One More Week

Yes, you’re reading the title correctly.  As of today, I have a week until I board my plane at 7:30 am, destined for Frankfurt, Germany.  Six full days.  Six full days left in the country I’ve fallen in love with, six full days left with my amazing host families, my best friends, and my favorite food in the world.  I will only take bus 227 home six more times, I will only walk through the main square six more times, I will only have this beautiful city at my disposal for six more days.

And after that, there will be no more meetings at the horse, mornings spent in McDonald’s, afternoons spent at a park, evenings spent in a cafe bar, or nights spent out with my closest friends.  No more of my broken Croatian, no more bakeries, no more chasing after buses and trams, no more Zara and Bershka and Mango and H&M impromptu shopping sprees (although I’m sure my mom is more than happy about that), no more burek or cevapi or knedle, no more Skype calls to my friends and parents at home, no more strange encounters on public transportation.  I won’t be surrounded by beautiful architecture anymore, I won’t spend hours by myself walking through my city and just appreciating its beauty, I won’t stand in upper town at night and look down at all the city lights, I won’t go to the roof of Hotel Dubrovnik and see for miles around me; I’ll be back to my tiny little town in Nowhere, USA.

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss Burlington; I do, I really do.  I miss my family and friends and dogs and school and ENGLISH.  But it’s so hard to want to go back to a place like Burlington once you’ve lived in a place like Zagreb.  My exchange may not have been the most glamorous- I didn’t go to the wildest parties or make the most friends or travel to the most countries- but to me, it was perfect.  I had hardships and so many down points; but those were always defeated by the countless ups.  Every time I start thinking about leaving, memories I’d forgotten about come back to me.  Rainy afternoons spent looking down at the main square in Ritam Grada, picnics in one of Zagreb’s hidden parks, discoveries made by taking sketchy paths through woods, hotel room parties, and hundreds, if not thousands, of inside jokes with Broatians.

I’ve spent every day of the past few weeks trying to live my life here to the fullest.  I’ve come home late and tired every night and spent considerable amounts of money and gotten caught in thunderstorms more than a few times, but it’s more than worth it.  I love my life here and I have no idea how I’m going to let this go.

Thank you to my real family, for letting me go on this crazy adventure, to my host families, for treating me like their own daughter and always looking out for me, to my Croatian friends, for dealing with my sometimes indecipherable Croatian, to my exchange student friends, for being the most loving, accepting, salty, amazing group of people I’ve ever met, and finally, thank you to Croatia, for being such a wonderful country and allowing me to a be a part of it.

The next time you hear from me, I’ll be in North Carolina.  I’m scared and nervous and excited and happy and sad and heartbroken all at once, and more than anything, I don’t want this to end; but all good things must come to an end, and this is the end of one perfect chapter of my life, and hopefully the beginning of a new one.

All my love,
Kat/Katherine/Katarina/Roxy/Roxanne

 

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One More Week

Cheers to 8 Months Spent in Paradise

Hi everyone!  So I left off just before I went to Split to spend spring break with the wonderful Maya, so it’s been about a month now.  Split was absolutely amazing…I had seen it for a few minutes at night but obviously that didn’t do the city justice.  Although the weather was a bit cold and rainy, it was nothing I wasn’t used to and we had lots of fun anyway.  We also visited Zadar, another coastal city, famous for being home to the world’s only sea organ.

Here are some pictures from the second half of our week, spent in Zagreb.

In the beginning of April, we had our last Rotary trip, this time to Slavonija, the eastern part of Croatia.  Most of us considered it to be the best trip overall, and while at times it was a bit sketchy, we had an incredible amount of fun seeing such a history-rich area of the country.  Here are some pictures!

And, last but not least, one of my legendary, poorly edited vlogs (:

Cheers to 8 Months Spent in Paradise

3 Months Left

Long time no see again, but I’m pretty sure we’re all full aware that I’m not so great with blog posts at this point.  Obviously a lot has happened in the past two and a half months, but I can’t go into detail about all of it because, well, a lot has happened.

In the beginning of January I went on a ski trip with my first host family in Slovenia.  It was my first time skiing and besides a small incident where I thought I had lost my expensive rental skiis, it was absolutely great!  I had lessons so I learned pretty quickly but I was also way too scared to venture too far off of the baby slope because I didn’t trust myself on those things.

The week after the trip, I switched host families.  It was really hard for me to leave at first, and I cried quite a bit, but once I was in the new family I was fine.  My new host family is absolutely wonderful as well, and I couldn’t be happier.  I’m a bit further from school and the city center, but I really like the neighborhood I’m in and I don’t mind bus/tram rides at all.

I took a day trip to Rijeka, a port city & the third largest in Croatia.  I went with my host family and the exchange student that was with them before me.  We went to see the kid’s parade for maškare, which is the Croatian version of Carnival, the Christian celebration before lent.  There were these big groups of kids and each group had their own costume theme, and they would parade down and then do a little dance routine when they got to the main stage.  It was adorable and a lot of fun to watch as well!

The following weekend, two other exchange students & I went to another celebration for maškare, this time basically just a big dance party at the concert hall in Zagreb.  Of course, we didn’t realize that everyone would have on elaborate costumes, and we showed up in normal clothes, so naturally, we ran back to one of our houses and threw together last minute costumes…a cowboy, a college student, and a marathon runner.12670122_762775707190393_4310726130567376458_n

 

A few of us went to a Dinamo Zagreb game about halfway through February.  Dinamo is Zagreb’s football club, and we watched them play Rijeka’s team.  We won, 3-0!

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At the end of February, I went to Dubrovnik, one of Croatia’s most well known beachside cities, with Rotary.  We were there for 2 days and all of us completely fell in love with the city.  Our hotel was right on the sea, and of course, the second we had free time, a few of us ran to the beach, despite it only being like 60 degrees.  Sure enough, it was way too cold for us and we were running out in a matter of seconds.  We also ended up being there just in time for the Star Wars filming, so as we were walking through the city we got to see a lot of the set.  I can’t wait for the movie to come out so I can point out the fact that I was there during filming!  Before heading home that Sunday, we walked the Dubrovnik wall, which was absolutely breathtaking.  I felt like I was on a postcard.  All in all, it was a wonderful weekend and the weather held up pretty well, thank goodness!

As for more recent news, I just purchased my bus ticket to Split (yet another coastal city) for tomorrow morning to go visit another exchange student for spring break.  I’ll be there for a few days, and then we’ll head back up to Zagreb for the rest of break and meet with the rest of the exchange students so we can all hang out for a few days.  I’m excited, because I’ve never really done much for spring break before.  I’ll (hopefully) post an update in the next two weeks about my mini-vacation.

Bye!

3 Months Left

New Years

Sretna nova godina!

So it’s officially 2016 now, which feels rather odd to say, especially because it doesn’t feel like a new year.  It doesn’t even feel like Christmas has happened already, even though Zagreb is officially the most Christmas-y destination in Europe.  And with the new year comes my 4 month anniversary in Croatia, which is both a long time and a short time.  It’s a long time to go without hugging your mom or hearing your dad come home or taking your brother for ice cream or walking your dogs or having a sleepover with your friends, but yet it’s a short time to make close friends and learn a language and experience a culture and do everything you’re meant to do on exchange.  I have 6 left.  In a month, I’ll be halfway through exchange, which is scary to think about but yet exciting, because I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t miss Burlington.  No matter how many times I’ve voiced my utter hatred towards Burlington, it’s really, really difficult not to miss the place all of your fondest memories are associated with (well not all, but it isn’t like I don’t miss NYC, too).  There’s just something about having nothing to do that really makes you focus on the people you’re surrounded by, I guess.

Anyway, I updated a few days ago so there isn’t much in the way of news.   I went out for new year’s, for the first time ever, actually.  Our tradition back home is watching old home videos, crowded in the living room around the TV and trying to get the 400 year old camera to work.  This year, I went to another exchange student’s house and we went to a party at a football (yes, soccer for the Americans) club.  It was a lot of fun and I got to meet a few of Annalise’s friends, which was nice.  Of course when we got home we were absolutely exhausted, and we spent the next day lounging around and then went to Delaney’s house for a big lunch.  Today, I finally went to see Star Wars with my host family, who unfortunately I’ll be leaving in a week!  I have a lot of mixed feelings about the switch.  I’m really excited to go and meet a new family and see another way of life here, but I’m also scared because I have a nice routine here and I really like my host family.  In some ways, switching families is like starting exchange over again because you have to gain a new family’s trust, get used to a new lifestyle and learn an entirely new part of the city.  I’ll post once I move about how it all went.

Bye!

New Years

Happy Holidays!

Ugh, I probably shouldn’t even be awake right now but I can’t sleep and I figured 4am would be the best possible time to write a time consuming blog post that I’ve been putting off for 2 months.

So, lots of things happen in 2 months, as I’m sure you could’ve guessed.  First, Thanksgiving.  We had a small Thanksgiving dinner that 8 of us exchange students coordinated, along with two Rotaract members and an Interact member.  The 8 of us all cooked traditional American dishes and ate on paper plates while blasting Christmas music, because why not?  Maya stayed at my house for the weekend and we spent the morning before the dinner running around Zagreb trying to find all the ingredients we needed for our dishes: apple pie, greek salad, sweet potato fries, and mashed potatoes.   The night was fun, as it was the same night Zagreb lights its award-winning Christmas decorations around the city and so we all headed down for that and suffered through the claustrophobia.  Worth it.

My host mom and host brother also both recently had birthdays, both of which I (obviously) celebrated with them.

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Probably the highlight of this post is the weekend trip we all took to Salzburg to meet the Austrian exchange students.  Basically all of us agreed that it was a perfect weekend between the beautiful sights and the great people we had an opportunity to meet.  What can I say, exchange students always love other exchange students.  It’s hard to really put the weekend into words; all I can say was that it was way too short, I had my first Starbucks in 4 months, and I got extremely sick on the bus back home.  Hooray for vomiting into barf bags.

Christmas here was also lovely.  We celebrated on Christmas Eve moreso than Christmas day, so my host family and I had a big traditional dinner, opened presents, and then my host sister and I went out to the main square for a bit before heading to church.  On Christmas day we had another traditional meal, and I Skyped my family before going out with my host sister again.

I’ve had a wonderful holiday season so far and I hope you all have, too!

 

 

Happy Holidays!

Quick Update

Hello,
So I’ve officially lived here in Zagreb for two months. In some ways, it feels like I just stepped off the plane, and yet in others, my life back in North Carolina feels like a seperate life time. And in a way, it is. After all, you can’t be an exchange student without hearing “Exchange isn’t a year in a life, it’s a life in a year,” at least 300 times. But it’s overused because it’s true; the reason homesickness hasn’t gotten to me much is because there’s a disconnect between home and here, like an entirely different version of Katherine (Roxanne, actually) is here, and the North Carolina version is kind of on pause for ten months.

Basically, past the pretentious crap, things are a lot different here.

In my last post, I talked more about my feelings than general events. I’ll try to detail a few things that I’ve done in the past few months here that aren’t just my normal day to day.

-Went to see a da Vinci exhibit with my host family.
-Went to see the same exhibit with my class.
-Went to Plitvice, Varaždin, and Veliki Tabor for orientation weekend.
-Hiked for two hours in the rain.
-Went to a grill party in Gorščica.
-Tried Zumba.
-Went to an archaeology museum.
-Spent a lot of time on the roof of a hotel.
-Went to a modern art show with my host mom.
-Went to a neanderthal museum.
-Accidentally saw a Vatra concert.
-Went to Rotary meetings and met lots of former exchange students.
-Went into H&M and trying on the most awful clothes we could find.
-Carved my first successful pumpkin!

And some more ordinary but still different things.

-Coffees. So many coffees. With the exchange students, my class, my host sister, etc.
-Movies more often since tickets are so much cheaper.
-Countless hours spent exploring with the other exchange students.
-Countless hours spent studying Croatian.
-Countless hours spent on public transportation.
-Countless dollars spent on food…
-Countless times fallen asleep in class.

Obviously there’s lots of other things I’ve done but these are the ones I remember off the top of my head. I go out almost every day so it’s hard to keep track of everything.

This weekend in general was a lot of fun. On Friday after school, I went to an Interact club meeting (like Rotaract in other places) and met many new people about my age. On Saturday, I went out to lunch with my host family and then hung around their bar with Peri before going to the Decathlon in the park to cheer on her host mom and host sister. After that, I went for coffee and fondue with Helena, one of the girls I met at Interact. Today, I went to my host mom’s best friend’s house with my host family and spent the day there (the food was, as per usual in Croatia, amazing), and some of us ended up playing this incredibly frustrating Croatian board game. All in all, pretty great weekend. This week, I’m planning to see Annalise (we haven’t seen each other in forever and I miss her lots), go to my quarterly report meeting, take my host dog to get groomed and go to another Interact meeting. I’ll probably end up doing more but that’s the basic plan.

Also…Austria in a month!  And it’s Christmas season!  And we’re attempting to plan a mini Thanksgiving so that’s exciting too!

Quick Update

“Oh my gosh, she actually updated her blog?”

The answer to that is yes.  I’m determined not to become one of those blogs that mysteriously stops right before the highly anticipated first in-country post.  Those kinds of blogs used to make me SO frustrated, but now I totally get it.  When you’re at home, waiting for your exchange, writing blogs of everything vaguely exchange related becomes your way of actually feeling like exchange is real.  Once you’re there, it almost loses its charm.  I’ve been so busy, it’s difficult to sit down and write the megapost that I know I need to, but I also know I’ll regret it if I don’t document this year in some way.

So I’ve been here for well over a month now, and quite a lot has happened since then.  Obviously I can’t tell you every detail of every single day like I originally planned to do, but I’ll try to give a…general overview.  I’ll start with some basics.  My host family is amazing and I couldn’t be more grateful to them if I tried.  They feel like a real family and I’m so lucky to be living with them!  Yes, the food here is absolutely amazing and incredibly cheap compared to food in the USA (like, less than 50 cents to about 5 dollars is the average snack/meal price; a Happy Meal is less than $3 compared to the $4.50 in NC).  Yes, I go to language classes and yes, I am picking up the language (speaking it is much harder than understanding it).  Yes, I talk to my family almost every day and no, texting them every day does not make me homesick and does not detract from my exchange.  Yes, it is easy to spend way too much money while on exchange.  No, I’m not really homesick yet.  Yes, you do hit a bored stage about a month in.  Yes, I’m closer with the other exchange students than the locals.  And yes, I go to school entirely in Croatian.

I don’t want to have a blog post dedicated to my school classes or how often I Skype my family because I really doubt anyone cares about that, especially future exchange students.  What I will say about the family thing is, choose what’s best for you.  I know that Rotary advises you to not talk to anyone for a full month after calling to say you’ve arrived safely but in my personal experience that wouldn’t have worked for me at all.  It works much better to briefly text my parents every day and Skype them once a month.  For other people, they Skype more often or text less often or really do go no contact for a month, and that’s okay.  I know that I would be MORE homesick if I didn’t at least say hi every day, and that’s completely okay.  You do you on that.

I drink a lot more coffee.  I put a lot more effort into my appearance.  I go out a lot more often.  I spend a lot more time studying than anticipated (language, not schoolwork).  I don’t talk to my friends at home very much (they see my Snapchats and I see theirs but that’s about it).  Sometimes I feel completely frustrated and want to give up and go home.  I make stupid mistakes when speaking Croatian sometimes.  I trip up and embarrass myself.  I spend most of my time at school staring off into space because, let’s face it, no matter how much people tell you to focus, it’s not realistic to focus on a language you can’t understand for 6 hours every day.  I try to study by myself at least an hour or two per day.  I spend most of my time out with the other exchange students.  I have local friends from school that I’m grateful to for accepting me into their group and I love going out for coffees with them after school, but it’s always easier to spend time with people going through the same struggles as you.

Above all else, I’m happy.  I’m happy when I’m stuck in a crowded tram on a rainy day, happy when I have to wake up early for school, happy when my feet are getting blisters from walking so much, happy when I’m freezing because I decided to wear a skirt in the cold, happy when I spend my entire day on the couch marathoning Scandal with my host sister, and happy when I’m sitting in a cafe with Delaney or Annalise or Jannik or Jonah or Abby or Peri or Riley, sharing stories about our host families and our schools and our local friends and everything that’s come to make up our insane, hectic lives.  I wouldn’t trade this for the world.

Also, the much anticipated list of differences:
Food prices
Orange toilet paper
Lunch is the main meal of the day
Everyone shakes hands when they meet for the first time
Different ways to say “hello” to different people
People start smoking at 13/14, school has smoke breaks
People start going out at 15 or 16
No leggings in public
Always wear socks/slippers in the house
Don’t go out with wet hair
Street vendors sell corn, not hot dogs or anything
“Having a coffee” means drinking coffee for 10 minutes and then gossiping for 6 hours
School is shorter and is sometimes in the afternoon
Girls can walk alone at like 1am and not be worried for safety
A LOT less fast food.  A LOT.

Until next time,
Katherine

“Oh my gosh, she actually updated her blog?”