The spring has sprung, and finally reached Zagreb! It is indescribably beautiful all around (as if it wasn’t already even in the cold season), with all the flowers blooming, birds signing, and people smiling under the warm April sun. The spring is finally not only on the calendar – but can be easily felt and seen around the city. April also marks me being halfway into my program, which is absolutely insane to think about. I remember the long, cold days in the last month of Temple semester, and how I was counting down until the day to finally fly over back to Europe.
Before even arriving, I had this insane strategic plan in my mind, a set of bulletpoints, which was not as easy to follow. But hey, I thought, I am a smartie and can get it all done, right? All I need is time management. Wrong. Among many other things, I had ‘to meet x amount of Croatian people’, ‘to get my language to the y level’, ‘to read these books’ and ‘to schedule z amount of interviews’ (yes, I was hoping to get a summer internship here – and going to this goal slowly but steadily). I was so scared of wasting a single minute of my time here. Knowing the exact start and end date of the program, and especially seeing the graph ‘valid until’ on my Croatian id card, has been making it extremely difficult to go with the flow. I think almost everyone who chooses to study abroad experiences this ‘lack of time’ phenomena, this little bug sitting in your head. Let me tell you – this bug causes nothing but problems. I learned from my mistakes now, but at the beginning I missed out on a lot of things due to keeping to this silly schedule. A small advice to everyone who is studying abroad or is going soon – don’t be scared, and don’t be so strict with yourself while abroad – especially if half of the plan involves not only yourself, but other people’s actions. As I have already learned, spontaneous decisions often come out to be the best ones. While it is important to go to class, do your homework while studying abroad and making an effort to learn more about the country – punishing yourself for spending time on something off the list is not gong to make anyone happy.
Now that it’s been two months, I am finally starting to get adjusted to my new campus and the university system here. ZSEM (for those, who missed my previous posts – that’s my university) is located on a beautiful hill, in a calm, residential area of Zagreb. The campus is comprised of only 4 buildings, in-between which a beautiful flower assembly is set up. Because it is a private college, all of our classes are small, with around 25 people in them. Professors at ZSEM are extremely approachable and knowledgable, just like the ones I’ve had back in the States. I was warned by other Temple students who’ve previously studied abroad in Europe, that the strict line, a barrier between a student and a professor, is easily felt – maybe ZSEM is an exception, but it was not this way for me at all. We also use blackboard over here – so huge yay for that.
In Croatia, and in European universities in general, the way of studying is more lecture-exam type of thing. We barely get homeworks, but still have important group projects. Again, that is because my school is looking up to American schools – you don’t even have projects in other colleges in Croatia, only exams. Exams are, in turn, usually very theory-based and cover a bigger amount of material as compared to most U.S. colleges. You can also be easily required to take an oral exam, sometimes as part of the whole class, sometimes one-on-one with the professor.
At ZSEM, most upper-level classes last 3 hours, and are only held once a week. It was also quite a difficult thing to get used to after Temple, as for me it is more comfortable to spread out the class load throughout the week, as opposed to getting all the information regarding the subject at once. On the other hand, it allows for a more flexible schedule – and leaves an opportunity to only have classes 2 or 3 times a week. For me, studying this way has been beneficial so far – as I get to volunteer more than I would have otherwise, and also have a possibility to make extended weekend trips.
The last thing I would like to mention only affects domestic students, not foreign exchanges or study abroad ones like myself. The final exam period is spread out throughout the whole month of June; for some people it even transfers over to the first days of July – instead of a week and a half in the United States. Thankfully, it will not be this way for me, as the university does not expect us to stay in Zagreb this long.
All in all, the quality of education is identically the same; the only difference is what the instructors want us to focus on here and there, over the ocean. Which one would I prefer? Several months ago, I would’ve said with no hesitance – the United States one, something I am already used to. But now I don’t know anymore, neither do I know how in the world will I adapt back to the way classes are at Temple.