I recently returned from a short course abroad through AIM Overseas and Southern Cross University in “International Law and Human Rights” studying in the Czech Republic. The three week course was with likeminded Aussies and immersed us in a different world. I always wanted to study abroad, but never had the opportunity because of my work commitments, so when I heard about the AIM Overseas short programs, I jumped at the chance! Three weeks abroad was perfect for me as I could schedule my annual leave for this time, and it wasn’t too long being away from my regular commitments. The other amazing thing, was that they offered really specific, focused courses for so many different fields and interests (language, human rights, psychology, law… anything!).
My actual course was based in the second biggest city in the Czech Republic following Prague, known as Brno, where I attended Masaryk University four days a week. Every weekend, the organisers planned a trip away at neighbouring cities including Prague, Budapest and Vienna. In each city, our schedule allowed for mandatory visits, plenty of optional activities, and heaps of time to do solo adventuring. We also had activities arranged locally in Brno, including city tours, brewery visits, an Amnesty International workshop, visits to the Constitutional and Administrative Courts, a trip to see the Opera (in Czech!), and even just simple dinners to bring the students together and relax.
Weekend one was a trip to Prague where we attended a workshop at Allen & Overy with various NGO’s representing a few different issues, including women’s rights, refugees, and human trafficking, to name a few. After the compulsory activities, one of our student organisers took us to a real ice hockey game, which was a crazy cool experience! Everyone over there gets so involved in the game, drinks a lot of cheap beer, and eats a lot of enormous pizza slices. (Yum!)
Weekend two was a trip to Budapest where we visited the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR Budapest) and sat in on a lecture from a representative of the European Roma Rights Centre. Among the optional activities was a trip to one of Budapest’s oldest baths the “Rudas” bath, which was purpose built in 1550 and is the longest standing bath in Budapest. I never thought I would enjoy something like this, but I participated anyway, and I can now say that I would do it over and over again! We sat in the snow filled -12 degree air, on the side of a mountain, inside a 50 something degree bath and looked over the Budapest night-skyline. Nothing can quite explain this experience, just amazing!
Our final weekend was spent in the beautiful, classical, Vienna. We spent out first day in Vienna visiting the United Nations and speaking with different representatives of the UN. Some people started returning home to Australia after the first day in Vienna. I stayed an extra two days, so I did my own local walking tours and visited galleries and general tourist sites and watched a national ballet. I particularly loved the classic influence in Vienna, so I visited the Mozart monument which includes a giant treble clef on the grass. It would be even more amazing in the spring time, because the treble clef comes up with beautiful flowers.
This trip has been a once in a lifetime experience, where I have covered so much ground and travelled to places that I probably would never have visited. I love winter, so the snowy -12 degree days and nights were magic to me. Having locals from the university so heavily involved in our activities was really beneficial for language barriers and also for arranging ‘special’ tours and knowing all the ‘must sees’ in every destination. I would recommend this program to anyone wanting to do something completely different and immerse themselves in a number of different cultures, while still studying something of interest to them.