Studies in Brno exceeded my expectations!
When Irma applied for Erasmus Mundus scholarship at Masaryk University, she did not think she would have the time of her life in Brno and love her methodology courses. She says that study of sociology inspired her critical thinking and in the end helped her to get a ministry job in World Vision Albania and Kosovo dealing with children and youth protection.
Name and surname: Irma Semini
Residence: Fier, Albania
Study program at FSS: Master Degree in Sociology (2014)
Thesis topic: Students’ attitudes towards disabled people in Albania: A mixed method study design
Work and career: I have a Bachelor degree in Sociology and a Master of Science on “Sociology of sustainable development” at Tirana University, as well as Master in Sociology at Masaryk University. Despite the sociological background, my main interest has been research methodology, thus my professional development has been oriented towards becoming a successful social researcher. Referring to my professional career, I have had experience as an assistant lecture at the Faculty of Social Sciences, Tirana University and recently I have started working as a Ministry Quality Officer at World Vision Albania and Kosovo in Tirana. I love my job and I am happy to practice knowledge gained during my studies at Masaryk University.
Why did you decide to study in the Czech Republic at Masaryk University?
The fact that The Sociology Department at Masaryk University is one of the oldest sociological centers in Europe is the main reason why I choose this master program. University focus on research area is also e specific reason why I applied J I saw it as a powerful environment to increase my knowledge within research methodologies subject.
What was the reaction of your family and friends when you told them you were going to the Czech Republic and not let’s say France or Germany?
Honestly, at the beginning I was skeptical about applying at MUNI. I did not have much information about the Czech Republic, but one of my lecturers back home that had an Erasmus experience in the Czech Republic told me that I did not have any reason to think about it twice. So, I am glad that I followed her advice. Regarding my family or friends’ reactions they are still surprised. Any time I say that I did my master degree in Brno/Czech Republic, people keep asking: why there?! J
How did the studies at Masaryk University differ from your expectations?
It exceeded my expectations for better! Professional staff with international lecturers, great infrastructure with all facilities included, and numerous opportunities to attend joint international events abroad.
Can you compare the study here with your experience from your home country?
If I may summarize in one word: Albania – memorization versus Masaryk University – critical thinking.
How do you apply the knowledge that you gained during your studies at Masaryk University into your professional life?
After my master degree at MUNI, I came back home and after about four months I started working as a ministry quality officer at World Vision Albania and Kosovo. I was really motivated and excited about this position because I had the chance to put into practice all the knowledge gained on research methodologies during my studies there.
Specifically, it consists on monitoring and evaluation of projects that are being implemented by World Vision in several areas within Albania. My daily duties give the chance to further explore quantitative and qualitative methods for data analysis, as well as help to better understand the importance of evidence based research and the “culture of monitoring”. It’s funny, I can imagine how weird this might sound to people that are not familiar with social research.
In your thesis you studies attitudes towards people with disabilities. What were the key findings of your research?
My respondents (sociology students at Tirana University) perceive disabled people as not able to lead as full a life as “normal” people due to their “health problem/disability and because of attitudes, barriers and behaviors in society”. Moreover, the data shows students to hold negative stereotypical views on disability. Respondents continuously refer to disability as a problem of the disabled person and not of the society. Due to this problem, they suggest that we should be careful when dealing with disabled people. Along with the depiction of disability as a physical disability, they see it as an illness that needs a cure to be fixed or even more as a personal tragedy. In light of this, students perceive disabled people to feel sorry for themselves and as not able to be as happy as people without disabilities. Thus, findings show that students consider disability as a deficiency rather than difference. While, none of them brought successful stories of disabled people who have overcome their disability, or who consider it as a different kind of ability.
Can you compare the Czech and Albanian society in terms of acceptance and openness towards difference?
This is really a good question, because Czech society acceptance towards difference, especially toward people with different abilities was the motive beyond my master thesis. During my first weeks in Brno I was impressed by the possibility that people in the wheelchair could live a normal life, while in Albania they face many challenges. From this perspective, I decided to conduct a mini-research focused on Albanian students’ attitudes towards disabled people, and the results were not at all surprising, unfortunately. So, I really believe that Czech society is more opened towards differences, at least in this aspect. Hopefully, my perception is true!
So what do you conclude about Czechs as a whole nation?
Ok, this is really a tricky question… Being a foreign student and spending most of your time with international students is really a big issue because it does not give the opportunity to get to know many locals. I would love to come back so that I could find a better answer for this question. But, I may say that my impression is that Czech people are indifferent and love hiking (laughs).
What surprised you the most when you first came to the Czech Republic?
Czech people drinking beer at 7 AM, which is not usual in my home country.
Can you describe your best and worst thing you experienced in the Czech Republic?
If I may put the best experience under the umbrella of “traveling”, then I would definitely describe exploring Czech cities and castles! As for the worst one, I believe that I might not be the only foreign student that mentions the time spent at the immigration office in Brno. It was really a challenge since they did not speak English and we always had to find a Czech student to come with us for the residence permit procedures.
What piece of advice would you give to foreign students who are thinking of studying at the Faculty of Social Sciences at Masaryk University?
Enjoy classes, spend time at the library, write your papers and make time for new friends. But, do not forget to explore and discover Czech Republic! It will all be worth it in the end.
3 words to describe myself: Friendly, bibliophile, traveler.
3 words to describe my job: Exploration, development, challenge.
Life Motto: The best is yet to come.
What I expect from the future: Living future to the fullest!
What comes into my mind when someone says Masaryk University: The Time Of My Life :)
What is my “Czech experience”: Czech experience was beautiful as Czech Republic! Cheap living, cheap beer and amazing places to discover! Cannot wait to come back!