“International experiences can change your life”: Exchange programs on the rise in Czechia

Erasmus mobility programs, which offer students the chance to study and live in a new country, have become increasingly popular for both Czechs who want to go abroad, and foreigners who wish to move to Czechia. Last year alone, 31,000 Czechs participated in an international exchange program. To learn more about the rise in interest, I spoke with Michal Uhl, Director of the Czech National Agency for International Education and Research.

Data was just released that revealed there’s been a significant uptick in the number of Czechs wanting to go abroad. Is there any indication why this is the case?

Michal Uhl | Photo: Ondřej Tomšů,  Radio Prague International

“It’s because they have the opportunity to go abroad – we do a lot of promotions with our universities. Czech students know that international experiences can change their life. It’s a combination of two things, the fact that they want to go on exchange and because they can. Our budget that we have allocated for Erasmus programs this year is almost 90 million euros, last year it was 80 million – so it is quite significant and increasing every year.”

Are there any destinations in particular that Czechs are interested in going to? Are they mainly within Europe or are other continents popular as well?

“Eighty percent of the budget had to be spent within Europe. But we do have partner schools in Japan, Israel, and the United States, so some mobility’s are outside of Europe. The top European countries are France, Germany, Poland and Slovakia.”

Has there been any more attention on Czechia as a destination for foreigners to come and study?

Erasmus Centre | Photo: Daniela Honigmann,  Radio Prague International

“Every year, the interest in Czechia is higher. Czechia is a beautiful country and a great place to study, so it’s a smart place for people to come and study for a semester or even a full degree. There are a lot of students coming to Czechia for Erasmus, but also the number of full degree student is increasing. We know that 18 percent of students studying at Czech higher education institutions are internationals.”

If a Czech student was unsure about wanting to go away to do an exchange semester, what words of encouragement would you give them?

“International mobility has wide ranging impacts on young people’s life and career path. They have higher self-confidence, higher satisfaction with their jobs, and it also impacts their values. Students who go abroad are more likely to believe in the European Union and democratic values. Their language skills improve, and it also benefits their cooperation with other students and colleagues.”