Picture 3 - View from St Peter and Paul Cathedral

It’s 9.25pm on Sunday 15th January, which means that the first week of the International Law and Human Rights program has concluded. The week started on Sunday with everyone involved in the program finding his or her way to the apartment center in Brno, which is only second to Prague in size. After settling into our rooms, we headed out to a close by pub, ‘Zlata Lod’, for the intro dinner. Here we began introductions between each other and also with Martin Glogar, the program coordinator and his team as well a faculty member and most importantly we were introduced to the drinking, food and sport culture of the Czech Republic. We were readily supplied with local beers, meat dishes, cheese and all of the bread. The first night ended with high spirits and good intentions for the remainder of our time in Brno.

Monday morning started promptly at 8:15am where we were taken to cafes close to the university for breakfast and coffee. Class then started with orientation and general information about the course and the expectation that while it was exciting to be travelling to Europe, it was important to remember that we were here to learn and give the same dedication we would normally afford to our law units in Australia. It was shortly after that we discovered that Australia Day fell on the same day as our last exam was set to take place, much to our disappointment it could not be re-scheduled. This session was shortly followed by our first official lecture of the program with Pavel Molek, who while working as a lecturer at the university is also a current Judge of the Supreme Administrative Court, and a man who has inspiring passion and wealth of knowledge. Later that night, we gathered together to have a basic Czech survival class, consisting of general phrases, pronunciations and local customs and quirks of the Czech republic.

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View from near castle in Prague

Tuesday consisted of class and later a tour of Brno, during which we were informed about the history of the city that like the rest of the formerly known Czechoslovakia, it was heavily influenced by communist regime which was present from 1948 until the Velvet Revolution of 1989. We visited sites such as the Capuchin Crypt, which was founded in the mid 17th century in the basement of the Capuchin Monastery and sadly only 2-dozen of the nearly 200 mummies remain. We witnessed the spitefulness common to the Czech, where in one instance the town council failed to pay a sculptor what he was due for his work and as result he made the central pinnacle wonky. To conclude the afternoon we visited the Cathedral of St. Peter and Paul where we had the opportunity to climb the very narrow cathedral steeples to view the entirety of the beautiful city of Brno.

Jump to Wednesday night: Opera Night. The day followed the layout of the previous days with class in the morning, followed by free time. We were then offered the opportunity to see “Rusalka”, one of the most well-known and successful Czech operas. It was first performed in Prague in 1901, and is a story about a Rusalka, a beautiful water nymph who falls in love with a prince, sacrificing her voice in return for entry into his human world. Afterwards our night was full of fun and snow, with many of us taking the rare chance as Australians to partake in a snowball fight.

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Picture 5 - Brno after heavy snow

Friday Morning began with the group aboard a train heading towards Prague. After taking in the beautiful scenic views, we arrived and spent the afternoon in a workshop with several Czech NGOs currently active in the field of Human Rights. Here we were able to discuss and become more informed about matters such as domestic and sexual violence, human trafficking, issues of migrants.

On the Saturday morning we were given the chance to have a guided tour of Prague, which mainly focused on the Strahov Monastery, Cerninsky Palace, Hradcanske Sqaure, Prague Castle, St. Vitus Cathedral, Lesser Town and the Charles Bridge. While the views were incredible and the history of the sights were fascinating and incomparable to Australia, this particular day in Prague was snowy and very chilly – but the short stop at a cozy café was definitely worth the walk and cold.

Picture 4 - Brno

For the remainder of the weekend there was no mandatory program related to the course but Sarka and Lubka gracefully offered to take us to exhibitions around Prague. After finally locating the well-known John Lennon Wall, several of us visited the Museum of Communism which presented a confronting and detailed account of the Communism which impacted the daily life, politics, history, sport, economics, education, military, the arts, media propaganda, censorship, judiciary and political labour camps of Czechoslovakia and particularly Prague.

The first week of the program was exciting, fast-paced and jam-packed full of activities, content, history and good times. We have finally learnt the names of all the participants, which comprises of 25 females and only 1 male. The course content has been engaging and the lecturers have been knowledgeable and readily open to discuss and further explain topics of interest. As we arrived back to the apartments in Brno, it was shocking to think that already the first week of the program is over and only 2 short and busy weeks remain.