Once you arrive in Brno, there are a few different directions in which you can take your experience. Being in the heart of Europe, the city is quite well situated for travel around the continent. Alternately, if you’re keen on internationalizing yourself but prefer to stay put, there are foreign students around every corner and events taking place every night. Then comes the Czech option – Brno feels local and there are tons of opportunities to immerse yourself in the culture and language. A well-rounded experience will of course incorporate all three of these angles.
I confess that my own decision to relocate to Brno had nothing to do with any of this. I study Conflict and Democracy, a very specific pairing of topics within political science, and I would have followed it anywhere. If the program had been based out of a small village in the arctic tundra, I’d be writing to you now from within a thick parka and four layers of socks. So now in retrospect, it seems that I won the Masters-program-location lottery.
Brno is charming, colorful, and intelligent. It is big enough to achieve cosmopolitan energy, but small enough to feel quickly familiar. Many people speak English. Those who don’t still sweetly try to be helpful.
A key to feeling at home is finding your niche. Shortly after I arrived, I started to hear about jazz concerts, outdoor film screenings, and art exhibition openings. There is a reservoir a bit outside the city center where you can spend the day swimming and picnicking with friends. Groups frequently organize hikes in the surrounding region. Not that it needs reiterating for emphasis, but really Brno is good news if you like jazz. It reminded me a bit of Boston, where I studied before, but more within comfortable walking distance. All the while I met friends in and out of class; I was absolutely lucky to have an amazing roommate in the dorm. I also started to notice the growing din of Czech from all corners of my life.
Learning the language is not strictly necessary for studying in the Czech Republic. It is obviously useful and polite, and in my experience people are much more sympathetic to your confusion if you tell them (albeit paradoxically) “I don’t speak Czech” in Czech. Having said this, I highly recommend learning the language if you can. It’s beautiful and efficient and even a few words of conversation can open many new and exciting doors.
Despite the natural variations in everyone’s experiences in Brno, there are a few constants. Public transportation is very good overall, running often and continuing service through the night. Cafes and pubs with great beer can be found everywhere. Supermarkets are common, open late, and have everything you’ll likely need. Markets with fresh produce go up in and around the center. The city’s architecture is gorgeously ornate. Some street is always under construction. Public safety is very high.
If I had known what a nice city Brno would be to live in, I likely would have factored that into my decision to live here. Instead I just got very lucky. Of course everyone will have a very different experience, and there are tons more reasons that make Brno a great place to study, but that’s where it comes to you to find your own.