Discovering Croatia

March 29, 2017

This post is from our official student blogger, Sarah Al-Arshani. Sarah is from the University of Connecticut, and is a Communications and Journalism Major studying in Dubrovnik, Croatia.

When I signed up to spend a semester in Dubrovnik, no one told me I would be living right by a movie set. Every day as I make my way to class, I pass by the construction on the new Robinhood movie, and I can’t say I’m bothered by it. Who knows, I might even run into Leo DiCaprio once production actually starts.

However, that hasn’t been the only bright side of living in Old Town Dubrovnik for the past two weeks. I’m definitely not missing out on the giant snowfall besieging my hometown at the moment. The beach view is incomparable to shoveling your car out of a foot of snow.

Beyond the scenery, adjusting to a new home in Croatia has been quite a culture shock and emotional rollercoaster, to say the least. On arrival, I couldn’t help but feel excited and fascinated with everything that was different. The climate here seemed so relaxed. Everyone appears to calmly go about enjoying their day. It wasn’t the same rushed and stressful climate that tends to cloud metropolitan areas in the US. Since it’s currently the off season in Croatia, most shops and restaurants won’t open until next month when the tourist season starts. There’s such a calm vibe walking through an empty Stradun (main street) at night and seeing people enjoying the cool climate.

Another positive difference is definitely the cuisine. My daily routine always involves a stop to the bakery for some breakfast pastries. Burek, a cheese stuffed bread is by far my favorite bakery item. Coffee shops are quite a different story here, as well. Most US coffee shops are to-go. Let’s face it, most of us go to a Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts, order a venti iced coffee and drag it along with us throughout our day. I quickly learned that coffee shops in Dubrovnik serve a different purpose. If someone invites you to grab coffee with them, it usually involves a very small, but a rich cup of coffee and at least an hour long conversation. Coffee shops here are more of a social setting meant for people to talk and socialize. It’s also very rare to find an iced coffee on the menu, even in the most touristy part of town.

As I start to get used to my daily routine, I can’t help but feel a little homesick. Not in the sense that I’m ready to head back home because let’s face it, nothing is worth shoveling a foot of snow. However, I can’t help but wonder what this experience would be like if I was sharing it with those closest to me, or what I would be doing if I were back at home. I think a part of that feeling has to do with how surreal it is to be living in this beautiful country. I’m not really sure when it will sink in that this is home, but until it does, I’ll continue to get lost through the narrow streets of Old Town and enjoy the sunset every day.

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