One of many photographs taken by Sebastian Angelini during his semester in Croatia.
Over the years St. Thomas University (STU) has hosted many students from other countries via its international exchange program, but this past fall was the first time STU students participated in the semester-long program with STU’s partner university Zagreb School of Economics and Management (ZSEM) in Croatia.
Business majors Roy Kim, 22, and Sebastian Angelini, 21, spent an unforgettable semester exploring, learning, and country hopping throughout Europe. They immersed themselves in different cultures, traditions, and foods all while receiving a top-notch education and transferable credits.
Throughout the semester they were students, but also explorers creating unforgettable memories and friendships. For STU senior Roy, one of the biggest shocks he experienced was not one relating to culture, but beauty.
“The people of Croatia were just absolutely beautiful – inside and out,” Roy said. “They were something out of the movies you watched as a kid. They reminded me of princess and princes, and they were all so kind and willing to help.”
Sebastian, also a senior, said his biggest shock was the scenery.
“Before arriving in Croatia, I didn’t really know much about the country – other than what I read and pictures I saw on the internet – so everything was surprising, but in a good way,” said Sebastian. “The landscape was picturesque with mountains, forests, and beaches, and the people were very welcoming.”
Both Roy and Sebastian lived in separate apartments within walking distance of the university. Roy lived alone, and Sebastian roomed with a French roommate, which he found on a Facebook page opened by previous exchange students to facilitate living situations and the transition into a foreign country.
In the classroom things weren’t much different than their classes at STU. Mostly everyone their age spoke English, and when they came across a non-English speaker they’d use hand gestures or Google translate to communicate.
“My classmates were from all over the world, and the professors are amazing teachers and were very accessible,” said Roy. “I’m still in contact with my professors, it’s an amazing relationship in which I’m still learning from them.”
Although they were learning a lot in the classroom, they were also learning outside of the classroom. When they weren’t in class or studying for exams, Roy and Sebastian were getting into adventures around Europe. On the weekends they would country hop - go to nearby countries and explore - or explore Croatia. They traveled to different cities throughout Croatia, and to surrounding countries: Spain, Italy, Netherlands, Slovenia, Hungary, France, Bosnia, and to Germany for Octoberfest.
“When you travel you meet different people, and see amazing things,” said Sebastian. “You learn a lot about yourself, your friends, different cultures, and about the places you’re visiting,” said Sebastian. “That’s not something that can be taught during a lecture or in a book.”
STU and ZSEM have an academic exchange agreement where both institutions can offer both graduate and undergraduate students an opportunity to do part of their studies at each other’s campuses. Both Roy and Sebastian say it’s one of STU’s hidden gems, and more students should take part in it.
“Take a chance, and just do it,” said Sebastian. “It’s an opportunity to meet people from all over the world and create memorable, epic experiences.”
For more information about the STU/ZSEMS exchange program, please contact Judith Bachay, email@example.com.