Nothing prepares you for the fortress like appearance of Hostivar as you drive up to it.
The International office mails you a little brochure that says little, with your admission papers, the website too has little to offer. The Kolej Hostivar grounds comprise ten, monumental concrete structures, that stick out like sore thumbs, amongst the hushed houses that surround it, little tribute to their communist inspired heritage. The first four buildings that house the International students, are interconnected via long passageways and share a common reception area, the remaining standalone structures house hordes of Czech & Slovak students from the University’s many faculties.
Room choices are fairly limited, tiny single rooms, that look a little better than prison cells or the slightly larger Spartan shared rooms with two beds, two desks and two cupboards. Alternatively you can rent an apartment style room, with two bedrooms and a living area, and a tiny kitchenette if you’re a bunch of people, or you’re willing to pay a lot more. The shared double rooms cost 60 crowns a night if you’re an ERASMUS student, but cost other International students 160 crowns a night, rather asinine if you consider the 5 square metres you get for yourself and the fact you live halfway between Prague and Bratislava.
The receptionists are a friendly bunch of chain-smokers. One of the ladies does speak English, and seems to have the hardest job of the lot; the others are quiet content, telling you to come back later when she’s around. The security guy is the man about Hostivar, his approval is essential for all the corridor parties, that you will be part of. The reception area also houses a rather expensive Internet café that charges you 1 crown a minute, weird considering you get internet access in your room for 100 crowns a month. The Hostivar Menza that’s above the reception area throws up an array of Czech food, at fairly reasonable prices, and is a good place to eat, if the reception is out of its stock of discounted sandwiches.
Living in Hostivar is an experience, ask people and you’ll get responses that reflect both sides of the coin. “I like my life in Hostivar, especially the social interaction and the beautiful women, but it is really far out and I pay too much for my room” says Sebastian Jaramillo from Ecuador, who’s been a Hostivar resident for 6 months, and plans to stay till the end of the year. American Peter Morrison, who shifted out in 3 months, says “I hated living in Hostivar, the facilities need massive improvement, and long-term International students should be given a chance to choose from the other dormitories as well”. Other ERASMUS students bemoan the lack of interaction between the Czech and foreign students, with the Czech buildings being off limits to most foreign students unless you know someone in the buildings, unlike the first four buildings, where there are no restrictions on movement between them.
Hostivar makes up for its physical faults, with an indomitable spirit. It’s a great place to make friends, and experience life as a student in another country, undoubtedly aided by the presence of its bargain for a bar, and the scores of parties every night, hosted by competing corridors in each building. I spent ten days in Hostivar when I first got here, everyone I live with today and most of my non-Czech friends are people I met in Hostivar.