Arriving in the capital Bratislava, I enjoyed exploring the streets of its historic centre, taking in the relaxed atmosphere of the Danube river promenade, and viewing the city from the castle and the site of the memorial monument Slavín.
What I found most enriching about my trip, however, was exploring some of the smaller towns throughout the country – Piešťany, Spiššská Nová Ves, Ružomberok, Brezno and others. I particularly enjoyed learning about eastern Slovakia’s unequal development, especially its segregated Roma settlements. Viewing social marginalisation first-hand motivated me further to explore the social divisions of my own country and to focus my intellectual and career efforts at issues of social exclusion, systemic discrimination and educational inequalities. I returned motivated to explore some of the less developed regions of my home country, the Czech Republic, and to apply myself to systemic regional development through my work in education and social policy.
While in Slovakia, I also took the opportunity to explore its beautiful, mountainous countryside. A day trip to the High Tatras left me humbled at the monumentality of its mountain ranges. A multi-day hike in the Low Tatra mountains, alongside inducing an admiration for the natural diversity and changing landscape as one ascends and descends, pushed me to my physical limits as this was the first time I had done a hike carrying all my gear and food for several days on my back. I found it to be an empowering experience, and while the rainy weather forced me to cut the hike short, I am keen to return when possible and finish the second part of the trail.
I would say that one positive outcome of the covid pandemic was that it turned me to focus more on exploring what is nearby – getting to know the similarities and differences, the successes and social issues of our “brother” country. My trip strengthened my ambition to use my career in policy to advocate for a more equal society.
I am grateful to the Gateway team for administering a very valuable programme throughout the academic year and for enabling me to experience such a formative adventure during the summer.
Human, Social and Political Sciences