Cultural exchange – what does it mean? It can be an educational program or cultural exploration or may be something else. Everybody understands it in different ways. So, what was it for us?
A trip to the Czech Republic was a great experience for us. We’ve understood how the educational system works, how foreign students behave and how Russian students appear in European students’ eyes.
Our expectations were incredible. We were looking forward to it. We wanted to make this trip one of the most memorable things in our student’s lives. Surely, it was a resounding success.
From the very beginning of our journey I had a feeling that everything must be OK, and, fortunately, my intuition did not let me down. If I were asked to give a motto of this trip, I’d write something like “Everything goes with a run”. A Russian-speaking welcomer at the airport, transfer to the hotel, accommodations — all these were provided to us by our Czech friends. The studying process was organised so wisely that we had enough time to walk in Pilsen and, of course, to visit Karlovy Vary and one of the most beautiful capitals in the world, Prague. We made friends with some Czech students and learnt lots of facts about their culture.
Our emotional statement was awesome, it is evident, nevertheless, what did our studies consist of? What did we want to get from them?
The main aim of our courses was developing the way of speaking. Lessons with native speakers were fascinating both from the linguistic and sociocultural points of view. Practical trainings with Czech teachers were also intensive and thought-provoking. The master class with teachers from OSU caused some difficulties among students, because the English text analysis was an unfamiliar form of activity for them. At first they were puzzled, but then got into gear and weren’t afraid of making suppositions.
The language barrier was minimized and students found a lot of topics for discussion in the university, and also in informal settings. What if we start to compare our educational systems, find some pluses and minuses? Of course, it’s our subjective point of view, but this is the most important thing for students – to start thinking and comparing. These two things make us human beings. We can’t judge our foreign colleagues or vice versa praise their activities, we just want to share our opinions with everybody.
West Bohemia University. Next to perfect or practically useless lectures?
The methodological base in this university fully coincides with modern European standards. According to these standards, the best method to teach a foreign language is the communicative method. The method of projects was derived from methodological base of classical Great Britain universities. Maybe, that’s connected with the fact that many teachers of English are native speakers and some of them studied in universities of Great Britain. When it comes to phonetics, the pronunciation of native speakers is next to perfect. We observed lessons of English at Philosophical and Art faculty and I liked that some exercises were derived from the methodological base of a foreign languages faculty (for example, false friends).
But, from my point of view, everything is not so ideal as it may seem. Firstly, the communicative method of teaching allows teachers to ignore grammar, lexical and phonetic mistakes. I agree with the teachers in that they don’t interrupt students during their monologues, because it prevents them from expressing the message and paying attention to grammar simultaneously. Yet at the end of the lesson or when students are over with their monologues, teachers must pay attention to mistakes. Secondly, during lessons teachers do not involve all the students present into talking and expressing their opinion. Moreover, during one lesson only 5 or 6 students produce some comments or short monologues. A lack of speaking practice and a noticeable phonetic difference between Czech and English lead to the situation when for many students it is rather difficult to produce their own monologues.
Not only the classes at the university were of the greatest importance. The cultural side was an inalienable part of our program. We’ve visited a lot of amazing places which made us figure out what the Czech Republic is.
If you are in the Czech Republic you have to visit Prague and Kharkovy Vary. Unfortunately, we had little time to spend there. We did our best to visit as many places of interest as possible. There were many castles, cathedrals, bridges. With the help of these great monuments of architecture you can feel and learn much about the culture, traditions and customs. All of us are under a great impression of beauty and power of those cities. After visiting these places of interest you gain a lot of pleasant emotions, beautiful photos and an unforgettable life experience.
Obviously, to understand, to get a grip on the culture or the educational system for 8 days is impossible, but we really wanted to do this. We are sure that our try will help our group mates, teachers, our future generations take a turn for the better in our connections not only with the Czech Republic but with the whole world.