Erasmus exchange students at the Faculty of Education and Rehabilitation Sciences

Belgium

2015./2016.

Klare Mols & Karlien Amter from UC Leuven-Limburg, Belgium
Exchange period: summer semester 2015./2016.

Our Erasmus adventure

Zagreb was a new destination for the exchange program that Klare and me wanted to attend. Because it was something different and new we both decided to go there. When we took off together we didn’t know what to expect but it was the beginning of a new and awesome adventure with wonderful people whom we can call our friends now.

The first thing we noticed after our arrival was the relaxed atmosphere of the city. Compared to Belgium, life in Zagreb was less stressful and you got the feeling everything would be alright no matter what. One of the first words we knew where ‘Nema problema’ (no problem), the way how we described our stay and lifestyle there more than once. Also we experienced the Croatian coffee tradition very quickly. No excuses for not drinking coffee! Which is very good and cheap, moreover there are more than enough places to go. A place we visited often was menza, the famous student restaurant, where you can get a big meal for not a lot of money (around 10 kunas). The food wasn’t bad at all, but it was nice to go somewhere else sometimes too. But, they’re definitely worth it to visit!

Very quickly we got to know a lot of nice and wonderful people. After our enrollment we got to know our Croatian classmates at the Faculty of Education and rehabilitation sciences. They were very helpful and easygoing people but we didn’t see them very often and didn’t have a lot of contact outside the department. We didn’t know them very well but when we look back at this, we wish we would have known them better.

We spend a lot of time with other Erasmus people we got to know at the ESN-activities. During these activities and our own plans we met many people from all over the world who became our friends. Together we explored not only the city but also the awesome nightlife of Zagreb. Zagreb offers a little bit of everything so everyone finds a place to have a good time. Zagreb is also a very good place to travel from when you want to see the rest of the country. The beautiful seaside is definitely worth a visit and of course is everything even better when you are in good company! You could always find someone who wanted to go somewhere with you.

Finland

2015./2016.

Matti Kastikainen from University of Jyväskylä, Finland
Exchange period: winter semester 2015./2016.

Winter semester in Zagreb was something to remember. I went there at the end of September and left late February. We had snow for one week during January, so for a Finn it was hardly a winter. It was really cute though. Anyway, these five months was a time to make new friends, experience Croatia, travel at Balkans and last but maybe not least, to study.

Firstly, Zagreb was just the right place for me – it’s not too big, not too small and there’s everything you need for culture, sports and social life. The thing I really enjoyed in Zagreb is all the cafes and bars all around the city. People just go there, hang out and take it easy for a while or more in any time of the day. In my opinion, that reflects the (Croatian) culture somehow; things will be done but not in a hurry and not in too structured manner. Also for sport enthusiast, Zagreb is a great city to go. There are good games in football, handball, ice hockey and basketball. Everything in one city, cmoon, how cool is that? Let’s not forget about Maksimir Park, this beeeautiful green (or white for a week in January) park where I did quite a lot of running, walking and everything else like for example shooting music videos with my roommate.

About the Faculty of Education and Rehabilitation Sciences, it’s easy to say the same thing that in my opinion describes Croatians in general: the people there are nice, relatively glad and helpful. It was easy to participate in lectures and to practical work I did at local primary school. The local students translated the weird and hard-to-understand-language the professor was speaking in every lecture. In primary school that I visited, I got to know the school and pupils very well and that was not really what I expected in the first place. Thank you a lot for that everyone! When it comes to the studies Erasmus students do, it’s not exactly the same as local student’s studies. It’s a bit easier. But who can argue that that would be a bad thing. It gives you more time to wander around Balkans and the crazy-beautiful coast of Croatia. All in all, I enjoyed my time in the Faculty of Education and Rehabilitation Sciences and learned some very useful stuff that I really can and will use in my future work as a special education teacher.

M Kastikainen 2015-16I remember applying for Erasmus on the last possible day. Now I’m so happy that I applied. Before my Erasmus, people were saying sooo many good things about going for an exchange. I almost got a bit annoyed about all the fuss. But now I can really agree on all the great things said about studying abroad. The mental capital you will gain is huge and the friendships you will make are precious. Now I’m happy to be home, although I miss everyone a lot. A lot!

2014./2015.

Riina Liljamo from University of Jyväskylä, Finland
Exchange period: summer semester 2014./2015.

Basics

Croatia is a very interesting country! But not so many people are conscious what kind of country it is. Last months before student exchange I spent reading travel guides and getting to know where I’m going. There are good possibilities to travel in Croatia but also it’s easy to travel abroad. Seaside of Croatia is amazing and it’s so near Zagreb. But I also found Zagreb as an interesting and pleasant city to live. At the beginning I felt that it’s a quite big city and tram line map seemed to be very complicated! Anyway, after two weeks I was familiar with that map and I knew how to go to different places. In my opinion I think there are always something to do in Zagreb - it’s active capital city! Locals were interested to talk with foreigners and many times I talked with locals in the tram and told why I am here and which language I’m speaking.

Sometimes it was hard to go to the grocery shop because workers didn’t speak English but after being in Zagreb for a while I learned some basics in Croatian and it felt so good to be able to say simple things in Croatian! I also like lifestyle of Croatian people. There are differences to Finnish culture. In Croatia people always have time to go to coffee and talk. In Finland we are a bit too work oriented and living serious life. Time in Croatia learned me not to take life that serious.

Studying at ERF

I was living quite near city centre but my way to the Faculty was quite long. I needed to take two trams and then campus bus. But I didn’t find that as a problem because I enjoyed travelling by tram and I didn’t have lectures every day. Our campus is small and that’s why it feels comfortable to go there. It was easy to meet teachers in the corridor and ask questions concerning courses. Teachers were always friendly and they gave good tips where to travel and what to do in Croatia.

I liked Croatian style to learn. At the beginning it was a bit challenging for me because I’m used to very strict and structured timetables in Finland. It took time to get to know that studying there isn’t that structured. Generally we planned meetings together with teachers and they were flexible with their timetables so it was simple to find time to arrange meetings. In addition to meetings, I had also some lectures in every week. In the one course I participated to local’s lectures and I liked it a lot. Even though the course was provided only in Croatian language there were always some student who translated main points in English.

I spent unforgettable four months in Zagreb. I had a good balance between studies and free time. I learned new things in the university and also during travelling and in my everyday life. It was good I could chose that kind of courses which I find useful to my degree in Finland. I’m happy I had good opportunities to travel around. Anyway, I also enjoyed to live everyday life with my flat mates. I know I will visit in Croatia again!

2013./2014.

Laura Karjalainen from University of Jyväskylä, Finland
Exchange period: summer semester 2013./2014.

My experience of the exchange in Zagreb has been very positive! Before coming to Zagreb the communication worked really well via email and I got fast answers to all of my questions fast. In Croatia here is more paperwork related to studies than in Finland, but I was prepared for that in advance. After a few weeks of going here and there to get different documents and signatures things became more relaxed. I decided to take an intensive Croatian course so I had to change some things in my learning agreement, and I really had trouble deciding which courses to take because there were so many that seemed interesting. At first I thought that I would have mostly just consultations with professors, but in the end I ended up having a lecture from every course I chose. That was great for me, because I prefer studying in a group rather than by myself. Our coordinator Vesna Cavic, professors and Croatian students have been very helpful and friendly, I’m very grateful for that. Sometimes it’s been a bit difficult to find information about assignments and schedules of courses, but luckily I’ve had a feeling since the beginning that I can always ask others.

Drinking coffee (of course!) with the group from Erasmus Intensive Language Course, carnival in Rijeka and trip to Varaždin with family and friends...

I didn’t really have a cultural shock because I lived in Slovenia for one year with my family and we also traveled a bit in Croatia. I couldn’t wait to come back! Zagreb is a great city for students! I’m glad I chose to live in a dormitory instead of a shared flat, because by living in Cvjetno I’ve been able to experience how local students are living. Students in Finland have their own rooms so sharing a room for one semester has been a new experience for me. Luckily I have a lovely Croatian roommate so sharing a room is no problem. J I think the tempo of living in Croatia is slightly slower than in Finland, and people don’t seem to be as stressed or they are just hiding it well. In my experience most people are open, helpful and warm. I love the café culture, because many Croatians are coffee lovers just like Finns. I’ve been lucky to have found many friends, both Croatians and other foreigners. In Zagreb there’s always something going on and staying at home is impossible. I think I will sleep for two weeks when I get home in July.

Poland

Magdalena Czarnecka from University of Warsaw, Poland

Exchange period: summer semester 2013./2014.

I would not know what to expect when I came to Zagreb. That was my first time as an exchange student and the whole process seemed a little bit mysterious and exiting at the same time. The Faculty of Education and Rehabilitation had maintained in contact with me for a couple of weeks before I came here as well as the main exchange University office, but we discussed only an administration issues. At this department everything was crystal clear but the rest remained uncertain.

The beginning positively surprised me: everything seemed easier than I had imagined. The enrollment procedures went smoothly and I was an officially a student of ERF in no time. Ms Vesna Cavic, the Erasmus coordinator, was more than helpful and welcoming in the process. I felt warmly greeted by her and professors of the Faculty which helped me a lot with my first days of the exchange.

The only problem with my studies I stumbled on was a small amount of English courses offered to exchange students. On the other hand, the courses in which I took part proved to be not only very interesting but also extremely well prepared. The professors' attitude towards me and other exchange students was also remarkable. They were flexible, open to discussions and, most importantly, they appeared to me as an experts in their field as they wide and detailed knowledge amazed me more than once. I also was offered opportunities to broaden my knowledge outside of the lectures by visiting a lab and institutions connected to the subject of the lecture.

Zagreb and Croatia itself made my stay a great experience. I travelled a lot around the country and had an opportunity to taste Croatian cousin, listen to Croatian music and experience a lot of openness which appeared to me as a Croatian general attitude. Wherever I was people seemed to be very happy to share their culture with me. I learned a lot about Balkans, the history of the conflict here and diverse attitudes towards the Homeland War.

Zagreb as a city has definitely the biggest group of exchange students in Croatia which makes it easy to get to know people from different countries. The multicultural environment helped me to see my own culture in a new light and it widened my horizons.

The cultural and nightlife scene of Zagreb represents the whole variety so everyone can find something for him or herself as I did. In the same time, the city is smaller than my hometown so it appeared to me as a more peaceful place. I also enjoyed bike rides with the Medvednica view (Zagreb has a decent amount of bike roads if you choose this type of transportation) and cafe afternoons with my friends.

I would gladly extend my stay in Croatia if that would be possible. Instead, I will take the new knowledge and a bunch of really good memories with me back home. I would also like to repeat the exchange experience in my future as living and studying in a different country thought me a lot.