From Istanbul to Brno: From Home to Home
Whereas even moving from one neighborhood to another is full of excitement, I have moved to a country which is 1650 kilometers away from my hometown. Luckily, this new life has brought many beautiful things to my life, so much that I have started to call it second home!
I am from Istanbul, which is an historic city in Turkey with the beautiful Bosphorus and sixteen million inhabitants. Each city has its own pros and cons, and so does Istanbul. Whereas it is a very beautiful, 24 hour city where all of my loved friends and family live; the crowd can make you feel bored at some point.
To be honest, before moving to Brno, I did not have many ideas about the city. The program I applied for was interesting, I had been to Czech Republic before and I liked it; so I did not think too much about the city when I was applying or even after I got accepted. Then, I searched for some practical information and just went with the flow of a new adventure.
Luckily, the international office at my faculty was very helpful from the day of application and before my arrival. I was informed with many useful e-mails about the dorm system, visa procedures, school timetables, orientation week, and so on. Additionally, there are some useful websites for foreigners like foreigners.cz and brnoexpatcentre.eu that you can go through and read about how it is living in Brno as an expat, what you need to know about, what to do when you need help, and so on. Furthermore, ESN Muni has the buddy system, which aims not to leave you alone during your new adventure.
After my application was accepted, the first thing I had to deal with was the application for residence permit--neither the best part of my adventure nor a quick one, I would say. Going to the appointment, preparing the documents, and waiting for the permit for two months required too much patience and caused a bit of anxiety for me. However, at least I got my visa on time and managed not to miss a day from orientation week!
I spent most of my first week at orientation week, which has both some admission related things to do and many other fun activities like movie screening, international dinner, city tour, pub crawl and so on. Although it was sometimes a challenge to find my direction in the city (and even to find the bus stop from my dorm:)), all the wrong paths I took showed me another beautiful street of the city, and I enjoyed exploring it.
One of the best, and most important, things about living in Brno for me, is that it is easy to socialize. Both at the school and in the city, you have an event to go almost everyday. There is a huge expat community in the city, so most of these activities are in English. There are useful seminars, interesting workshops, pub quizzes, and English meet-ups everyday. I especially like to go to these meet-ups since it is always nice to meet new people with things in common and similar interests over a couple of drinks. Speaking of socializing, I have made great friends here that I can call them my “family in Czech Republic”. I was lucky to meet such great people with whom I live in this nice city. I am pretty happy about that.
If you enjoy nature, Czech Republic is definitely for you! In Brno, nice parks and forests are just around the corner. I really enjoy taking a walk around the reservoir or Park Lužánky on a sunny day. There are also many nice places which are less than an hour far from Brno. “Call of the Woods,” which organizes English speaking hiking events every Sunday, is one of the things I really enjoy in Brno.
If you are a travel enthusiast like me, you will definitely love being in Brno. Germany, Slovakia, Poland, and Hungary are very easy to reach. There are also many beautiful towns to visit in the Czech Republic. So far in the Czech Republic, I have visited Mikulov, yTelc, Olomouc, Český Krumlov, and Prague; and there are still many others to visit.
Although I love living in Brno, it does not mean that I have not experienced challenges. I think the most important of them is the language barrier. At school, almost everybody speaks English and it is easy to communicate in English, but in the city it is not always possible to find English speakers in shops, post offices, and restaurants. The most challenging experience for me was, sadly, in my very first week in Brno: I had to go to the Ministry of Interior office to register on my arrival as a long term resident and I did not have a Czech speaker with me. Unfortunately, it took too long to find where to go and what to do there, since even the officers were not speaking English. It was quite shocking to see that in this office, which works with foreigners, almost no one speaks English. However, except for this issue, in my daily life I do not face any serious problem with communication. I have learned some survival Czech, and I usually use translation apps when I need to speak to someone who does not speak English. Furthermore, I started to learn Czech, so I hope that this will not be a problem at all after a while.
All in all, with its delicious wines and beers, beautiful streets and parks, charming nature and atmosphere, and a friendly and sociable environment, I feel home in Brno. And if you enjoy them as well, Brno has a lot to offer you too!