Welcome Week for foreign students in Zagreb: event overview and Erasmus+ students’ first impressions 

This year, as well as every year so far, Erasmus Student Network (ESN) Zagreb organized a winter semester ‘Welcome Week’ intended for foreign students who will be spending their next few months in Zagreb, Croatia as part of the Erasmus+ student exchange program. 

The aforementioned Welcome Week lasted from the 23rd to 30th of September and was filled with various events, all in order to establish a welcoming atmosphere and provide help for foreign students, many of whom have never been to Croatia and/or are participating in a student exchange program for the first time.

As per usual, the majority of incoming students arrived from the Iberian Peninsula, Germany, France and Italy, and for some of them, like Matteo (22), who comes from Italy, Croatia (The University of Zagreb in particular) was their first choice. When asked why that is so, he said it was in his academic interest as a political science student who has an interest in relations between the EU member states as well as EU enlargement. Croatia, a south-eastern European country on the edge of the EU was a perfect choice. On the other hand, Cassandre (20), a law student from France chose Croatia (as did many others) due to language reasons. Virtually all subjects aimed at exchange students are held in English, which is great for improving one’s English language skills, and the fact that previous knowledge of the host country’s language is not necessary makes it easier for foreign students coming to Zagreb.

The first day of the Welcome Week (23.9.) was marked by a ‘How to survive in Croatia’ lecture where newcomers could learn about the Croatian academic system, local food, phrases etc. all the while being free to ask any questions they might have had in mind. In the evening, a party was held in collaboration with ‘Metropolis Music & Billiards Club’ which many students attended despite heavy downpour.

On Tuesday the 24th an event called ‘Free hugs’ was organized through which new students, together with ESN members had the opportunity to, as the name suggests, stroll through the city and offer free hugs. To Jana (22), a political science student from Germany, the best thing about events such as this or the previous lecture on Monday is the spontaneity and interaction. The next event many of the participants, including Cassandre, will remember fondly. In the ‘Ritam grada’ club a ‘Speed meeting’ was held in which students had a chance to get to know each other and make new friendships.

On Wednesday, an organ concert, whose aim was to present some of Croatia’s cultural heritage, was held at St. Mark’s Church. Compared to the year before attendance was surprisingly high. Later that day, and with a similar theme, Dr. Davor Piskač held a lecture on ‘Croatian culture & History’ and Dr. Višnja Rajić held one on ‘the Education System in Croatia.’ These were held at the main University building. In the evening, the outdoor event ‘Sunset Games’ had to be relocated indoors due to weather conditions but student interest in it was still high.

On the 26th of September the lectures ‘Cultural shock and acculturation’ by Mag. Erik Brezovac and ‘Religious heritage of Croatia’ by Dr. Dražen Volk were held. Later on, all those who had eagerly awaited outdoor games were finally in their element when ‘Rugby madness’ took place at the ‘Lokomotiva rugby club’.

During these four days, ESN Zagreb, in coordination with the University of Zagreb, organized city tours whose goal was to acquaint new students with city landmarks. University representatives also met with the students as part of the Welcome Day for all incoming students on Friday.

The weekend started with a big ‘September to remember’ party at ‘Gallery’ club late on the 27th. Afterwards, the week ended with a Saturday street workout and a trip to Plitvice lakes, an event where the reservations had filled up early due to strong interest. Matteo liked that ESN Zagreb organizes trips like these and he is looking forward to other trips in the future, such as the ‘Party train – Belgrade’ trip whose organization is in progress.

During the Welcome Week, we found out what the first impressions of Zagreb are for foreign students: Jana liked the people, Matteo the urbanism as well as the mix of modern and classical architecture, and Cassandre was impressed by how ‘colourful’ the streets were. While the expectations of some Erasmus students,’ such as Matteo, are ‘pass’ (said as briefly as possible), to others like Jana and Cassandre they are ‘meeting new people’ and ‘fun’, which, of course, is an integral part of student life.

ESN Zagreb is open for students on Tuesdays and Fridays from 12:00 to 18:00, and they can rest assured that ESN will come up with many more fun and educational events in the near future. Hopefully, these will be as successful as the Welcome Week was.

 

Tin Kovačević