. Participants can spend half of or a whole year in one country of the EU, volunteering and getting a bit of money. This is very interesting project for those who are not ready or do not want to continue their studies yet. Everybody I know who did EVS were really pleased.
Another opportunity for students is an exchange program called Erasmus. I have inconsistent references about this project ? I know a few people who tried Erasmus and some were absolutely amazed, but someone else told me that it was waste of time. I got in touch with another project organised by the EU called Youth In Action. The aim of this project is an international understanding and exchange of experiences between young people from at least three countries in the EU. The EU will give you an amount of money for your own project. For me this discovery has a really challenging motivation, and I'm thinking about organising my own project. There is a problem in that there are a lot of founds for various types of projects, but many people still do not know if or how they can use them.
There are few general questions about the EU, such as: should the validity of votes be absolutely equal? Should Italy have a bigger vote than Czech Republic? Should we make exceptions and who would decide which countries?
College life is not just about studying. Last semester I went hitch-hiking twice to Ljubljana (Slovenia) with a schoolmate from Italy. I was surprised how easy it was to hitch-hike in the country, and everybody I met was really kind. We got two offers to stay overnight in Ljubljana from people we had known for just few hours. In the south of Slovenia we spent an evening with one really nice family in their house, and they gave us delicious home-made salami and cheese and afterwards they took us almost 60 kilometres back to Italy. I would like to thank them for that favour once more.
Another pleasant surprise for me was the ability and quality of spoken English ? it is incomparable with Italy, I think that this ability in Europe and the world is very useful.
This trip was a really interesting experience for me, with the most amazing thing being the dramatic changes of environment in one day: a luxury casino (where one Italian man took us), Romanian lorry (with Romanians who could speak only Italian), a street in Ljubljana where we talked to a street painter, and finally the atmosphere in the house we stayed.
Tom?s Weiss, Czeck Republic
Stock Photography: Prague
Photographer Tomas Weiss:
Farming and crops in Czech Republic
Read other similar stories: