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A Female Programmer Sans fronti ères

Like many Polish women, Magdalena Modrzejewska (25) is intelligent, attractive and well- educated, but what makes her stand out from the crowd is her atypical profession as well as her unusual courage. After graduating in Information Technology at the Technical University of Szczecin, she decided to take up a job as a software developer in a big German company in Plzeň and start a new life in the Czech Republic.

Photo: Magdalena Modrzejewska
It is worth the risk.

E&M: Is it difficult for foreigner to start living and working in the Czech Republic?

Magda: You might have thought that because of the European Union, all the formalities would be easy. Unfortunately they were not. Bureaucracy in the Czech Republic is very extensive and in this area the European Union, from my point of view, does not exist. I had to fill in a lot of different documents and forms as well as spending hours in the Office for Repatriation and Aliens. On the other hand, people are very friendly and easy-going, which helps me to find my way in new situations, also at work. People in Plzeň are accustomed to meeting people from other nations because foreigners consititute about about 30% of the city's whole population.

E&M: Why did you choose such an original direction and decide to start your career in the Czech Republic?

Magda: When I finished my studies, I didn't have precise plans for my career. I knew that I wanted to work as a programmer, but I had no idea where it would be. There were a lot of vacancies for IT developers in Poland, but my restless nature was telling me that more than twenty years of living in one country is too much. Life is too short and the world is too wide. Travelling has been always my great passion, so I decided to link both: work and travel. Fortunately, my profession is quite international, which was very helpful in realising my plan. But why Plzeň? First of all, I was encouraged by my Czech friends, who know from the Erasmus Programme in Finland, and it was also very important that I could speak a little bit of Czech. In addition, if I can share my opinion, the Czech Republic is a beautiful country and was worth exploring, without a doubt. I had sent my CV and about week later I was packing my things, moving from the place where I was born to a city famous mainly for beer production.

E&M: Probably moving from Poland to the Czech Republic wasn't a "culture shock" for you, but have you noticed something that really differs between these two nations?

Magda: Of course I haven't experienced any "cultural shock" after moving here, but I wouldn't say that Poles and Czechs have so many in common as it is usually thought. Also, the Czech language is not so easy to understand for Poles - we communicate much better with Slovaks. It's surprising that two nations so close to each other have developed quite different cultures. If something like a "national character" exists, I would say that Czechs are more optimistic and pragmatic, and also have more of a quiet manner. While Poles are going to the church on Sunday, Czechs go on trips and play sport. Something else which is not in the Polish nature is the Czech habit of spending a lot of time in pubs or restaurants, sitting in big groups of friends, drinking Czech beer and eating Czech dishes.

E&M: Are you satisfied with your new job?

Magda: Yes, very much. I work on projects for big international companies. The atmosphere is very friendly and my colleagues are always ready to help me. I am not the only foreigner - in this company there are also Germans, Uzbeks and Slovaks. I have many possibilities to develop myself in different fields, not only in computer science - this is something which is very important for every employee.

Photo: Magdalena Modrzejewska
If she could have this view from the office...

E&M: Has this move changed you?

Magda: In some ways, for sure - new experiences always influence our character, whether we like it or not. "He who keeps company with wolves will learn to howl," so my lifestyle is getting more and more similar to the typical Czech one. I have dinner at 1 p.m., always at a restaurant - Czechs don't cook by themselves at home - although in Poland I used to have it at 4 p.m. or even later, usually at my own house. Going native, I have started to learn cross- country skiing and climbing, which are very popular Czech sports. Thanks to the dance classes they have at school, most Czechs are great dancers, too. This was a stimulus for me to develop myself also in this direction.

E&M: It sounds like you don't regret moving to Plzeň. But is there anything you miss from your Polish life?

Magda: If I brought all my friends and family here, it would be perfect for me. New technologies enable me to stay in touch with them and even see them, but unfortunately it's not the same as meeting them in real life. I especial miss female company - I spend most of my time with colleagues from work, which means that all my new friends are men. Of course, that has a lot of pluses [laughs], but not every topic can be discussed with men.

E&M: What are your plans? Are you going to stay in Plzeň for longer?

Magda: Although I really enjoy living here, I would like to move to another country, because as I said before I am planning to travel and work at the same time. I haven't made up my mind yet about the next stop - there are a lot of places I'd like to visit but nowadays it's not lines on the map but languages that form borders. Knowing English, German, Polish and Czech gives me a slim chance of getting a job in France, for example. If all languages were as universal as programming languages, I would feel a free citizen of the EU, 100%.

E&M: Would you encourage young Europeans to work and live in the Czech Republic?

Magda: The Czech republic is really interesting country with elegant architecture, delicious food and many breathtaking views, so it is definitely worth visiting. If you're looking for adventures and new experiences at work or in your free time, I recommend this country, also because of people's friendliness and the good working conditions. In big cities like Prague and Brno, many international companies have offices which employ foreigners even if they don't know Czech. I think that the best evidence of the Czechs' openness is the fact that so many people from different countries have decided to live here.

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