As I promised weeks ago, I made this informal Erasmus guide which contains the good and also the bad sides you can encounter during your stay in Zadar, Croatia. So here we go, the top 10 things you need to know before coming here!
1. Avoid student dormitory! Croatia is generally a cheap country when it comes to rent and food. Do you actually want to spend the most amazing 6 months of your life in a room with another person? You will obviously think that you won’t be spending a lot of time in that room anyway but I can guarantee you that privacy is IMPORTANT and you WILL need it. I applied for a place in the student dormitory and I got it. At the beginning we paid around 50 euros and then the government decided that our lives are too good here and they raised the rent to 70 euros. Thus, this wasn’t the big problem. Since I was the only Erasmus male student I got a room with a Croatian student. You can now say…so what’s the problem? Well…one of the first issues that I had is the fact that he didn’t speak English at all (except the common words such as “Hi, Bye, Toilet and Yes”. Apparently, they didn’t care so much about this aspect regarding Erasmus students and this happened. I moved on since Croatian language was too much for me so we barely had any conversations at all…sometimes google translate helped us a bit but it was hopeless. The second issue I had with him was the snoring. A lot of people snore, many of my former roommates snored as well but NO ONE snored like this guy. I tried everything, earplugs, music, tea and even sleeping during the day. It was horrendous. I finally decided to go to the dormitory administrator to ask her to change me into another room invoking my first and second issue. I finally managed to move out from my room only in the middle of January (after 4 months) and I really enjoyed my last month here since I slept like a baby. There were also other issues regarding hygiene and using stuff without permission but who cares now? That’s in the past.
Advice:🏁Even though the student dormitory is really cheap, I strongly advice you to rent an apartment. You will pay between 130 – 200 euros if you share it with someone else buuut you will have your OWN room 😍 and no one will f*ck up your experience. Don’t repeat my mistake! P.S: Cooking in the student dormitory is also limited and you aren’t allowed to use the kitchen for all kinds of food (stoves don’t work as well). You also need to pay 5 kunas for jetons in order to wash clothes and many times you have to wait days in order to catch one. Hah.
Dream land. 😖
Later Edit: One of the amazing aspects of the student dormitory is the fact that you can meet amazing people. I made some Croatian friends and I hope I’ll be keeping in touch with them in the forthcoming years. Also, I will never forget those incredible moments on the couch with my Erasmus Family Crew. I’ll miss that for sure!
2. “Menza is life” that’s our joke about the student canteen. Once you will arrive here, you will get your Xcard which you can use to buy cheap food from the cafeteria. The food is ok-ish but if you’re a very strict person about diet then run away as much as possible from this canteen. They mostly serve potatoes, rice, veggies, chicken, fish or pork. Sadly, those women work a lot and sometimes you can get some extra surprises in your food. Be aware of the green salad, sometimes they don’t wash it properly and you will end up eating bugs and worms (extra vitamins haha 😄). Anyway, for an average menu you will pay around 7 kunas (1 euro) and it’s worth it but always be careful. You can use the X-card up to three times per day.
Advice:🏁Don’t spend your money on fancy restaurants and food from shops, go to menza and pick your food carefully. It’s worth it, especially if you chose to live in the dormitory where cooking is limited.
3. Take care of your money! You will find things quite confusing when you start using a new currency. It is important to know that 1 euro is around 7.5 kunas. Having a scholarship of 500 euros per month you can actually have a decent life here but still be aware (some things can be expensive). Make a budget and stick up to it. Sadly for party people, beer here is quite expensive in bars. ESN will take you to Bizarre where beer is 16 kunas (approx. 2 damn euros). You can find other cheep bars where beer is only 12 or 14 kunas.
4. People can be weird. Coming from a country where we usually say hi to people and hug a lot, here things can get a bit colder, it’s a Slavic country after all (joking, I don’t believe in stereotypes). Croatians are generally friendly but when you have to live with them, it can get weird. In the dormitory we called it ‘The Freak Show‘ since a lot of weird things were happening here. Show them that you’re well behaved, be the first to say hi or “bog” and also be the first to open the conversation since they tend to be shy. (the majority of them speak English though *not my roommate* *lucky me*). But there can also be exceptions (mentioned on point 1).
5. Health is IMPORTANT. You are about to spend six months of your life in a random country far away from home. Love yourself and take care of yourself. A lot of people (including me) had issues with teeth here and dentists are not the best. It’s quite expensive and things can get nasty. Make sure you have all the proper medicine when you come here and stay healthy. Also, make sure you have private and normal insurance just in case.
6. Croatians LOVE bureaucracy. Yes! When they see papers and papers they just get horny as f*ck. Don’t freak out when you have to deal with A LOT of papers and signatures when you come here. For them it’s normal for me it was the beginning of the freak show. You have to go to police station, banks and many other places. Be ready. Also, people that come from outside of E.U. will be even more stressed about bureaucracy.
7. Travel as much as you can. Croatia has LOTS of amazing places thus, you HAVE to see as much as you can during your stay here. Start with the big cities and end with the small ones and small islands and national parks. It’s totally worth it! My favorite city was Pula but also Rijeka can be quite nice. Zagreb is OK, I was a bit disappointed given the fact that it’s the capital and it doesn’t look like one but it’s decent. Visit Zagreb during Xmas, they have the best Xmas Advent! Sali island is amazing for those incredible cliffs (my favorite trip so far). See pictures in my former posts.
8. School is easy but still serious. I had friends that failed exams and others that passed everything. I was, thank God, in the second category. School is not that difficult, especially for Economics students, but you still need to do your projects, presentations and homeworks on time. Teachers are generally OK and they tend to help you whenever you ask for help and you can actually learn a lot from them. My only bad experience was with the Business Organization teacher, who, for some reason, made some unjustified actions regarding my final examination. In the end, everything was OK though I strongly recommend you to avoid his class unless you want to experience what I did and trust me, you won’t like it. Overall, school here is great and you can learn a lot! The library is not that rich though, they don’t have a lot of publications in English but you can find some resourceful books that will help you with your studies.
9. ESN events are fun. If you had an Erasmus experience before (especially in a big city) you might be a bit disappointed by ESN in Zadar. They are nice kids but sadly they don’t organize enough events and some trips might get cancelled for different reasons. Overall, I enjoyed the majority of events that I attended and given the fact that ESN was recently founded here, they still need to develop more, hence they will surely improve. 👔 Some members of the ESN proved to be quite unfriendly and weird but some of them proved to be really nice and I’m happy I had the chance to meet them.
10. Explore the city. As I mentioned previously on my blog, I love to wonder around and to get lost on random streets on the peninsula. Zadar is small but still an amazing city. Take long walks, discover stuff, enjoy everything this city has to offer (restaurants, parks, museums, landscapes etc). I promise you will be surprised each time!
Overall, these were my suggestions and If I knew these before coming here, my experience would have surely improved. If you still have any questions, feel free to contact me or comment on this post. Enjoy your Erasmus in Zadar! 😊