Tomomi, Outbound to Croatia

Dobar dan svima! Hi everyone! It’s been a while since my last journal so, let me catch you up.

Activities

I started school in September. I have 17 classes. That’s right, S-E-V-E-N-T-E-E-N. It’s definitely a big change from my 8 classes back in the U.S. Here’s a list of my classes: Math, Physics, Chemistry, Psychology, Biology, Art history, Film history, History, Geography, Sociology, Religion, Croatian, Spanish, English, Homeroom, Music history, P.E, and Logics. Each class is 45 minutes and we have 6-7 classes every day. There are two schedules: morning (8am-2pm) and afternoon (2pm-8pm). To be completely honest, it isn’t much fun. Since my Croatian isn’t exactly the best, I’m unable to participate. I do participate in my English and Spanish class though! I enjoy my English class because my teacher is fun! He grew up in Australia and teaches more Australian English; the students have a very slight Australian accent. My classmates speak pretty good English however, some are shy to speak it; only half of the class speaks to me. The ones who do speak to me are very nice! They are always happy to answer my questions about school, Croatian, and Croatia. Aside from school, I’ve done quite a lot of traveling! A couple days after I arrived, my host family and I drove to Austria for my host dad’s triathlon. I got to see Ljubljana (Slovenia), Graz (Austria), and Bratislava (Slovakia). It was a lot of fun and a great chance to bond with my host family! In mid-September, I went to Hrvatsko Zagorje, the Zagreb region. It was a Rotary trip so, I was able to meet the other inbounds! In the end of October, I went on a Rotary trip to Slavonija, the east region of Croatia. My host family and I went to Split and Zadar for my host dad’s marathon where I saw the Zadar Sea Organ in mid- November. I did a lot of traveling in December! Mid-December, I went to Salzburg, Austria for a rotary trip and got to meet the Austrian and Bosnian inbounds.I also saw snow for the first time! A few days later, I flew to Norway! I have a cousin who lives in Norway, so I went to visit her and her family. My aunt, uncle, and other cousin also happened to visit her, so I was able to see them as well. I had a blast! I have to say, December has been my favorite month so far. On New Year’s Day, my host family and I will be taking a 2-week trip to Seville and London! I have been very fortunate to have a host family who travels a lot. I really like my host family. They are very nice and I’m extremely grateful to have them.

Christmas

Christmas is a very big deal in Croatia! There are decorations everywhere! For the whole month of December, there is a winter festival that takes place in the Old Town and Lapad (a region in Dubrovnik). There are little kiosks lined up on Stradun, selling food and drinks. One of the foods they sell is Prikle! Prikle is the Dubrovnik word for Fritule, a Dunkin Donuts munchkin type dessert. It’s really good! Bubble waffles are also sold and they’re ukusno (delicious)! As you can probably tell, I really love Croatian food. In fact, I’ve gained about 2 kilos. On Christmas Eve, there is a big bakalar (cod) lunch because meat is forbidden. Eating Bakalar is a Dubrovnik tradition. Afterwards, everyone goes out with friends to the Old Town and some go to a midnight mass. Christmas day is reserved for family. Presents are opened in the morning. In the afternoon, there is a big lunch with the whole family. Croatian meals consist of an appetizer (bread with cheese or cold cuts), main dish, and dessert. French salad, a salad of peas, carrots, potatoes, and mayonnaise, is a traditional appetizer. For the actual meal, we eat Sarma, cabbage rolls stuffed with rice and meat, and mashed potatoes. Let me tell you, I was already full from the appetizers but Sarma looked too good to resist. Don’t even get me started on dessert. My host mom’s raspberry Swiss roll was DIVINE. Everything was delicious. I might’ve already gained a kilo or two just from Christmas.

Difficulties

Homesickness, friends, and Croatian are what I struggle with most. I miss my parents and my dog. I also miss fast food places. There are no fast food places here; it’s either you go to a restaurant or cafe. Making friends has definitely been a struggle. Making friends has never been an issue for me until I came here. I have friends in school but they’re only school friends. I never go out with them because they’re always busy. Fortunately, I became friends with a former exchange student (she went to Zagreb last year) who studies at R.I.T Dubrovnik. I have also become close friends with some of the inbounds. Unfortunately, they live very far from me, so I only get to see them on Rotary trips but, I keep in contact with them. Another struggle is Croatian. I have never encountered such a hard language such as Croatian. It is so difficult that it is starting to become unmotivating… Even though, there are difficulties, I try not to dwell over them. After all, what’s exchange without ups and downs?

Tips

1.Ask questions. Don’t be afraid to ask questions when in doubt! If I hadn’t asked about which bus to take, I would’ve ended up in a city an hour away!

2.If you are traveling with more than one bag, pack clothes in each bag. I brought 2 suitcases to Norway: a carry-on and a checked-in bag. My checked-in bag was lost on the way to Norway and coming back… Thankfully, I had some clothes in my other suitcase, so it was okay.

3.Be prepared for STAIRS. Dubrovnik= stairs. Stairs are EVERYWHERE. There is no escape.

4.Enjoy the little things. Yes, this sounds very cliché but it’s true! I love to watch the cotton candy sunsets, or the turquoise waves wash over the rocks… I could go on forever, but the point is to enjoy while it lasts.

5.Be prepared for hard times. I thought exchange was going to be like a fairytale- every day would be perfect- oh boy, was I wrong. It’s definitely harder than I thought it’d be! You will encounter problems sooner or later. It’s just how life is. An exchange year is still life so not every day will perfect. Don’t be intimidated, I know you future outbounds can handle it!

That’s all for now. Thanks for tuning in to TCT! Ćiao!

P.S. Locals in Dubrovnik are the only ones that use “ćiao”! There is a lot of Italian influence present in the language and culture.

Click HERE to read more about Tomomi and all her blogs