Dec 1, 2016

The founding principle of all the activities of Zdenek and Michaela Bakala is, truly, the courage, which must, according to their belief, always go hand in hand with responsibility.
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Ludvík Eger - report


September 2013 – July 2014 (ongoing)


The Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva, Switzerland


International Affairs


It had been almost 4 months in Switzerland since my arrival, when the semester at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies ended (26 August –21 December 2013). Those 4 months were filled with so much learning experience that it felt more like a year. And even so the first semester went by extremely quickly.


Before my arrival I spent a few weeks learning French and most importantly bought as much of various products in the Czech Republic in order to save money. Those products were mainly kitchenware (not provided by the student dormitory), groceries or office supplies. I arrived to Geneva at the end of August to attend a compulsory French course. The course provided for by the Graduate Institute took place in form of an intensive course, which was then followed by an extensive course over the semester. I believe I improved my French knowledge from level A2 to B1 thanks to that course. But I am determined to continue learning French in the next semester at home to reach B2 level.




The high rents, demanding bureaucratic process and limited supply of student dormitories make the accommodation search in Geneva a challenging process. I received the very first confirmation only in late June/beginning of July, after several weeks of a thorough searching, and immediately accepted it. At the beginning of my arrival I had to spend few days couchsurfing, some days in a hostel and a week in other student dormitory before I could move in into my own studio as the Cite Universitaire D dormitory was still being built at that time. Nevertheless, I cannot say a single bad thing about the accommodation. I find it very comfortable there. The rent and distance to the Institute are very convenient when compared with accommodations of my other classmates.


I took 4 compulsory courses in the first semester (international law, history, political science, negotiation and regulation) and 1 facultative course Social Movements in the track that I would like to pursue the next semester. The approach to studying at the Institute is substantially different than what I was used to before and, sincerely, took me some time to adjust. Each week I had to finish a certain amount of readings (usually 100-150 pages per one course) to acquire the compulsory knowledge about the topics, so that we could discuss only the most important or interesting ideas of the topics. Although it became more and more challenging with increasing workload over the semester, it made me to dig deep into the topics so that I could follow and actively participate in the classes. I always strived to be present at every class; it happened to me twice that I was the only one in the French class. My most important presentation this semester was due for the history course. I presented together with 2 classmates from South Korea and a classmate from West Sahara. Even the process of creating the presentation taught me few things as each of us had a distinct approach to the work. Our presentation was rewarded as one of the best of that semester by the professor and inspired the biggest discussion. The exam period took place in the last 2 weeks of the semester. I had to admit that it was quite challenging for me. I found very interesting the type of questions we had to answer in the exams. Instead of questions focused on the hard facts we were encouraged to present and advocate our understanding of the topics or apply theory onto practical examples. I think that it really enables to demonstrate the understanding of the course content and in the end was fun to answer such questions. As it turned out I passed the first semester with overall average 5.15, which made me feel satisfied.


Apart from my studies I have helped in organizing several student events by the Graduate Institute Student Association. My most important extracurricular activity became co-establishing and co-running with Ondřej Wagner, another Bakala scholar, a new student initiative at the Institute – Junior Diplomat Initiative Switzerland for students interested in diplomacy. This initiative is in fact a continuation of our activities in the Czech Republic. We successfully organized two seminars during the last semester with Mr Porter, Deputy Head of the Delegation of the EU to the UN and other international organizations in Geneva, and Mr Møller, Acting Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva. We received a great feedback on both events and are looking forward to continuing with these activities.

I have literally met at least one person from each continent and found new friends at the Institute. It is always interesting to discuss known issues and hear new insights from people coming from the other side of the world. The exam challenges were common for all of us and our group study sessions were quite entertaining. We also found time to relax, tried fondue and raclette, visited the seat of the United Nations, the Red Cross Committee, CERN or went to Lausanne. We even saw a movie in a cinema during the busy semester. I tried to get to know the city as soon as possible after my arrival and I think I have already found my favorite places there. It was not hard to get used to Geneva, as the city itself is beautiful, conveniently big and easy to orientate in.


Studying at the Graduate Institute and living in Geneva is a great life experience. I have already many great plans for the next semester with new courses, an internship at the Czech mission to the UN beginning in February and new events of Junior Diplomat Initiative Switzerland and cannot wait to begin. The Bakala scholarship enables me to enjoy the experience and fulfill my plans. I am well aware of that and remain always thankful.

© Fondation Zdenek et Michaela Bakala