This year's first year of Alumni Meetup Spain is successfully behind us! On Thursday, April 13, 2023, about a hundred participants gathered in the beautiful garden of the Residency of the Ambassador of the Czech Republic in Madrid. We organized this meeting thanks to cooperation with the Czech Embassy in Spain and the Czech Center Madrid and the Spanish Service for the Internationalization of Education (SEPIE). The embassy itself had already organized smaller meetings in previous years, so there was something to build on. The event gradually grew thanks to more considerable awareness of the Czech Republic and the possibilities of studying here. Thus, the possibility of greater involvement of other organizations that work with those interested in studying, students, or graduates was created.
Compared to the meeting in Sweden, there was also a large number of students who will or want to study in the Czech Republic. It was a unique opportunity for them to get to know those who have already completed their studies in Czechia and to get valuable information, advice, and tips from them. But they could also meet new friends before their departure, which is very useful, especially when you feel alone in everything at the beginning of the stay.
At the beginning of the roughly three-hour meeting, His Excellency, the Ambassador of Czechia to Spain, Ivan Jančárek, spoke about the importance of similar events for foreign policy. The Director of SEPIE, Alfonso Gentil Álvarez-Ossorio, spoke about the achievements of the Erasmus+ program so far and the opportunities offered by cooperation between national educational agencies. The importance of studying abroad was underlined by the Director of the Czech National Agency for International Education and Research, Michal Uhl, who demonstrated it on his own experience. Tereza Puldová, from the headquarters of the Czech Centers, invited participants to follow the activities of the Czech Center in Madrid, which organizes many exciting activities related to Czech culture and language. After a beautiful piano performance by Ian Rodríguez Novotný, who played several pieces by Czech composers, the participants could see a thematic exhibition about Czech classical music in the residency garden.
The programme continued with networking activity with the help of an already proven game called Bingo! It made getting to know each other, sharing experiences, and discussing much easier. At the end of the networking, we drew three winners of gift packages from Czechia Alumni and STUDY IN.
Of course, we were most interested in what the participants thought about the meeting of future students with graduates. Do such meetings make sense? The benefit for prospective students in establishing contacts and getting to know Czech culture generally can be somewhat assumed. And Patricia Rodriguez, a biology student preparing for Erasmus+ at Charles University, confirmed this: "I came to the meeting early, and everyone was very nice to me. I reconfirmed that I had made the right decision. As a little girl, I started thinking about the Czech Republic, and my parents supported me a lot. I believe that after Erasmus+, I will start my master's studies in Czechia."
But the graduates themselves also greatly appreciated the idea of students meeting with graduates, such as Fermín Razquin, who completed one semester of law at Charles University. "I'm from the Alido area in the south of Spain, and when I went to Erasmus+, I didn't know anyone beforehand. Such a meeting would definitely help me then." His colleague Natalia Moya, who studied economics and finance at the CUNI, agrees: "I would also greatly appreciate having this opportunity before leaving for Prague. It's also a great chance to get to know Czech culture."
However, an alumni meetup event can also provide unexpected, almost moving meetings. Carlos Ibáñez, who studied economics 21 years ago at Palacky University in Olomouc, met friends he had not seen for 20 years. And they immediately agreed to go to Olomouc again this summer. He even remembered a few Czech words, which he will surely use again when he visits Czechia. Carlos was excited to see how the current young generation has a serious interest in studying in Czechia. He considers his experience of studying abroad tremendous and thinks it really changed his life. He stayed in the field he graduated from because he works in a bank. "I think I got a good job also because I am open-minded and involved in an international project."
Adnan Serroukh Jebari studied for two semesters at the 1st Medical Faculty of Charles University and will finish his studies in Spain this year. But he already sees a huge benefit for his future career because he was able to get to know work in different hospitals and cities. It was also interesting for him to observe how various medical specialities are conducted here and to participate in the work in a team: "I believe that this will contribute to my greater success and more job opportunities."
At the meetup, we also met the advocacy and policy assistant of ESN Spain, Giovanni D'Amico. He mentioned they plan to organize an institutional meeting in Spain and saw his participation as a great networking opportunity. One of the Czech students, Tadeáš Sobek, currently studying at Universidad Rey Juan Carlos, said: "It was worth attending this event; I met a lot of new friends. I rate it as top-notch."
Do you want to know more about our activities? Remember to register for Czechia Alumni programme and follow us on FB and LI! This year we have several more meetings, such as in Moldova, Prague, or the USA.