Every year incoming Erasmus exchange students at the Protestant Theological Faculty of Charles University (PTF) can look forward to a two-week orientation programme immediately before the start of the winter semester organised by the PTF International Office. In addition to practical and administrative information about their stay in Prague (registering as students, choosing and enrolling for courses, using public transport, healthcare and insurance, etc.) the programme also includes an intensive beginners’ course in the Czech language (four hours every morning), and visits to places of cultural and historical interest in Prague.
This year, because of the coronavirus pandemic, so few Erasmus students registered to come to study theology or social work at PTF that the International Office considered shortening the orientation programme or cancelling it altogether. Eventually, however, they had the idea of holding a joint orientation programme together with the Catholic Theological Faculty (CTF). Colleagues at the CTF were happy to do this because they, too, were expecting much fewer students than usual, so the idea went ahead. At a time when the number of covid cases in the Czech Republic was still quite low and government measures to combat the spread of the virus were not yet very strict, PTF students and CTF students were able to join together to prepare for their studies, gain a basic knowledge of Czech, visit places such as the Jewish Quarter and St Agnes’ Monastery in Prague, and go on a daytrip along the Elbe Valley.
The project was very successful, with the students making friends from another faculty and CTF and PTF staff also getting to know each other better. As a result, PTF students decided to attend some courses at the CTF, and vice versa. It is quite likely that the experiment will be repeated again next year.
So in spite of all the problems and disruption caused by the pandemic, it has at least had one positive and unexpected result: strengthening ecumenical cooperation in Prague!