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Students abroad: Vojtěch in Washington

30. 1. 2023

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

My name is Vojtěch Müller and I am currently in my final year of undergraduate studies at FSV UK. I am majoring in Territorial Studies at the Institute of International Studies. Recently, I returned from a semester abroad at the University of Washington in the United States.

Where did you learn about the Inter-university program? Why did you choose this program?

I learned about the Inter-university program through my institute at FSV UK. On the first day, we were informed about the various opportunities available to study abroad, including the Erasmus Program. However, I wanted to explore options beyond the EU and took it upon myself to research different partner universities. I ultimately chose this program because I had always dreamed of living in the United States. I had considered attending high school there, but it did not come to fruition. This program offered me another chance to live in the States, and I was particularly interested in American culture and the opportunity to spend several months on another continent.

Why did you choose University of Washington?

I conducted extensive research on the various partner universities available to me and ultimately determined that the University of Washington was the best fit for my academic and personal goals. The institution is renowned for its high level of academic excellence and boasts a beautiful and well-maintained campus. Additionally, the state of Washington offers unparalleled natural beauty that I was eager to experience. It was for these reasons that I ultimately chose to apply to the University of Washington as my first choice.

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

During my first days in the United States, I found that there were certainly cultural differences that I had to adjust to. Despite having traveled throughout the West Coast before settling in Seattle, and being familiar with American society, there were still some aspects that took some time getting used to. For example, I spend quite some time driving in the country and the practice of turning right on a red light or that traffic lights are behind intersections is not something that is ever seen in Europe. Additionally, the majority of Americans tend to wear shoes inside their homes and do not use clothing irons as frequently as Europeans. For more introverted individuals, the tendency for Americans to initiate conversations with strangers may also come as a surprise, whether it be on a bus, train, or in a grocery store.

Would you share with us your favourite memory/ experience? 

There are so many! Really the key to enjoying your stay in a foreign country comes down to only one thing – don’t be afraid to talk to people, make as many new friends as you possibly can. Don’t be worried about coming across as weird just because you are the one starting random conversations with fellow students. You know what they say: “You’ll have it the way you make it”.

One experience that stands out to me was a trip I took with a group of friends to Mount Rainier National Park. We rented out two cars and planned to do a short hike, but the trail ended up being much longer than expected. One of our group members got sick and some of us had to turn back, but we were still able to meet up again and make it back to Seattle late at night. Another favorite experience was a weekend trip to a remote cabin on the Olympic Peninsula, where we spent a few adventurous days by the ocean. And lastly, I have to mention Thanksgiving. I didn’t have any plans for the holiday since most of my friends were going home, but one of my friends invited me to his house in a small town called Mount Vernon. His family treated me like one of their own and we had a wonderful time together, including me even getting to help with the turkey!

Would you recommend the destination to other students? Would you recommend this type of mobility?

I highly recommend the University of Washington and the state of Washington as a destination for other students. The location offers a wide range of opportunities for exploration and adventure, with easy access to nearby cities such as Vancouver and the ability to take short, affordable flights to California. I believe that this type of mobility, studying abroad outside of Europe, is a valuable and enriching experience for students. However, it does require a significant amount of preparation and determination to successfully navigate the selection process and make the exchange stay a reality.

Sometimes students do not want to go on an exchange as they do not want to leave their comfort zone. What would you tell such students?

I would tell such students that going on an exchange can be a valuable and life-changing experience. It allows them to step out of their comfort zone and experience new cultures, languages, and perspectives. It can also help them develop independence, self-confidence, and problem-solving skills. Additionally, studying abroad can also open up new opportunities for their future, whether it be in their career or personal growth. It may be difficult to leave their comfort zone, but the benefits of studying abroad can be well worth it in the long run.

What’s next? You are in your final year of your bachelor study. What are your plans after you finish? What are your plans for the master’s study? Are you going to continue here at FSV UK or are you thinking of returning to the US? 

My time studying abroad in the US has given me a lot of perspective and inspiration. I’m currently in the process of deciding what my next steps will be. I haven’t yet made a decision on whether I’ll continue on to a Master’s degree or if I’ll venture into the business world full-time. I would love to return to the US, possibly to explore other cities such as New York or Los Angeles. The University of Washington also has some great programs for Master’s students in various fields in case somebody was thinking about applying there following the termination of their stay. Overall, I have a lot of options to consider, but I’m excited for the next chapter of my journey.

Last but not least, anything the International Office should do differently or improve to make the student’s preparation for the mobility easier?

I think the Iinternationl Office really did the best they could to provide us with all the necessary information and support to succeed in this process.

One thing to note for students considering an exchange program at the University of Washington is the option to extend their stay beyond their original study period. The university offers academic training for up to 18 months, allowing students to apply for internships and other work opportunities off campus. For example, I was offered the opportunity to apply for an internship at the office of senator Murray in Seattle and the US Senate in Washington D.C. However, I was unable to take advantage of this opportunity due to my university’s rules on completing required coursework. Still, I highly recommend ambitious students to take advantage of this opportunity if they are able to.

Do you want to go abroad as Vojtěch did? Check out the current outgoing opportunities.