Studying abroad full time taught me to be more independentCestování, Názory, Rozhovory
Yu Ting Shen came to Prague two years ago to study Master’s program in International business – Central European Relations. As she explains, first few months were not easy, but being on her own in a completely different country, with culture hardly comparable with her home in Taiwan, made her more self-confident.
What were you first impressions when you came here?
I was amazed by the architecture. It was my first time in Europe and I only knew Prague from books. I was really surprised, like I was in that book and I couldn’t believe it’s the reality. It still amazes me, sometimes when I’m stressed I just go across Charles bridge and it gets better. For Asians it’s very attractive to be here, because we don’t have anything like this back home.
How did your parents react when you said you wanted to study in Czech Republic?
They said: „Are you sure? It’s very far away and they only speak Czech.” But I knew you’d speak English, it’s a famous capital. And all my family asked why don’t I rather go to USA or United Kingdom. But here it is more affordable for me and the cultural life is much better I think. And also here is more spacious than in Asia. I just tried to persuade everyone that I could do this. I didn’t know anyone when I came here, but now I feel more independent and I can solve problems by myself.
Did you have any misunderstandings during your first days? Did you learn any Czech?
Well for example when I first went to the shop to buy milk, I got yoghurt. We had Czech courses for one week in the first and second semester and we learned some basics. But I kind of forgot everything because I went on exchange for one semester and I came back just to finish my masters. Now I know only „Ahoj”.
Is our language hard for you?
It is, especially because you have three genders. In Chinese we don’t have these, we change our pronunciation. And it is also completely different from English.
It is funny that for you Czech is harder than Chinese. We would say quite the opposite.
I know. Well, in school they taught us just the very basics, but in reality, you speak much more quickly. And I only know the key words, that I need every day. Like „Kolik to stojí”?
Social drinking is a thing here unlike in Asia
Do you meet up with any locals outside your study program or you mostly spend time with international students?
It is hard to make a Czech your friend. You mostly connect over beer and I don’t drink it that much. It takes a long time to get to know each other, you are not that open, sometimes even a bit conservative. But I think it depends on the people, not every Czech is like that. My Czech buddy is the exact opposite – she’s very friendly and even invited me to spend Christmas with her family. Apart from that I spend the time with internationals or Asians. That is more cultural thing though.
How did you get in touch with other Asian students?
It is very easy, when we see each other in school we just ask: where are you from? China? And we talk. For Asians it is very fast to be friends with each other. We also have a group on Facebook, so it makes it easier.
Do you think it is hard to build friendships here?
Here you need three or four months to build a friendship and understand each other. I remember my first semester here – I got closer to my classmates by the end of the semester when we talked more about our projects. You have to take your time, in Asia we just say „Hi” and we are friends. On the other hand it takes more time here but then the friendship also lasts longer, in Asia is more on the surface and then people may speak about you badly behind your back.
Are you more focused on other’s people opinions in Asia?
Well, in Asia we care a lot about what others think and say about us. Group thinking is very important. Over the time I became more relaxed here. I’m in my fourth semester and I actually enjoy walking somewhere or travelling alone. I became more independent and it feels more comfortable.
In the beginning it was hard for me to raise my hand
Is it expensive to study in Taiwan?
I studied there for four years before I came here. Yes, we have to pay for our education, unlike here where you have it for free. In Taiwan one semester at university costs about twenty thousand crowns. And that is a price for state one, the private ones are more expensive.
Is university and courses very different from the ones you had back home?
I like the courses in here, my favourite one is Luxury marketing. They invite business people that talk about their brands which is very interesting. In Asia we mostly have courses where teacher is talking and we just write. There is almost no interaction between a teacher and a student. In my first semester here I was surprised when a teacher asked if everything was clear and we understood what he was explaining. It was hard for me to raise my hand and ask in the beginning. I learned step by step to talk about my opinions. And some of my classmates were already debating with the professor.
Do you see any difference with the approach of Asians and Europeans to group presentations?
In Asia, we are more detailed. We prepare everything and split the work. Here is more about the concept, for example you can do this in this way or this company and make it as you want it. But you don’t talk about any specifics, it’s more improvised.
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