From: Flint, Michigan
Tiara traveled to Croatia in 2011 for one semester and studied at the Zagreb School of Economics and Management as an exchange student. Tiara was one of two students who were the first to participate in an exchange program at UM-Flint. Here is a reflection of her experience:
For my study abroad experience, I attended Zagreb School of Economics and Management (ZSEM) and took general business courses. I also took a Croatian culture and language course to assist in my transition to the new country.
The partnership with ZSEM was new and I was one of two students who decided to participate in the exchange for the first time. It was a first time for everyone, but things went smoothly and everyone, including staff members from School of Management, UMF International Center and Financial Aid, and ZSEM international office, were very helpful and willing to find additional information or resources when needed.
All of my classes were taught in English. Because there were other international students, whose 2nd language was English, some of the classes were taught at a slower pace to accommodate everyone's capabilities. The courses I took were Marketing Management, Business Communications, International Management, and Croatian Language and Culture. In classes where the majority of students were Croatian, the professor sometimes forgot that there were international students present, and either talked in Croatian, or gave examples of the Croatian economy, market, etc. to further explain. This was sometimes difficult to grasp the overall concept.
Which experience had the most impact on your personally?
As an African American, I was considered a minority in Croatia. This experience had the most impact personally. In the beginning, it was very difficult and at times scary, knowing that no one else looked like me, and that there was no one I could talk to that could relate to my feelings and what I was going through. It took a few months to get over, or used to, the stares when walking around town. Some people were really nice and helpful while others just gave you a blank stare. I'm not really sure if there was anything that I could have done different, but sure enough, by the end of my stay, I had really tough skin.
What were your expectations of the trip? How did your experience differ from your expectations?
My expectations of my study abroad experience was to really engage and interact with ZSEM students and learn more about the Croatia as a whole via museums, tours, etc. The majority of the time, I interacted with the other international students. I think there was fear on both sides and not only the Croatian students, but the international students as well, were hesitant to approach one another.
What was the biggest difference in culture that you experienced while a abroad?
I think the biggest difference in culture was getting accustomed to a more passive, laid back, and relaxed atmosphere. From the early morning to night, people were chatting in cafes and bars, and simply just hanging out without a care in the world. At first thought, it seemed like no one went to work. The U.S. is about living to work where Europe really embraces working to live.
What surprised you the most about your time abroad?
I think Croatian's passive and relaxed atmosphere shocked me the most. Sometimes, I was really bored and was in desperate need of something to do. I think being in Croatia gave me the opportunity to step back, think, relax, enjoy, and just live in the moment.
How has this experience changed you?
I think this study abroad experience has allowed me be more open-minded and relaxed about different obstacles that come my way. When it comes to frustrations or any constraints, I'm not as aggressive.
Would you recommend this program to other students?
Yes. Overall, any study abroad trip is worth the while. If you're into business, attending ZSEM would be a great opportunity. I believe the professors are really passionate about what they are teaching their students. Also, Croatia is in the process of becoming a part of the European Union and it would be a great experience to study abroad, but as well to learn and be in the midst of the changes that are about to take place.