'I saw a very personal approach - and that was what I wanted'
Simen Hoel, from Norway, is studying for his BA (Hons) in International Business Management. We caught up with him to ask how he has enjoyed his first year.
Simen, tell us a bit about how you arrived in Prague.
'Sure. Although my father is from Oslo, my mother's home town is Stavanger. I guess you would call it the oil capital of Norway. For that reason there is the choice of whether to go down a vocational or academic route. My diploma was in something called 'Automation', and my life was destined to end up in the oil industry. Then in 2015 the oil prices went down, and I was unable to get a job.
My first visit to Prague was at the invitation of a Slovakian girl I had met at a Green Entrepreneurship exchange programme in Estonia on the Erasmus Plus programme. She invited me to Prague and I fell in love with the city - not only the architecture, but also the ambience - it was so warm! I felt right at home here.'
And why Prague College in particular?
'To be honest I’m very much driven by my own gut feeling. My instinct said go to Prague first, do the interview in person, not on Skype. I wanted to walk the halls and find out what it was really like, and in Prague College I got a really good vibe. I saw some classrooms, and a very personal approach. And that was what I wanted - to be able to talk openly to my lecturers whenever I needed - and I felt the college had that apparatus in place. There are equivalent institutions in Norway, just like here in Prague - they are often bigger, but the whole atmosphere is colder.'
And you’re finding Prague affordable?
'In the grand context yes. I struggled immediately because I didn’t have a scholarship, but it’s easier now. I started in the student hostel but more recently I’ve been living in Prague 7 in an architecturally beautiful part of the city. I have a job, working as a specialist at Icon Communications. Ironically enough I left my country partly to get away from the Norwegian mentality, but I am now working calling Norwegians on behalf of one of our IT clients, gathering leads and developing reports.'
Why did you select International Business Management, and what have you enjoyed about it?
'From the first semester, I have to say it was Marketing with my lecturer Joel Imhoof. I really enjoyed it, mainly because I love psychology. Of course we also learned about ethical marketing: not only were we provided with the tool but we learnt how careful you have to be with it. Marketing is so powerful for any kind of business: I think it should form part of the philosophy of every company.
And this semester, we've been learning how to manage a successful project. It's where we get to use a practical approach - we have learning diaries to upload every week. You can be passive, or you can be a team leader. Our lecturer Stefano Cavagnetto respects that, and he has managed to create a strong culture in the class where people feel they can take on such roles.
I’m already looking forward to the full-year project with Dave Gannon next year. '
I've noticed you at a good number of Prague College events. Did you have a favourite?
'I hugely enjoyed the Mindfulness event at the start of the year. I believe that the spiritual dimension is really important for lectures, assignments and work - without the spiritual side I feel oppressed. Without mindfulness I think it’s easy to feel too stressed. In Norway, mindfulness and spirituality is not really a subject at all, not part of the student context.'
What do you want to do with the combination of your work experience and your British degree?
'I'd like to be managing people, with the ultimate goal of running my own business in the real estate sector, specifically an online listings platform. I feel sure that the knowledge I am gaining this year will help in setting up such a small service-based company.'
Are you likely to go back to Norway?
'Most Norwegians I know are happy with their country; they are pretty content and have high living standards, so they tend to stay there. But I don't think I’m stereotypical - I go where the wind takes me. Most of my friends go on a gap year but they always come back. I don't feel that. I want to see the world. I’ve already moved 20 times in my life, and here I feel I am living with and working with kindred spirits. We have the same mindsets and can push each other. To live with these people is wonderful.'