Antonín Čajka
Faculty of Natural Science
In 2015, student Antonín Čajka won the prize of the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports for gifted students in recognition of his outstanding contribution to science. He had already achieved unprecedented success in 2014 at the 5th Annual Czech - Slovak Student Scientific Conference in Physics, where he masterfully won in the section for Applied Physics. Out of more than 50 bachelor's and master's students in the field from the Czech and Slovak Republics he captivated the professional jury the most with his presentation and work entitled "The Structure and Surface Properties of Nanofiber Layers Prepared by Nanospider Technology." The conference was held, according to tradition, by the Faculty of Mathematical Physics at Charles University in Prague. Antonín is currently studying continuing Master's studies in Norway and concurrently studying at the continuing Master's studies in Applied Nanotechnology at PřF UJEP.

It’s been said that your trip to study abroad was unusually dramatic…

You know, one could almost say that I set myself up for it. In spite of the fact that travel abroad is quite easy these days – it’s usually enough to apply for the selection process of Erasmus+, have proof of your language level, good study results, and you can more or less go – but with me it was more complicated. It was bad luck for me that at the turn of the year 2014/2015 the older Erasmus program was changed to Erasmus+, and that required the conclusion of new intercollegiate contracts. And unfortunately it was precisely in Norway, where I myself wanted to go, that there was suddenly no contract. Nevertheless, I really wanted to go, so I started to do the legwork for the faculty, and had several interviews with our coordinators for foreign stays, and with university lecturers who might just have contacts in Norway. Finally, Professor Čapková, the supervisor of my bachelor’s thesis, and I discovered and contacted one of her old acquaintances. It was almost an unbelievable coincidence that this was a professor at exactly the university I wanted to go to in Oslo, and also the acting cantor in their Nanotechnology program, which is exactly my field of study. And thanks to these gentlemen and our talented Erasmus coordinator the required contract was subsequently concluded. And finally, in spite of everything, I didn’t go on Erasmus+. During the negotiations on the contract, that is, after 4 years, the Norway funds program again appeared which has a financial support program that is much more advantageous than the Erasmus program, but one must write a very extensive grant application in English. Generally, the administrative procedures are much more complex, but that didn’t deter me. I sat down at the table and started writing the application. And then, after three nerve-racking months of waiting for a favorable or an unfavorable reply, and studying for final exams, I received a letter to the effect that after the holidays I could set out. And so I made it to Norway.

“It’s always important here to have some good quality science behind you.”

Have you noticed any differences between Czech and Norwegian university education?

The most obvious difference is that in Oslo everything is taught in English. But seriously now, I am, for example, the only international student in the classroom with twenty other Norwegians and it doesn’t cause them any problems having all lectures, projects, and exams in English. Try doing that in the Czech Republic. And in my opinion the subjects are more demanding. Here students usually have 3 subjects per semester, each one worth 10 credits, lectures and seminars are usually 4 hours a week. Of course that doesn’t mean that you only dedicate those 12 hours to school. It’s necessary to prepare for every subject in advance, read lots of literature, which includes at least one thick book, constantly work on essays and homework. Every part of this homework is graded during the semester and finally counts as 20-30% of the final grade. In addition, I registered here for one subject which takes place in a laboratory where I work on my research. I spend 16 hours a week in the laboratory. So the studies here are considered almost like full-time work.
Here I miss that typical lax Czech approach a little, where you still have plenty of time for all sorts of other activities. If a person wants to spend a nice half-year at the sea, in the warmth on the beach with a cocktail, Italy or Spain is the right choice. In contrast to that, a person goes to Norway, and generally to the northern countries, to improve, to work on oneself. Also for that reason the Norwegian government offers its students interest-free loans which cover students’ living expenses for a period of five years. If the student graduates successfully, 40% of these loans are declared scholarship money and the student only pays the remaining 60%. In other words, students here are really motivated and they don’t take their studies lightly. This is probably the most fundamental difference I have noticed in Norway… that it can work somewhere and in the end almost universally.

You are the winner of the Student Scientific Conference. Can you share something about your feelings regarding your successful presentation?

By nature I suffer from stage fright. For example, I prepared very intensively for this concrete presentation and rehearsed it in rough form a week in advance. You can present almost anything to your friends, confidently on the spot, but before an evaluating jury it’s an entirely different matter. Suddenly everything matters and you have to be perfect here and now. A self-confident demeanor, a mastery of the topic, and the overall impression. The viewer must be sure that you know what you’re talking about. When a bartender mixes drinks and makes a mistake, he must never let anyone know about it. It’s the same with you, when you make a slip of the tongue at a conference, you get confused. You have to keep your wits about you and quickly find the lost thread. You mainly have to give the impression that everything is correct. Of course, it’s always important here to have some good quality science behind you.

How did it feel when you found out that you would be awarded the Ministry of Education Prize for excellent students?

It felt outstanding. I couldn’t believe it. I was really enthusiastic and I value this prize very much. For me it’s a great honor and also a great responsibility to live up to its name. My mom was happy too.

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