Interview with professor Petr Suchý, Department of International Relations and European Politics
By Abhinav Banerjee, July 2023
1. Can you share an achievement that you are particularly proud of? And how has it influenced your career and approach to education?
Thank you for the wonderful question. I would start by switching the word achievement with the word decision or step. I don't want to talk about achievements, other people should judge my achievements, not myself. In this respect, I would mention a decision I made, 30 years ago when, while reading the morning newspaper, I came across an article titled Would you like to spend one year in the US? I applied to the program and was selected later to volunteer in the US for one year in Texas in San Antonio in the organization called Volunteers for Educational and Social Services. I spent one unforgettable year in a catholic school where I worked as a teacher's aide in the kindergarten working with 3 and 4-year-old students from Hispanic communities. For me, this was such a huge experience that influenced me in many respects and that's one of the reasons why I'm such a strong proponent and ambassador of student mobility and internships. I loved the job and it was my first pedagogical experience ever. I then made the jump from kindergarten to university. In this respect, I really strongly recommend our students to get out of their countries at least for one semester, half a year, or a year to see the world outside and to experience the world beyond our borders.
2. What initiatives or programs does the university have in place to attract and support international students? How do these initiatives enhance the overall student experience?
Our university is very active. Everyone can see how much we changed and developed our approach to students who have been accepted to our studies. We try to persuade them that we are the best option, and we really are and when they are already here, regardless of the program that they choose, we try hard to engage them in courses and beyond. I don´t want to speak for the entire university, as I was a vice-dean for this faculty, but I know that the university also provides many opportunities like the ESN (Erasmus Student Network), various events for international students, for example, International Student barbecue twice a year. If the students follow the news, they will get to know that there are a lot of things going around every semester at our faculty. We are working hard to engage students in a number of events every semester.
We start, for example in the fall with the student barbecue, we have around two hikes to see the wonderful surroundings of our city and about 2 lectures with international guests. For example, we had Reuben Steff from New Zealand. I would wish that the turnout would be higher because we don't have such speakers here every week.
I forgot to mention the clubs organized by the students themselves. These clubs are active in various areas of student interest and this is another dimension of student´s life and activities here at MUNI. For example, the Model United Nations Club was restarted a few semesters ago and is extremely viable for students of International Relations.
3. Are there opportunities for international students to participate in internships, co-op programs, or research projects that can enhance their learning experience and future career prospects?
I would begin with research projects, in this regard, there are opportunities, especially for doctoral students. There might be a slight possibility to find some research work also for the undergraduate students, for example, collection of data. Internships are a very important, indispensable part of our student's lives. I know that it's sometimes difficult to find an interesting opportunity but I know that many departments, including our own, provide opportunities for students. There may be more obstacles in this regard for international students because some internships, for example, with the Czech Embassy, would require Czech citizenship, but again I encourage all the students to be active and to look for opportunities. As our Czech and Slovak students are very active and search for opportunities with their respective embassies, this also may work for students of other countries as well they just need to ask whether there would be a chance or not.
I would also advise you to keep a lookout for different things and events. I remember we had a few internship opportunities that were advertised by the faculty itself. It was in collaboration with GLOBSEC, which organizes the Bratislava forum.
4. How important do you think it is for academics to participate in international exchange programs and collaborate with scholars from different parts of the world?
The same thing I said when we talked about student mobility. These activities are vital for both academic and non-academic employees, and I'm very happy to see that more and more people are trying to find places they would go either to teach or to observe how things are being done. For me, mobility can be a source of great inspiration and a source of growing confidence that our standards of work are the same or even better than in many other places. Many colleagues who come from abroad would confirm this perception.
International cooperation is one of the most important parts of our world. We need to learn and if we aren't learning after, we will not move ahead. Many colleagues are active in this, they travel abroad, make contacts, bring new guest lecturers, they help with international cooperation.
5. What was your best or unique experience while teaching a course called: "How do they see us? "?
This question is not only for me but also for my great colleague, Monika Brusenbauch Meislová. We enjoy organizing the course from the very first minute we sit and send out the invitations to various embassies to the very last minute when we give the last mark to the last student at the end of June. Every guest is a very interesting opportunity and they organize the class in a different way. Some people talk more at the beginning and some prefer opening up the discussion immediately.
I would mention the ambassador of Bosnia and Herzegovina Martina Mlinarević. Her message was very strong: to learn, to take care of the world and affairs around us. Her lectures are always very unique and very moving. It is perfect to provide students with the opportunity to meet ambassadors representing larger countries, that are global powers, be it France, Great Britain, and also representatives of smaller countries. It is also very sad that in the last two years, we could not have with us the Ukrainian ambassador. I hope that we will be able to have a representative of Ukraine next year or the year afterward. We had the former Ukrainian ambassador Yevhen Perebyinis with us online during the pandemic and his talk to the students was also unforgettable.
6. Do you have any other message for the students?
I would like to thank them for being with us and for reading this interview if they got to this point. I would wish them lots of success. I would wish them the courage to learn new things, discover new places, and get beyond their horizons and to help us spread the good name of our faculty and the university. Teachers cooperate with students in education, and both sides can learn from the process. We can achieve the most if we cooperate. If we treat each other like rivals, then we won't get anywhere.
7. Can you share any upcoming speaking engagements or research collaborations that you have planned for yourself?
I applied for Erasmus for the fall semester to teach one week in Poitiers, France. I don't know yet whether I will be able to go but I would love to visit the place. I went to Poitiers last spring and there are colleagues very eager to collaborate with our faculty and other parts of MUNI. There are also students who will join us from Poitiers here at Masaryk next year. I hope that when this happens, they will do the same thing we discussed here. They will network and find out that the student life here is very active, the student body is very welcoming, and they get the most out of their Czech Republic experience.