Miniseries: international students at the Faculty of Medicine, Part 6

The Faculty of Medicine is probably the most international faculty of Masaryk University. 700 international students study throughout all the English programmes. We asked several of our international students why they chose LF MU and how they are coping with being far from their homes and loved ones.

In this episode, we would like to introduce you, Maria Demou.

24 Apr 2020

Can you tell us something about yourself? Where did you come from? How long have you been studying in Brno?
I am a Cypriot student, studying in the 5th year of medicine. I live in the capital of Cyprus with my family of 5. I have two siblings, one studying in the UK and the other one in high school.

Why did you decide to study at the Faculty of Medicine of Masaryk University? Did you know anything about the university or the Czech Republic before you arrived?
I had a conversation with a friend studying in the 3rd year at that time and I was really surprised by the level of education that they were providing to the students and also the facilities of the university itself.

Studying at the Faculty of Medicine is generally quite challenging. How do you perceive the quality of study at the Faculty of Medicine of MU?
In my opinion, the first two years were the hardest. It was a big transition from high school to university life and it was really hard to adapt to the amount of material that we had to study. But as time passed, and with the right guidance from the university, I found the best and the most suitable way for me to study and cope with the requirements. If you follow the instructions given by the professors and you put in the effort and the time required, then taking this degree is not as impossible as it might seem. It’s all about discipline and planning.

How do you perceive the current situation? You're far from your family, your friends. Do you have a trick to handle this situation? Does it help you to study? Are you discussing the situation with your classmates?
It’s really hard being in a foreign country in this really unknown and unusual situation, far away from my family. Especially in the beginning, it was really hard as new rules were coming out daily and everything was uncertain. You are worried about yourself, but your thoughts are also with your family back home and if they are protecting themselves in the best way possible. The trick is to find a routine that is the best for you, for example, for me it helps to meditate every day at least for 10 minutes, as it helps me clear my mind and start the day with positivity. Also, meeting up with friends that stayed here and taking some walks helps a lot. Studying can be really hard to manage as we think we have a lot of time in our hands, but I try to study at least 3 hours per day to feel productive.

What is the situation in your country? Are you in touch with your family?
Back in Cyprus, the situation now is getting better. The whole country is in lockdown, no one is allowed to enter the country nor leave, so all the students studying abroad don’t know when we will be able to return back, which makes the whole situation even more frustrating. I try to keep in touch with my family as much as possible, so we try to communicate even by message every day, checking on each other.

The pandemic shows the importance of healthcare. So far, the Czech approach has proved to be a good way. Do you think this approach is applicable to other countries?
The Czech Republic should be an example to follow by lots of European countries. They took measures, strict measures, really early on. They banned free movement as soon as the cases started to rise which put the situation under control. Also, the citizens took it very seriously and obeyed the government and the measures applied. For example, the use of masks everywhere was an example that was followed by Cyprus after seeing what Czechia was doing to fight the virus. So, it is no surprise that the Czech Republic was first in the news all over Europe because of how the government tackled the whole situation.

And finally a personal question. How do you like it in the Czech Republic? Is there something that surprised you in good or something you still don't understand?
After 5 years of being in the Czech Republic, I can say that I’ve finally got used to the country and the culture. Of course, it’s really hard to still cope with the cold weather and the freezing temperatures, as in Cyprus we have sun throughout most of the year. At the start, the locals seemed a bit closed off and unapproachable but as we got to speak the language better with the years, it just got easier. It’s all a matter of perspective and having a positive mentality towards everything.

Thank you for interview.

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