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Students abroad: Eliška in Melbourne, Australia

5. 12. 2023

Can you tell us something about yourself? What do you study? Where did you spend your exchange stay?

I am a second-year doctoral student of International Relations at the Institute of Political Studies. I have just finished a semester abroad at the University of Melbourne in Victoria, Australia.

What made you decide for University of Melbourne? The reputation of the university, the professors or some particular courses?

There is no single reason. It was rather the whole mix. True, the University is ranked high, but I appreciated even more the multicultural environment reflected in the teaching, be it the choice of topics or First Nations-inspired ontology.

How difficult and time consuming was the application process with the partner university and what about the visa process? 

Well, it necessarily took some time, but it was okay. There are a lot of deadlines, emails, and online application fields. Still, with the Charles University nomination, Melbourne has no reason to refuse, and with Melbourne issuing a visa number, there is no reason for the visa not to go through. One must be patient and handle everything as soon as possible rather than last minute.

Although you were awarded partial funding, I don’t suppose it covered all your expenses, so how challenging was the financial side? 

I was scared beforehand since everyone kept repeating that Australia was horribly expensive. But it was not the case, quite comparable to Prague prices in many aspects. Anyway, as a Ph.D. student, I have a few side jobs to support my studies, and I kept working from abroad. The Charles University funding helped me out mainly with the plane tickets and a couple of rents.

You did a study stay, so you had to attend a few courses and I suppose they were of master level. So where they still beneficial?

Oh yes, they were. Actually, I would recommend it to every Ph.D. student since it is super interesting to watch oneself gaining a new perspective on things. Since I was no longer concerned with the results, it allowed me to focus on observing lecturers’ teaching and testing methods, which is beneficial for my future teaching career. Also, the quite different multicultural and post-colonial environment taught me to think about research differently and gave me new research ideas.

Part of the study requirements of PhD students is to go abroad (either conference participation or research, study stay) Is it managable to implement it in your life as most of you already have a full time job, partners, children…

Good point. Well, in my opinion, it is manageable but nevertheless challenging. I was lucky enough to be able to continue working; otherwise, it wouldn’t be possible for me to go. At the same time, it is not necessary to spend five months. The Ph.D. requirements allow the mandatory length of stay abroad to be divided into several trips, which is more full-time and family-friendly, I suppose.

Tell us something regarding your first days. Any acclimatisation problem – culture shock?

In Melbourne, there is zero cultural shock, which is both good and bad. I love challenges, so I found Melbourne a bit too safe, familiar, and thus boring. Feels a bit like London. I could not wrap my head around it that I spent 22 hours on the plane only to disembark in England. That journey, however, got many of us sick shortly after arrival. It might have been the change in seasons coming from summer to winter, which is surprisingly cold in Melbourne, only a bit above zero, or the jet lag, who knows.

Would you share with us your favourite memory/ experience? 

I don’t think I have just one. For me, people are always the biggest experience, and I am bringing home some great friendships, so I am very grateful for that. There is something indescribable, too, some change in mindset that is difficult to capture but important. This is mainly due to the First Nations’ living experience and how it clashes with the Australian state, changing the view of Western thinking. Also, nature, be it Australia, especially Queensland in the north, or New Zealand. That, too, changes my view of our society and thus necessarily leads me towards new themes I want to talk about.

And last but not least, are there any study or research stays or conferences in your near future?

First, I must get back to my Ph.D. routine, as the extra classes I took in Melbourne made me postpone other obligations. However, I plan a conference, but only for the 2024/2025 school year.