Written by: Sonja Kontro
Why am I here? How is it going? What are the differences between Tiimiakatemia Prague and Y-academy of Joensuu? What have I learned so far? What has surprised me in the Czech Republic? And what about cultural shocks? What type of things are coming?
These are the questions I hope my blogpost will answer. These are also the questions that I have heard millions of times since I came here.
I´m a part of the international team in Y-academy and about a year ago we organized this international dialogue. For me it was about networking internationally because I really wanted to make a joint project and connect with new people internationally. There are many Tiimiakatemia´s around the world and I think no one is using the possibility of international business in the way that it should be used. I saw it as a huge opportunity for me and the whole concept and community. In the dialogue there were students from Tanzania and Prague. We were talking about projects, communities and shared our contact info to each other. After the dialogue one girl from Prague contacted me about doing a joint project. We started facetiming a lot and bouncing ideas about the project. Quickly we found a project idea and started working on it. One girl from our international team and one guy from Prague also joined us for the project.
We met in Finland a couple of times and became good friends. We ended up burying the project that we were working on, but we came up with this new idea of me going to do my internship in Tiimiakatemia Prague. So, this is how my trip here started.
With my coaches we came up an idea for my internship. My internship is about to build and develop international connections between academies. So, this is my answer to the first question.
So, how is it going? I arrived here on the 6th of January. In this moment of writing, I´ve been here for month. It really seems crazy. One month has gone so fast. The first month has been mostly about getting to know all the people in Tiimiakatemia Prague, exchanging info about academies ways to work (this quite a lot and so many times in a day), getting familiar with the city of Prague, learning how to use public transport, working or helping with some project´s in the international point of few, planning training sessions (dialogues), traveling to Bratislava and networking there, networking more internationally (USA, Germany, Amsterdam, Africa, etc.).
I´m also still working on my studies in Finland. Joining to the international team´s meetings weekly, participate as much as possible in my team´s dialogues and team meetings, helping with the company´s accounting, trying to be a co-project leader for the final camp and of course trying to write my thesis.
For fun I have drank lots of beer, since it´s cheaper than water here, gone to a cottage once, did some hiking, hanging out with new friends a lot, done sightseeing, also went to yoga, dance class and shopping. My little sister also came to visit me from Finland for one week. We experienced a little bit of Prague´s night life together. It was nice to have someone from my comfort zone for this time. Before that I was feeling a little bit homesick and then she came, and it has been so much better also after she left.
In the end of the day my everyday life here is mostly the same than in Finland. I wake up in the morning and go to work, do the work, try to remember to take breaks and eat something, then I go home and relax, exercise, or see friends. I think that´s one of the main reasons why I feel like home here.
Cultural shocks and what has surprised me in Czech Republic. Amazing question that I also hear often. Biggest cultural shock in the first two weeks was the food. Everything tasted so different. It was ok when you were in a restaurant, but in the university cafeteria and everything you buy from the store tasted so different and not in a good way. Imagination probably played some tricks in my mind. But now everything has tasted better, and I am getting used to it.
One thing that sometimes is annoying is that the men here want to do everything for me. They want to carry my bags and buy my beers. I can do those things on my own, I am independent Finnish woman, crying out loud. I am little bit joking, of course it is nice to meet gentleman that are more than happy to help me, but it is not something that I am used to, and I think that, if I can do something by myself, I should. One thing is also how people are expressing physical proximity. In Finland, we are not so physical with people that we don´t know so well, and sometimes even when we have known someone for years it still doesn´t feel natural to give something as simple as a hug. In my opinion people are more into feelings that I am used to. It is hard to explain so I just will leave it here.
Stores are so different here. It is difficult for me to find anything I would like to eat. I hope there is a Lidl close to the new apartment that I will move in later in February. Usually, I end up buying something else (chocolate) that I was supposed to buy. Really miss Prisma these days. Most of my biggest shocks are related to food. So, nothing new there.
About the differences. This is the question that everyone is asking me about. It is quite hard to answer to this. A month is a long time, but not time enough to realize all the differences. One of the biggest is that in Joensuu we have different field of student´s in Y-academy and here everyone are business students. One difference is also the coaches. We have more coaches relative to the number of students. Sometimes even for us it feels like the coaches are busy and don’t have time enough for us but can you image if there are 17 students in one team and they have only one coach. They have better spaces here. They are like our spaces in Joensuu, but they don’t have to share these spaces with whole lot of other people as we do.
January here was exam time. Wich means that students in Tiimiakatemia Prague must take exams every end of semester. Semester started in February. In Joensuu we study first year our basic studies and do the mandatory exams and when we get accepted to Y-academy, it was the end for exams for us. Our studies in Y-academy lasts 2 – 2,5 years and here they study in Tiimiakatemia whole three years. Reading books and writing the essays are same way in here. I think they must read more than us but not a lot more.
At the end of the day, Tiimiakatemia Prague is quite new. No one has graduated yet (first ones are graduating in spring 2022). We are only one year ahead of them. In my opinion we both have a lot to learn, and I think we should find ways that works for our academies the best. Trying to copy something that has followed the same structures for ten years is not an option in my opinion. That is why I think it all comes to community and wanting to make the whole system better. For us students, we are doing a lot of developing for the community and for that we are going to be grateful someday in work life. I think it is amazing that there are these new academies that are creating new academy culture and offering new student more options even in academy type of studies. This is something I have realized even more while being here. It is also something that connects us together.
I still have a little over two months’ time here. We have planned a few projects that I am working on. Most of them are related in Internationality. I am looking forward to having our Finnish international team and my coach visit me and us here in March. We will also have some visitors from Germany and I´m looking forward to making new connections. We have planned a few trips in Europe. We are also thinking about to going to France in this Team for Learning event which is an event for academies all-around of world. So, networking globally is a huge part of my time here. I also want to see more Czech Republic and experience and see as much as possible.
I also really want to figure out some plan for myself. What should I do in the summer? What should I do after graduation? Study? Work? Or just take it day by day and say YES to every interesting opportunity that comes along on the way. I like the last idea the best.