I didn’t spend very long thinking about or arranging accommodation for my exchange to Charles University in Prague, Czech Republic – each exchange student is automatically given a bed at one of the student residences! Similar to ANU first year accommodation guarantee – the accommodation arrangement here does not guarantee which student residence you’ll end up in, but for exactly zero effort or preparation (beyond paying the deposit on time!) your accommodation will be sorted by the university. As a generally pretty disorganised person – this was a pretty big plus!
The similarities with ANU accommodation probably end there though. One of the biggest differences is that rooms are shared with another student. This can take some getting used to – but is a pretty good way of ensuring you have at least one friendly face in your new residence. Another key difference is that student residences aren’t on campus – because Charles University doesn’t have one! Teaching buildings are scattered throughout Prague, and depending on what faculty and institute you’re studying with you might find that the accommodation is pretty far away from your classes. Kolej Na Větrníku, where I am, is located out in Prague 6. While it doesn’t exactly look close to the city centre on a map it’s important to remember that Prague is pretty condensed and has a super efficient public transport system, so it shouldn’t really take you more than 30-45mins to get where you need to go. Especially given that there’s a tram stop right out the front of the dorm, and a metro stop 5 minutes walk away!
The most important and exciting part of living here though is definitely the price! The cost of accommodation is 99 Czech koruna, or $6.59 Aussie dollars per night. That works out to about $46 a week, or $922 for your entire twenty-week, semester-long stay! That’s it! Barely a fraction of your OS-Loan. It’s amazing!
The residences themselves aren’t exactly luxury living, but they’ve got everything you need. Each room comes equipped with a single bed, desk, shelving and drawers for each person, and then a cupboard and mini fridge to be shared between you and your roommate. There’s a kitchen and bathroom on the end of each floor to be shared by all the students on the floor (there’s probably roughly 100 people on mine at a guess). The kitchens again are pretty minimal, with just an oven, a microwave, a sink and a bench. If you want any other kitchen gadgets, like a kettle, you’ll have to sort that for yourself. While it’s practically impossible to cook in the kitchen if any other person is using it, the bathrooms have plenty of shower and toilet stalls so I’ve never had any issue there. There are laundries in the basement equipped with a few washing machines, drying racks and one solitary dryer, so while they can sometimes all be occupied, you’ll usually be right if you check back in an hour. Save your spare change though – laundry facilities are 20czk an hour.
A potential downside of the accommodation might be that it’s not particularly social. Although I’ve heard that there might be some common rooms somewhere I’m yet to stumble across them – most students hang out in the café next door. And while the dorms as a whole might not have much community spirit, most international students on exchange or Erasmus end up here – so there’s a really positive culture amongst ourselves of arranging social events. Even if the facilities don’t always allow it, somehow we manage to cram twenty of us into a tiny kitchen or room to enjoy drinks or a pasta night!
I definitely recognise this type of living might not be for everyone. It’s small, a bit dated, a bit far away and involves sharing your room. If this is not your style – don’t stress! Plenty of other international students I’ve met are actually sharing flats around the city, and there are a variety of different Facebook groups and websites you can use to arrange something for the semester. Be warned though, you will be paying much closer to Canberra share house prices than the very cheap rent on offer at a student dorm. I would definitely encourage you to consider the university accommodation! Overall, it’s cheap, it’s located very close to multiple public transport stops and grocery stores, you have to do precisely nothing to arrange it, and it’s filled with students from all over the globe!