Jonah, outbound to Croatia

Has it really been two months since I arrived in Croatia?! Since my arrival in what I consider to be my new home, I’ve had some of the best experiences of my life. Why don’t I get started?

Compared to my first month in this beautiful country, things have gotten better. To start, I have definitely improved my language skills. For instance, I am now able to hold a basic conversation from beginning to end with only minor mistakes. And, on a good day, I can navigate through an intermediate discussion. In my opinion, the most frustrating part of exchange has been the language barrier, especially when I hear my name being thrown around in a foreign conversation. It goes a bit like this... Ja sam iznenađen da ste prevođenje ovo, Jonah, ako što prevedeno to, onda to nema smisla. Confusing, right?

Since my last journal, there have been many changes in my weekly schedule, with the biggest change being school, Prva Gimnazia Varaždin. School starts at 7:30, however, I must wake up around 5:30 in order to catch the 50 minute train ride to my school. At school, I am enrolled in over 15 separate subjects, some of which are history of art, ethics, Latin, and English (my personal favorite). My school also offers the students a free period, giving us time to grab something to eat, get coffee, and hang out. The students follow a weekly schedule that distributes necessary subjects to each class. For example, my class has English, art, and Latin on Monday, and gym, geography, and math on Tuesday. Subjects are different lengths in order to fill our 7 hour school day. School ends at 2:15, giving me just enough time to take a train back home.

Honestly, I love going to school. My class, consisting of the same 23 Croatian teenagers, is the main reason. As opposed to schooling in America, Croatia puts together a class of around 25 kids and keeps them together for the entirety of school, meaning, if you don’t like someone in your class, get over it. The classmates spend 8 years with each other in primary school, and 4 years together in high school. Anyway, my classmates are the reason I have such a great experience in Croatia. My classmates and I are friends as well as colleagues in school, we can have fun together and still get work done.

My class is my main source of Croatian too. Everyone speaks English in my class as well as Croatian, giving me an opportunity to improve my translation. However, like many other exchange students, my classmates filled my vocabulary with Croatian curses, swears, and vulgar expressions within the first few weeks. And, to express my appreciation, I help them with their English. In fact, in English class we read my Rotary journals. Shoutout to Razred 2.D (my class, if you were curious).

Outside of school, I hang out with a few friends, but there isn’t much to do in a village in the middle of nowhere. I also like to be with other exchange students on the weekends. The majority of exchange students in Croatia live in the capital Zagreb. Zagreb is about an hour and a half away from Donji Kraljevec, my village, and we enjoy meeting up and going out to eat in the city. The exchange students and I have been on a few trips with Rotary too.

One weekend, we took a bus to Plitvice Lakes and hiked around for a bit, and the next day, drove to an old castle to take a look around. More recently though, we had a barbecue with Rotary. We ate tons of meats, pastries, and soups, and afterwards, got to listen to authentic Croatian music. All in all, every Rotary event has been a blast!

On a more serious note, I can definitely tell that I am changing in Croatia. Not just my attitude, however, my emotional stability, general outlook, and behavior are all improving with every day I spend in this fantastic place. I feel much more comfortable than when I first got here too. I am able to stay calm around stressful situations, and I am talking with many more people the longer I stay in Croatia. Rotary Youth Exchange is a once in a lifetime opportunity and I hope to take full advantage of this unique experience.

To wrap things up, I want to thank Rotary. Thank you for this wonderful opportunity, and thanks for all your hard work to make it possible. Hopefully my year abroad won’t pass me by too quickly, and give me enough time to fully appreciate this phenomenal country. In my opinion, the most relatable expression to an exchange student was said by Andy Dwyer from Parks and Recreation, “I have no idea what I’m doing, but I know I’m doing it really, really well”. Well, so much for me maturing while in Croatia. Doviđenja!

To see my home page and some photos click HERE