Meet Foreign Students Choosing Croatian Education: Manda Ivkic from Austria

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Among the many foreign tongues heard around the Croatian capital these days is the growing number of students choosing to do their graduate programmes in Croatia. A safe, affordable EU country, with a rapidly expanding programme of high-quality graduate courses in English, with excellent employment opportunities upon graduation, are just some of the reasons for choosing Croatia. And the quality of that education was highlighted recently, as Algebra University College signed an academic partnership agreement with Goldsmiths, University of London (as reported previously on TCN), thereby allowing Algebra students to study under the approved programmes of one of the 500 best universities in the world according to the World University Ranking.

Despite the growing excellence of English-language graduate and post-graduate education in Croatia, the opportunities are not so well known, and so TCN – in partnership with Algebra University College – has compiled an authoritative guide to what you need to know about studying in this beautiful country. Check out the Total Croatia Study in Croatia guide.

Nothing paints the real picture of studying in a foreign country better than the real experiences of students living the day-to-day reality. In a new series on TCN, we meet some of the international students who have fallen in love with Croatia, many of whom plan to stay and work here if they can find employment. We look at the realities of life, why they chose Croatia, and what advice they have for others contemplating studying in Croatia. 

Time to meet Manda Ivkic from Austria who is doing a graduate course in Specialist Graduate Professional Study Programme in Digital Marketing at Algebra University College.


1. You chose to study in Croatia. Tell us what were the main factors in that decision.

I wanted to study Digital Marketing but I wanted to do it in English. I was not able to find a Digital Marketing study program at graduate level in Austria that was 100 % in English. So, I researched other countries’ offerings and found a study program on a student portal offered by Algebra University College. At first, I thought it was a Swiss college but then I realized it is Croatian. I found some articles in Austrian newspapers about the good quality of education in Algebra and the possibility to easily find a job after graduation or even while studying. That was the main driver for my decision. As I always wanted to spend one summer in Croatia, I found it was a great opportunity to also explore Croatia and extend my network.

2. How is the experience so far? Give us some pros and cons. 

Every beginning is a bit tough when you move to another country. I think the situation with the pandemic made it more difficult than it would normally be. However, I found it very easy to integrate into university. Croatian students are very open-minded, friendly and willing to help. They helped me a lot to integrate easily in a very short period of time. There is also a WhatsApp group for international students and some local Buddies support these students. That helps us from abroad to get all questions answered by locals and also to meet new people from all over the world. So far, I enjoyed exploring Zagreb and Croatia, its culture and the lifestyle. The traffic in Zagreb is very busy compared to what I was used to and there are quite a few traffic jams. Also, some Croatian drivers are impatient and I had to learn to deal with it… There are also other aspects that are different too, but that is what you should expect when you go abroad – you want to see and experience something different – that is the reason why one travels abroad.


3. How was your perception of studying in Croatia different from the reality? Give us some things that have surprised you about the experience?

I was surprised about the amount of work students have to do on their own besides the labs, such as homework, projects etc. I don’t know if this is with all study programs but I needed some time to get used to that. However, there is something positive about that. Having to work continuously on these tasks helps students to get prepared for the exams. On the other hand, I was very positively surprised about the communication among students and between professors and students, which is open, democratic and supports dialogue and discussion. There is a huge sense of support and team spirit. I like that very much and I feel like being integrated very well and accepted by all students, local and international.

4. How easy was it to do the paperwork to enroll in the study programme? Any suggestions to improve things?

I found it very easy to do the application because everything was clearly stated and the international office was very customer-oriented. One improvement I would suggest is that the students should receive the information about the schedule for courses they take for which they should be present at college when applying. This would be helpful when thinking about job application in advance but also about the accommodation (commuting time, distance between job and college, location of accommodation etc.).


5. Tell us a little about the accommodation and the cost of living.

There are different possibilities from the student dormitory to private accommodation. Zagreb offers accommodation for every budget and you can have low, moderate or high cost accommodation as a student. If you wish to have an apartment with a great location, you will need approx. 500 EUR a month. I know that many students coming with friends share the apartments which makes sense for mates and lower the cost. In Croatia there are some great offers for students like student canteens, student transport passes with reduced prices. Almost every attraction, theater or museum offers student discounts. In my opinion, Croatia is more student-friendly than many other countries. I can recommend everyone to go on the Erasmus program and spend at least one semester abroad.

6. Finding work is a key priority for students, both to help finance the study, but also upon graduation. How hard have you found it to find work, and what are the main obstacles?

Job offers in Zagreb are good, you can find a job very easily as a student. Most of the students work while studying and there is a student center that helps with contracts, payments etc. You just need to register there as a student which required little paperwork. As there are also many companies from EU or overseas, you can even find a job offered by Austrian, German or American companies. I had a full-time job-offer with a German institute and one of my international colleagues found a job at a German company that has an office in Zagreb. There are large numbers of jobs offered for customer care specialists in different languages. Some jobs are even remote which is very convenient.


7. Tell us about the Croatian lifestyle and making friends. How has it been for you?

The Croatian lifestyle is different then what I am used to (Austrian or German). People love to spend time with friends or colleagues at bars, cafés and restaurants. They seem not to be as stressed as Western Europeans and they have a better work-life balance. It is easy to meet people and make friends in Croatia due to its welcoming culture. As an international student, you are more likely to meet students – local and from all over the world – and there are lot of things you can do together. The weather is mainly good in Croatia so it is easy to enjoy the outside activities and visit attractions, coast side or national parks and nightlife, too.

8. Do you plan to (try and) stay in Croatia when your studies finish? Why/not?

I could imagine staying in Croatia after studying for some time or for longer. It will very much depend on the situation at the time when I graduate. The main factor will be the job offerings here or abroad. Croatia offers good possibilities in the IT and digital sector but I think it is too early to think seriously about it actually due to the uncertain post covid and war situation in Europe that will affect the economies and businesses. We will see what the future is holding for us.


9. Three things you have enjoyed most about your experience studying in Croatia?

Meeting new people and making friends from Croatia, getting to know the real Croatian culture and the ability to easily travel to the seaside are three things I most enjoyed about my experience studying in Croatia. The Croatian coast is so beautiful and you can reach it in approx. 2 hours drive from Zagreb.

10. What advice do you have for people who are considering studying in Croatia?

The Mediterranean climate and the food, all the places one can visit, festivals and events one can join make Croatia a great place for studying abroad. There are many national parks around and even a ski area, Sljeme, in Zagreb. The college organizes hiking tours, sports for free and you can also join some sports competitions. Everyone can find an activity that he/ she loves. If you have ever thought about going to Croatia and if you can manage it, just do it! It is worth exploring. Although you might also experience some negative aspects or have few bad days while abroad, missing your loved once or your friends, you will most likely enjoy it much more. You will very soon learn to love the Croatian lifestyle, friendliness and welcomeness. I am very happy that I made the decision to study in Croatia. I don’t want to miss the experience!

Are you an international student on a graduate or post-graduate course in Croatia, who would like to be featured in this series? Contact us on [email protected] Subject Study. 

To learn more about the options for studying in Croatia, check out the Total Croatia Study in Croatia guide.

For more information on courses offered by Algebra University College, visit the official website.  


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