Abby is a 22 year old student who is part of the class of 2015 at Stonehill College in Easton, MA and calls Pittsfield, MA home. In the Spring Semester of 2014 she studied abroad in Dubrovnik, Croatia.
Describe your program socially and academically.
Abby: Academically, Dubrovnik International University is unlike any other program I looked into. They do not have any professors who work there full time, instead they fly in professors from all over the world who come for 2-3 weeks straight and then leave a TA to finish off the class and give the final.
This means you have class all day, everyday for those 2-3 weeks and then you are off for about the same amount of time. It's unlikely you will have more than 1 class at once and there is no "finals week" at the end. Professors included a Harvard Business School professor and a retired Prime Minister to name a few.
We shared a building with a Dominican Monastery and only had around 100 total students...10 Americans, 9 International students and about 80 locals. So this meant that we all became close with one another and being friends with the locals opened doors I never thought possible.
Describe your most meaningful souvenir and why you love it?
Abby: My most meaningful souvenir would have to be my assortment of postcards that I collected throughout my travels. They were the perfect thing for me to buy at every stop I made along the way for many reasons.
First of all, everywhere sells them! All cities both big and small have a store somewhere within it that sells them. Additionally, they fit my tight budget. I would always fall for the 5 for 1 Euro deals that they offered to tourists. So usually I would send out 3 of 4 and then keep 1 or 2 for myself.
Finally, the best part of the collection is that now that I am back living in a college dorm room they perfectly decorate my walls and serve as a daily reminder of my wonderful time spent abroad.
What was the best place you visited outside of your home-base city?
Abby: I was lucky to be able to do a lot of traveling outside my home-base city. In about 6 months time I visited 10 different countries within Europe. For spring break I visited 3 cities in Spain which all were beyond amazing.
Additionally, I visited both Bosnia and Montenegro multiple times because they were so close to Croatia. However, my favorite "excursion" was to Amsterdam. I was a bit hesitant to visit the city but I am more than glad that I did. There is so much more to it than the "Red Light District".
While there, we visited Anne Frank's house where she hid from the Nazi's and wrote her famous diary, the Heineken Experience, which is an absolute must for all college kids and splurged on a bus trip to Keukenhof. Keukenhof is a huge spring garden filled with millions of tulips. It is breathtaking and I would rank it as a total MUST see!
Did you run into a language barrier? Did you ever think you knew more/less of the language?
Abby: There were no barriers...just language "experiences". In Dubrovnik, everyone speaks basic English. They are a tourist town so English is a must for them. However, well there I learned a lot more Croatian than I ever thought.
Our program directors taught us that key phrases like "Hello, how are you?" and the cafe workers taught us how to order a coffee or tea. In the grocery store I quickly learned fruits and vegetables because they were all labeled in Croatian. At the movie theaters all the movies were in English with Croatian subtitles so we would always walk out of there with a few new phrases in our vocabulary.
Little by little, everyday I picked up more of the language. I would always add whatever I learned to my journal so that now I will forever have those words and phrases written down to look at whenever I want to daydream about my amazing experience.
Do you think your program changed you as a person?
Abby: 100%! I got off that plane in Croatia and didn't know a single soul. Being a complete stranger in an unfamiliar city is a feeling that cannot be explained, it can only be felt. It is life changing and gives you a new sense of confidence that I never thought possible. I have brought that newfound self-confidence back home with me. I feel like I can travel anywhere now without much worry. I also don't fear the unknown as much, but instead crave it. I go into job interviews confident in myself and have learned to market my experience in a way that employers see beneficial. Overall, I am more self-reliant and see that quality popping up in my everyday life now that I am back home.