Finding and applying to your preferred school
A look at the bridge above and one would immediately recognize that it is the Charles Bridge in Prague, the largest city in the Czech Republic which also serves as the capital. The city is a favorite tourist destination and a must-visit city when you go to Europe. More than being a tourist, the best way to get to know a place is by actually living there. In this post, I will focus on studying in the Czech Republic.
In October 2018, I am starting my master’s degree in Economics and Management at the Czech University of Life Sciences in Prague. If you are also interested to study in the Czech Republic, now is the time to start and prepare the documents you need as application time will be around soon. In this first part of a three-part post, I will share my experiences in applying to the school as well as the required documents. The next part will be the visa application and the last part will be about practicalities when you arrive at the Czech Republic.
The things I will share is based on my experiences so please consider that I am from the Philippines which is considered a third-country. This means I am not from an EU country, students of which would have a different and somewhat easier procedure in terms of entry legalities.
Why Czech Republic?
The Czech Republic has a very good education system. The country boasts of high quality of education and research especially in the fields of Science, Engineering and Medicine. There are over 43,000 foreign students who chose to pursue their studies in the Czech Republic.
Education is very affordable in the country. It is actually FREE in public schools if you study in the Czech language. There are fees for English programs, but this is still relatively cheaper compared to other European countries. In my university for example, the Faculty of Tropical AgriSciences offers Masters degree programs in English for as low as 5,000 CZK! That is less than 200 Euros (Php 13,000) per year!
There are also scholarships granted by the country’s Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports. Unfortunately, I am not qualified for their programs. You can check out their website to see if there is something you can apply to.
The Czech Republic is also in the heart of Europe which means you can visit other European countries on the weekends or long holidays. There is no need to fly for at least 13 hours (from Asia), you can basically reach another country in a few hours by bus or train.
If safety is your concern, then it would be good to know that the country ranked number 7 in the 2018 Global Peace Index (Sydney, June 2018) by the Institute for Economics and Peace. On a side note, Singapore is at number 8.
Finding and applying to your school
Most public schools have their own websites which are also available in English. More or less, you can find what you need to know from the websites but if not, it is always better to email the school. I find that they answer within 24 hours or at least the next day. You can also visit www.studyin.cz where you can find and search various programs and make your further research from there.
Applications for schools usually open in November for both Bachelor and post-bachelor studies. This would run until March. Afterwards, they will conduct the written exams or interviews as required in April to June. If you need to apply for a visa or long-term residence permit, you can always ask the school if you can take the exam or interview earlier. They also consider the length of the visa application, so they would assist you on this as much as possible. The winter term starts in end September or early October and the visa application is usually decided within 60 days, just work out your schedule and make sure you have enough time.
In my case, I have selected to take up a Masters Degree in Economics and Management at the Czech University of Life Sciences in Prague.
I applied through their online system in November 2017 but I started contacting schools in August 2017 until I narrowed down my choices. They have an online portal for the application and I just filled in as required. There is also an administrative fee to be paid which can be paid by credit card. You will be notified when the application is successful and when the application fee is successfully paid. If you applied for more than one course (so you can have an alternative if you did not make it to your first choice), you need to pay separate administrative fees. Now you just need to wait for information on the exam or interview dates.
In the meantime, you can already work on the nostrification of your Bachelor degree diploma. This is a requirement before you can take the exam or interview. I will discuss more about nostrification later on.
On teh 14th of April 2018, I received the schedule for the interview which is set to be on the 25th of the same month. For those staying in the Czech Republic, they have to go to the interview personally. As I was still in Singapore, the interview was done via Skype. Due to the number of applicants, and perhaps because of my surname, my interview was moved to the next schedule. Remember that you will not be interviewed if you do not have the nostrification. A few weeks later, the results were out and I got in!
I prepared for my visa application and I was finally able to apply for my visa by end of June. The visa was decided in July.
Nostrification of school documents
Nostrification of my Bachelor degree diploma was required before I took the interview. This is basically a recognition of the validity of my Bachelor degree in the Czech Republic. If you are applying for a Bachelor degree, then you would need a nostrification of your high school diploma. This is done by an office authorized by the Czech government which is generally all public universities, private universities are not able to do this.
Nostrification process (for graduates of Philippine universities)
- Prepare your school documents (Diploma, transcript, certificate of English as medium of instruction, etc)
- Go to DFA for authentication.
- Proceed to Czech embassy in Manila for superlegalisation
- Have the documents translated to Czech
- If needed, go back to Czech embassy in Manila for translation verification of the translated documents
- Pay 3000 CZK fee and submit to the private university for nostrification.
- Wait and receive nostrification.
First, I requested for an authenticated copy of my Bachelor degree diploma and transcript from my school. I also requested for a Certificate of English as Medium of Instruction since I am applying for an English program. Some universities may require IELTS, TOEFL or something to prove fluency in English. My university (Ateneo de Manila) assisted in submitting the documents to DFA as well, so I only needed to go and pick up the authenticated documents at the DFA branch in Cubao.
Afterwards, the documents needed to be superlegalised by the Czech embassy in Manila. You can go to the embassy for superlegalisation on Thursday mornings. Check their website often as they are also closed on Czech holidays. Make sure the documents are recent, to be safe should be at most three months old. For all public documents to be presented in legal proceedings in the Czech Republic, it needs to be authenticated by the DFA and then superlegalised by the Czech embassy in Manila. Superlegalisation is basically a seal to prove authenticity of the document.
Once superlegalisation is done, I had the documents translated to Czech. As I understand, there are also translators recognized by the government or court translators, I am not really sure. If your documents were translated by non-recognized agencies, the translated documents should be presented again to the embassy for verification of translation. In my case, I used Skrivanek and I did not need to have the translations verified by the embassy anymore as they are already sworn.
When my documents are ready, I contacted my school, who will also do the nostrification. I sent the translated documents (original and copy), accomplished application form for nostrification and proof of payment. You can find out more on this page: Recognition of Academic Diplomas. The nostrification process itself is quite fast except that I had issues with the payment. I paid through bank transfer and they had difficulties finding my payment. Nostrification can be done in person or by using an agency, but since it is not really complicated, I think there is no need to pay an agency for this.
Nostrification is a basic requirement for all schools, other schools may also require letters of recommendation, theses published and others.
This is how I went and got in to the Czech University of Life Sciences. For details, it is always best to check with your preferred school.