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Med student from Portugal: Still getting used to Czech punctuality

Foto: Lenka Kožuchová / CC-BY

When Teresa Campos could not get into medical school in Portugal, she decided to study abroad. She chose Faculty of Medicine at Masaryk University in Brno and is very happy about her decision. Even though her studies are very time consuming, this active student still finds the time to be the chair of MIMSA, the MU association of international medical students.

Becoming a doctor is Teresa’s childhood dream, which was inspired by her mother, who is a paediatrician. “Even as a little girl, I’ve always been very proud of my mum. I’d like my children to see me one day the way I see her now. The job she does changes people’s lives,” says the med student when discussing her motivation for studying medicine.

After failing the medical school entrance exams in Portugal, she decided to travel abroad to fulfil her dream. She found Masaryk University online, prepared for the exams, and got accepted.

“I was trying to decide between Prague and Brno, but the university in Brno seemed better. The campus was new and everything looked very attractive,” says Teresa about her beginnings.

However, when she arrived it was hard to adjust to all the changes. “I’d never lived alone before. Everything was new, I didn’t know anybody, and I felt lonely. But other international students felt just the same, which made it easy to find friends. That was very helpful,” she says.

Even though this is Teresa’s sixth year in Brno, she is in the fifth year of her studies. She failed her anatomy exam and had to take what is called a “between-year”. Studying medicine in a foreign country has not always been easy, especially at the beginning.

“It was sometimes hard to stay motivated because the end result was so far away. It gets particularly hard in the summer when everybody else is out swimming and I’m sitting at home studying,” says Teresa. Studying in English was also very hard at first. “It could take me up to half an hour to struggle through a page of text. But I’ve got used to it and now it’s actually easier for me to study in English than in Portuguese,” she laughs.

Teresa says that studies in Czechia are more demanding than in Portugal. “I have to study harder for my exams because they are oral. It’s not a multiple-choice test, where you can try your luck. You either know the answer or you don’t. The teachers at Muni are also very punctual and strict – as opposed to the Portuguese,” she says with a smile.

Punctuality can still give Teresa a hard time. “In Portugal, when you say that a class starts at 8:00, it means it starts at 8:15. Here when you come at 8:01, they sometimes don’t even let you in.”

Besides their orderliness, Teresa also admires the openness of Czechs. “They are hard-working and like to spend their time outdoors, and I like how they treat their pets, which is something we should learn from them. But their behaviour to foreigners could be better. When I was looking for accommodation with my friends, people raised the rent on purpose because they thought we were rich. And in the street, people are sometimes disrespectful to foreigners because they don’t speak Czech. However, I have Czech friends who are great, so I don’t want to generalise.”

As a med student, Teresa is quite busy, but she still finds time to be actively involved as the chair of MIMSA, the association of international students of medicine.

“I started out in the education section of MIMSA and since November I’ve been coordinating and organising the whole association. I come up with new ideas, but we work as a team. We organise charity events and we teach classes for students in lower years. When you don’t manage to catch everything at the lecture, you can come to our class for repetition and ask about it,” explains Teresa.

However, she says she can only keep up with her schedule thanks to sleep deprivation and zero procrastination. “The only way I procrastinate when I get home is by working on MIMSA stuff,” she laughs.

Masaryk university