Erasmus+ Visit to Karlova University, Prague

At the beginning of May, Dr Em Temple-Malt – Post Graduate Course Leader in Sociology – travelled to Prague to teach at Karlova University, on an Erasmus exchange.

I had the great pleasure of returning to Karlova University (Charles University) in May 2018. Karlova University is one of our Erasmus exchange universities. I went out there to give guest lectures to undergraduate students and to deliver a talk as part of a Sociology Department Seminar Series.

The last time I was in Prague, February 2017, was to establish an exchange programme for our Sociology and Criminology students, and I stayed in the very touristy and beautiful Old Town square.

This time I stayed in the Herrmes hotel, Joninice, which was most excellent (thank you to the travel team for arranging me to stay at this hotel!). The hotel was situated two minutes from the tram stop – which transports you easily and quickly to many parts of the city. I was also five minutes from the Joninice campus, where I was teaching and close to the Sociology staff.

I found myself easily getting into a rhythm with the tram system, especially the B line. A 24kc ticket, stamped with a time code, allowed a 30-minute period of travel, which allowed me to get to and from my destinations. There was lots of construction work, meaning I became familiar with the dash, and crush in the lifts to the town.
In my short stay, I became a regular at the TGI Friday’s, in Andel. Having had a busy day of teaching and intellectually stimulating conversations, visiting different Czech restaurants and the buzz of Czech conversations, I found the restaurant and the same staff each night comforting; it was also really close to the hotel, which was excellent.

On the Wednesday, I got to teach students studying the module ‘Anthropology of Kinship’, the focus of this talk centered on my doctoral research – particularly, civil partners’ reasons for getting married and then breaking the news to significant others. Knowing the importance of interactive and memorable activities, I introduced students to the Channel 4 programme that focused on ostentatious weddings, Big Fat Gypsy Wedding and a clip from the TV series, Don’t Tell the Bride, to illustrate the gendered work within British weddings. These clips stimulated conversations and comparisons about the practicalities and organisation of Czech weddings. There was lots of laughter and interesting conversations; centering on the brides’ evident disappointment with the dress her fiancé had selected for her, which she felt made her hips look ‘massive’ and was devastated that the dress had buttons running the full length of the dress.

Thursday was a busy day, the second lecture focused on the way the UK is currently responding to domestic abuse and how services for male perpetrators could be improved based on a recent research project. The module introduction to gender and sexuality, was taken by all female students. We had really interesting and thought-provoking conversations. One student posed me a really challenging question, when she asked why is it that men are always more dominant than women in society? I burbled, speechless, I suspect she is still waiting for an eloquent answer!

One student enjoyed my lecture so much that she gave this feedback about my session: “I wanted to thank you for presenting and speaking about domestic violence. Unfortunately, a lot of people know very little about this issue, which is why I admire your bravery for openly talking about your own experience as well. I know that it can be difficult, especially if you are speaking about such a still largely stigmatized topic.
Today, people are mostly introduced to a black and white type of image about domestic violence. They don’t know the Whys and Hows, nor its forms. I liked that you mentioned the psychological aspect of domestic violence and how it affects both, the victim and the abuser. Speaking of victims and abusers, you also stated that both, women and men, may belong to both categories and that abused men have a harder time seeking help, due to their so called ‘masculinity’ etc. I found it interesting that you took another approach by speaking about the perpetrator and his or her experience. It is very important for me to understand every aspect of a situation and your presentation helped me gain insight into the mind of the abusers.

It was a shame that we did not have more time, because the topic cannot be possibly presented in its full complexity in 80 minutes. I was personally interested in for example the influence of a violent past, the exercises that the abusers tried out etc. Also, I wanted to note that you should not worry about our activity. I believe that many of us had a lot to say, but students are often shy to speak out, especially if they are doubting their English skills”

Thursday afternoon, I had the great opportunity to deliver preliminary findings from my most recent pilot project, ‘displaying unhealthy relational practices education’ project. The seminar was attended by academics and Sociology doctoral students who followed us to the Mont Martre pub, for several pints of beer and to continue very interesting conversations.

Colleagues and friends can be forgiven for thinking that the entire four days was spent indulging in good food and tasty Czech beer, as these were mainly the subject of my Facebook posts!

I was struck by how warm and generous the Czech academics were with their time. My host, Ema Herzonva met me for coffee (recognised my preference for tea and accommodated this), took me for lunches at some of her favourite restaurants. I opted to spend more time with the academics – than doing touristy things. It was a privilege learning about Czech stories of women, gender inequality, communism and socialism’s approach to celebrating the ‘working man’.

Another highlight on this trip to Prague, was catching up with three of my L5 students (Josh Stanley, Jess Silva Freitas and Dana Wade) who had taken up the opportunity to study at Karlova university for a semester. They wowed me with their adventures, and explained how they were enjoying their studies, opportunities to study subjects not available at Staffordshire University (e.g. Jazz, Digital Sociology), and little stories about some of their favourite lecturers. We finished our evening with a trip to my favourite haunt, TGI Fridays, in Andel.

   

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