It is a well-known fact that the decision about where to go to college is a life altering one. It is a moment in life where young people transcend into adulthood, not only symbolically but also in reality.
The moment of separation from their families can be scary, and it gets even more challenging when young people decide to go to college halfway across the world, which is exactly what these individuals decided to do. And “across the world” in this case meant coming back to their roots in Croatia.
Young people of Croatian origin, who were born and raised outside of Croatia, often are taught to nurture their cultural heritage and appreciate where their families come from, which resulted in many of them wanting to reconnect with Croatia apart from visits during the summer time.
Vacationing in Croatia is quite different than living in Croatia, and for locals it is always a mystery as to why someone who is born in the U.S. would want to come to college in Croatia, with so many opportunities back home. However, the feeling of connection passed on through generations is something that only ex-pats can fully understand. And when given an opportunity to study at RIT Croatia, an American university which enables them to gain both U.S. and Croatian degrees, many of them readily jump to the occasion.
When asked why he wanted to come and study in Croatia, Ivan Juraj Jurković from Lincolnwood, Illinois had a straight forward answer: “I wanted to gain a better understanding of my cultural background and traditions. I feel that this is something special that should be treasured and not forgotten. Also, the majority of my family, whom I haven’t seen since I was much younger, still lives in Croatia, and I wanted to reconnect with them.”
Ivan is a junior year student in the International Business program offered by RIT Croatia at the Zagreb campus. Ivan liked the idea of living in the nation’s capital. Most of his family lives in the southern parts of Croatia and in Hercegovina, and being able to experience the northern parts of Croatia was appealing to him. According to Ivan, his studies are fun and challenging, and have opened up different viewpoint of today’s business opportunities to him. At the same time, the atmosphere at the college is very welcoming and it is apparent that the professors and staff are dedicated to students’ success. Ivan loves his life in Zagreb, which is more relaxed and slower paced.
“There is so much to do and see in Zagreb, and the cost of living is very low compared to the U.S. I feel that in Croatia, there is a much higher value placed on achieving a balance between work and leisure than there is in the US. In Zagreb, I love going site seeing, trying new restaurants and exploring the city in general,” says Ivan and excitingly continues “have had the chance to travel around Croatia and explore a lot of its ‘hidden gems’ that most people overlook. One place that really left a lasting impression on me was Trakošćan Castle, with its captivating scenery and its ability to offer a unique view of how Croatian royalty lived centuries ago.”
Madison Cathy, from Campbell, California, decided to choose the International Hospitality and Service Management program at RIT Croatia’s Dubrovnik campus, because her grandfather is from Konavle, and ever since she was a little girl, she felt a strong connection to Croatia. Her grandfather took her to Croatia almost every summer, and over the years she fell in love with Croatia, especially the Dubrovnik area.
“Life here is really different for me compared to back home in the U.S. Not only because of the cultural differences, but also because this is my first time living on my own, so everything is new for me,” says Madison, and continues “sometimes it is hard without your closest family nearby. However, thanks to modern technology, I talk to them a couple of times per week, so it is not so bad; it makes it more special when we get the chance to talk. I went home for the winter break and spent time with my family and friends. My sister came for her spring break and we got the chance to travel a little so that was nice!”
The biggest challenge for Madison while in Croatia is the inability to speak Croatian well, but luckily, all the classes at RIT Croatia are taught in English and the entire system at the college functions like in the U.S., so it was not difficult assimilating. As a first-year student, Madison has got to know many students from Croatia as well and she hopes this will help her in improving her Croatian language skills. “Dubrovnik is a safe place and the college is really amazing academically,” says Madison and continues “I don’t know where my life is going to take me, so I have no idea what career I’ll end up in ultimately, and the good thing about my major at RIT Croatia is that it applies to so many jobs, so no matter what I choose I’ll be prepared.”
When asked about the advice they would give to young people who are thinking of potentially studying in Croatia, both of these students had a clear message to share.
“I think a lot of people would benefit from studying at RIT Croatia, as it is a unique opportunity to study at a legitimate U.S. university located in this part of Europe. My wish is to see RIT Croatia become even more international because both Zagreb, and especially Dubrovnik, are fantastic locations to study and live in,” said Madison.
I would tell any potential international students to come here with an open mind in order to better adjust to the atmosphere. Prioritize your studies above all else (build a good foundation in the first two years, it will make the second two years less challenging) and take advantage of the situation; make the best out of where you are, use the opportunities to travel, to explore, and to make good memories. To the parents of the future students, I would say that they should not worry about their sons and daughters going to study abroad in Croatia. They will come back as smarter, broader-minded individuals, with a better understanding of their roots,” Ivan commented.