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IT

“You can always find a job in my field.” Interview with an IT student

Our graduate Anna told us about preparation for her studies in Brno, the entrance exams for the Czech Technical University in Prague, the workload of computer science students, and the combination of study and work. 

You took a GoStudy course in Brno. Why did you choose Brno instead of Prague?

First of all, the course price was lower. The second reason was the cheap accommodation. We lived in the center of the city. The school was a 4-minute walk away, we didn’t have to walk long distances. I’m from a small town, Prague would have been too big for me, and Brno is kind a transition. 

How did you choose your field? How did you come to it? Did you know while you were still in Ukraine that you will study Programming?

Yes, I made up my mind about my major a long time ago. I’ve always been attracted to math, I have a technical mind. I thought about where to apply mathematics, my analytical skills, and as a result I chose programming. As early as the ninth grade.

Why didn’t you apply for programming in Ukraine?

Because the level of education in Ukraine is slightly lower than in Europe. Programming is a field where you have to learn new things and develop all the time. Most of the teachers there are over 50 years old. So you can’t teach something new, new technology.

You finished one year courses in Brno and then came to Prague to enroll at the Czech Technical University. Tell us more about the entrance exams, please. 

There are two options: either take the university entrance exam or take the SCIO MAT exam. I took the SCIO MAT, I tried to take it two times. The first time I passed with a percentile of 80, the second time with a 99, but 65-70 is enough for admission.

Why did you choose the SCIO MAT, why didn’t you take the university entrance exam?

Because the SCIO is taken several times a year. You can have five attempts to take the exam. You have to pay 500 Czech Crowns for each attempt. If you pass the entrance exams, then it’s only one attempt. And I had a few of them, I knew in advance if I could get in or not, because the results come in a few days.

Can you tell me for those who don’t know what the SCIO math exam is like?

There is very little time given in relation to the number of assignments. You have to answer quickly, the hardest thing is to have time to solve everything. The tasks themselves are not much different from those on the entrance exams.

These tasks test your logical thinking or…?

More like testing your knowledge of formulas, math, combinatorics.

Can you give an example?

What is the probability that you will pull out a blue ball if there are 13 blue balls and 25 balls total.

How high is the math level on the entrance exams?

I think it will be easier for the kids from the CIS countries to pass math than for the Czechs, because we have much stronger math in our schools. If we learned derivatives in 11th grade, they learn them exclusively at university.

What can you tell us about the level of English? What level should be to study at a computer science department?

I think all the coolest literature is in English, and the level should be such that you can watch courses on Coursera and read books in English. I think you need a C1 level.

How long did it took you to prepare for the entrance exam?

I didn’t study at all. I just took the SCIO, repeated formulas in combinatorics. I went there and passed it. But this is an exceptional case, I really like mathematics. The guys who were studying, they did well too. They studied for two months. It’s not that hard. Getting in is the easiest.

You study in Czech and the tuition is free because it’s a public university. How did you prove your knowledge of Czech for university?

I brought a certificate from GoStudy, I had a B2 level. It is also possible to take a language exam at the university. But if GoStudy already gives you that opportunity, why not take it, it’s free.

Now you have moved to the 2nd school year. Tell us, what was the first year like at the university?

The hardest part was the first semester, because we had to spend a lot of time in the library. It was tough. But if you pay enough time to study, everything is possible.

What subjects do you study?

In the first semester we had 2 mathematics and 2 programming disciplines and one subject that was more or less like physics.

What about the lectures?

Classes consist of lectures and practice classes. They give you the theory, how it all works. For example, in the programming lectures, our professor can first program wrongly and ask us where the mistake is, we correct it and then we get to the right answer. In practice classes, we write our own programs, and for this we get points.

Are you already programming?

Yes, as soon as we start learning, from our first programming homework, we write some pieces. In the second semester, we wrote a term paper. This was a big project, which we had to defend.

In your opinion, is it possible to enter your first year without any basic programming knowledge?

Yes, of course. I have many friends who entered the program with zero knowledge. They have never done any programming before in their lives and they learn very well. It all depends on the desire and discipline.

What programming languages do you work with?

In the first semester we study C, in the second semester we study “pluses”. From the second semester we can write down our own subjects, which is very cool, because, for example, I wrote down Java for myself, and you can write down anything you want Python, C#, etc.

Does the level of difficulty increase each semester?

It doesn’t increase, rather the first semester was more difficult than the second semester. There was more math and programming. The second semester is easier.

Tell me more about your specialty, what does it look like?

My specialty is data engineering and is related to data science and artificial intelligence.

Are there many Russian-speaking students in your field?

Yes, lots of them, we even have a VKontakte chat. And we help each other a lot, by the way. If you don’t know something, you can always ask.

How do the teachers treat Russian-speaking students?

Absolutely the same as the Czechs.

What kind of equipment do you use for study?

I have a laptop. It is important that the laptop was really good, because, for example, I need to download some developments, which are 5-10 gigabytes.

Which laptop model is suitable?

I have a Lenovo IdeaPad.

At uni, what kind of equipment do you work with?

We have about 50 computers in each of the classrooms where we program. We have enough for everybody. We don’t have to bring anything of our own and we can’t program on our laptops during exams. We program only on the laptops that are in the classrooms. There are some classrooms that have Macs.

But since you have Windows, are you more comfortable working on Windows?

I have Windows and Linux. You will probably have to install Linux or a Mac operational system.

Did you already have any big projects during your first year of study?

Yes, we had a term paper on C++ programming in the second semester. We were given three topics to choose from, and we put together a big project – over 2,000 lines of code.

Do you work somewhere?

Yes, I’ve been working since my second year in an IT company, and our department won a tender from Škoda. We are testing the project.

How do you manage to combine your studies and work?

When I made the schedule, I put all the lectures and workshops from Monday to Wednesday, and on Thursday and Friday I worked.

Is it possible to work if you want to?

Yes, I think most of the guys have been working since the second year of study.

Tell us about where the IT students live.

I live in an apartment, but the university provides a dormitory. Most guys live in the dorm, but I prefer to live in an apartment.

How much does the university dormitory cost?

About 2,500 CZK. 

Do you plan to stay in the Czech Republic after graduating or do you want to conquer Silicon Valley?

You guessed it! Actually, the Czech Republic is a very cool country. I mean there are plenty of job opportunities. In my field you can always find a job, I got it even “without education”. So I want to develop further.

Were you offered a job in a large company?

Yes, I was. Actually, I wrote them first and they were willing to take me on.

How difficult is it to understand technical terminology in Czech?

I don’t think it’s difficult at all, because you can understand everything from the context.

Which programming language do you prefer?

We don’t have a priority because we have to learn most programming languages. We start with C and C++, then move on to Java, and so on. Everyone goes deeper into his or her specialty after that.

Do you know how much programmers earn in the Czech Republic?

It depends on education and experience. Experienced ones earn about 50-100 thousand Czech Crowns. 

What advice would you give to future IT students?

The main advice is not to listen to anyone when you choose the profession. Do not go into it just because that “there is a lot of money in the field” or that “it is a super cool job”. Only if you like programming, you should try.

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Alexandra Baranova 2 November 2021