Study abroad in Zadar, Croatia

Posted by: Students Worldwide

Published on: 10/09/2021

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A Student’s guide to Croatia (from the skies)

 

Croatia. One of the most underrated nations in Europe. It doesn’t tend to be the first name that comes to mind when considering studying abroad, or even holidays for that matter. Especially considering its surrounding countries. But this nation really provides an experience like no other.

 

 

Everything from the culture, the landscape, the people, and the ambiance, was unlike anywhere else I have visited and I like to consider myself well-travelled. Here’s a student pilots guide to Hrvatska (Croatia)…

 

 

I’ve always had the travel bug, and my profession exemplified this. I found myself in a situation back in March 2021 whereby the UK was in a full fledge lockdown, and my pilot course being such a practical course, basically was brought to a standstill until social distancing was relaxed. But the beauty of my course and future profession meant I saw this as an opportunity to finally study abroad and experience what Croatia had to really offer.

It was there and then me and a friend of mine started researching flight schools and courses in Croatia, and managed to very easily found one located on the Coastal City of Zadar. A name we’d never heard before as it would often be overshadowed by the likes of Split, Zagreb, and Dubrovnik. But this was set to become our new home for the summer!

 

 

Travelling in the midst of a global pandemic was by no means easy! It started off by first attaining a letter from my university, verifying my student status, and “reason to travel” as, leisurely travel was not yet open from the UK. Also, as I had only received a single dose of the Covid vaccine, I had to undertake PCR test 48 hours prior to travel, as well as filling out a declaration form on the Croatian Immigration website which was straight forward. As a UK citizen, I did not require a visa for this trip. After this, the hunt for accommodation began. Due to the duration of our trip being 2 months, it was too short to rent a place, and too long for a hotel stay. Before we knew it, we were on the first flight of the year out to Zadar, Croatia that year on 1st June 2021.

 

 

AirBnB therefore, was our best bet. And finding an apartment was very simple as a result. We managed to pick an apartment right in the middle of the Old Town of Zadar, which is located on a small peninsula connected by a footbridge to the rest of the city and is the lively part of the otherwise quiet and small city.

 

 

And boy oh boy did our AirBnB not disappoint. The apartment was recently renovated, in a small gated neighbourhood, and was surrounded by other apartments listed on AirBnBs. I would highly recommend booking through AirBnB for a longer stay duration such as a semester as this allows more leeway to negotiate with hosts.

The social life scene to begin with was practically non-existent, even in the Old Town, as tourism just hadn’t kicked off yet. But, surely enough, mid-June it started. And as the saying goes, when it rains… It pours! Frequent daily international flights brought in heaps of tourists from all over the world, mainly central Europe, all ready to enjoy themselves. My trip also happen to coincide with the Euro 2020 Football Tournament. And trust me when I say Croatians take their football very seriously. The entire country would come to a halt when their team set foot on the pitch. All the bars and restaurants would have TVs out and crowds would gather in their jerseys ready to watch the game unfold. To get a table even remotely close to the action, you had to be there at least an hour before kick-off. It is very lively when they do win a game though so just be ready to watch fans parade the streets in celebration.

 

 

In terms of other nightlife, Zadar only had a handful of clubs and bars that were open and operational. Only one in night club and one reasonably sized bar were open. Both in Old Town right next to the university. But severely restricted at the time we visited due to Covid regulations. Having to close early, be open air, and around mid-July only allowing those who are fully vaccinated onto the dancefloor. Shisha bars were also far and few. Split on the other hand was the go to city for nightlife as I came to discover having spoken to the locals and visiting for a day myself!

Coffee culture is big in Croatia much like its Balkan neighbours. But not like it’s Western counterpart. The concept of “grab and go” coffee shops is unheard of. The likes of Starbucks, Costa, etc. are limited to Zagreb. The culture is more so to have a coffee in the evening after the mid-day heat has passed, to sit in the coffee shop for a number of hours, be it with a newspaper, or friends. And having multiple refills of coffee.

I had the liberty of flying all over Croatia and really immersing myself in the different regions. Flying to Pula, Rjieka, Dubrovnik, Split, Cakovec, even Portoroz in Slovenia, and Ancona in Italy! But in my downtime I visited some of the breath taking national parks Croatia had to offer. Namely Krka waterfalls, and Plitvitza lakes. There are organised tour companies that exist who have pre-planned excursions for these parks, or buses from almost all cities connect the National Parks to the rest of the country. They do require a bit of prior planning such as finding bus timetables and booking tickets in advance. Not to mention checking the weather as it loves to change drastically due to the coastal and mountainous climate.

The pictures really don’t do them justice. But are some anyways:

 

 

(Perfect example of how the weather went from cloudy and rainy, to sunny within a matter of a few hours).

 

My favourite part of my studying abroad was flying to Italy from Zadar, flying as Pilot-In-Command entirely over the Adriatic Sea at 6000’, it was a unique experience like no other. As with any flight, it posed its challenges, but was by far the most rewarding feeling to touch down in a completely different country knowing I flew there myself.

 

 

 

Top tips:

 

  1. 1. Always carry cash – Although Croatia is a relatively modern economy, not everywhere will accept card payments! It’s always a good idea to keep some of their local currency (Croatian Kuna), and some Euros (informally accepted almost everywhere) in your pocket. That being said, most places accept MasterCard, VISA, Amex, and Maestro… Just be sure to ask beforehand. I used my dedicated travel debit cards by Monzo (for MasterCard) and TransferWise (for VISA) to make sure I got the best exchange rate on all purchases and avoid excess fees. Always pay for things in the local currency too.

 

  1. 2. Learn a few basic works of Croatian – English is widely spoken by the majority of the diaspora, particularly students and young individuals. But learning even the basic greetings can really help you go the extra mile with the locals. They are a very homogenous culture, but are very welcoming to tourists especially post pandemic.

 

  1. 3. Croatians do things at a far slower pace – Just like the coffee shop example, Croatians are very chilled back with their lifestyle. The majority of shops and restaurants either open after the mid-day heat, or have an extended lunch break. Be wary of this especially when dealing with official offices like the Post Office, Visa offices, and Tourism Info centres etc.

 

  1. 4. The locals take their sports very serious – Be it football, basketball, the Olympics, everyone is very invested in their sports teams. Expect the city and country to come to a halt if they’re on the world stage, and grab a table well in time if you want to join in.

 

  1. 5. Homesickness is very real – Being away from home in a completely foreign country is more than just a culture shock. And it is okay to miss home too, I know I very much did especially when it came to food and drink as the Croatians are heavy on seafood and the concept of English Tea was a myth to them. But watching England vs. Croatia, talking about being from the most metropolitan city in the world to the locals, mingling with tourists, and calls back home will help overcome this feeling.

 

Credit – Momain Ahmad

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