My Joyride at RIT

By Lena Al-Hajji

Tuesday, September 18th, 2018   

 "Our experiences are what distinguishes us from the rest,” is the quote I live by. Growing up in the United States, then moving to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates to study abroad, really allowed me to learn about a variety of different cultures, languages, and traditions, all while growing as a person. Studying abroad really gives an individual the opportunity to discover themselves, gain an understanding of a distinguished culture, and it allows students to become the explorers of their new nation. The personal development and even the life experience of studying abroad is a dream for most people, and I am so blessed to have had this dream become a reality.

My name is Lena Al-Hajji, and I am an eighteen-year-old girl with a variety of hopes and dreams. I am a girl who enjoys shooting for the stars, and I always dare to succeed in whatever I do. During my high school years, studying in Dubai, I was able to get involved with people from all different backgrounds. Being an extrovert, I enjoy conversing with people wherever and whenever, and when I noticed that the local language in Dubai was Arabic, I was determined to learn it. I am now fluent in Arabic. Conversing with people in this newly learned language really allowed me to get out of my shell.  Studying in a foreign country like Dubai really brought out my independent nature, and allowed me to test my ability to adapt to diverse situations and solve problems of any kind. I believe that studying abroad is the most refreshing change in my life and character.

During my senior year, I decided that I wanted to strive for another opportunity. Another fresh start at learning new things in a new environment. That opportunity was studying abroad for university. Browsing through universities, and trying to decide where I was destined to be, was definitely a hassle. I spent hours on end eagerly trying to find the most culturally tempting university in an exotic location. After lots of struggling, I then decided that RIT’s global campus RIT Croatia, which is in the European Union, would be the perfect fit. RIT Croatia is located in Croatia and has two campuses – one in Zagreb, the capitol and the other in a very popular tourist destination – Dubrovnik. My decision stemmed from a phone call that I had with my sister, Dena Al-Hajji, who is now a senior at RIT. "RIT is the perfect fit for you, and I know you’ll love Zagreb,” she said. After our phone call, I decided to research as much as I possibly could about RIT, and even Croatia as a country itself. Scrolling through the pictures of Zagreb, I could almost see myself living there and walking on the streets of the popular Ban Jelačić Square, which is the center of Zagreb’s social life. Visiting RIT’s site, I was able to see a variety of different activities the university has to offer in Croatia, along with the pictures, and the students within the pictures seemed to be glistening with joy. I could immediately feel a sense of "togetherness” just by watching the 2017 Freshman Orientation video, and reading about the clubs and volunteer work that RIT has to offer. RIT definitely looked like a fun, positive, and friendly environment. An environment I definitely wanted to become a part of. I couldn’t wait to start my application.

Filling out my application, and submitting the required paperwork, was definitely a no-brainer. In fact, the admission department was so kind and helpful and were always prepared to assist me with any potential hardships along the way. They led me through every step, and they were always replying to me right on the spot. In addition to that, I could already feel a positive vibe through the email interaction the staff had with me, and just then, I knew that I had absolutely no regrets applying here. After a few months, I received my acceptance form, along with a scholarship, and I was definitely enthusiastic! I couldn’t believe I got accepted into where I wanted! I was head over heels excited, and I couldn't wait to move to Zagreb and start my classes.

After a couple of months, I was packed and ready to go. Ticket in my hand, kissing my parents goodbye, and the vision of a new adventure. I was ready to leave the UAE and fly out for a new opportunity. The flight was a pretty long flight, but in hindsight, it was well worth it. After I landed, gathered my things, and made it out of the airport, I was ready to discover! As my sister and I rode in a car, I couldn’t help noticing how beautiful Zagreb was with its scenic view. The grass so green and fresh that I could just lay on it for hours! As we drove on and on, we eventually approached the city and I could feel a sense of delight. Walking down the city streets, and spotting a bunch of artifacts, I immediately got the sense of historical richness. Another very appealing aspect of Zagreb is that the public transportation is well organized and you can easily get from point A to B without the assistance of a car. The trams and buses in Zagreb take you wherever you need and there is a variety of specific pick up timings. With its unique blend of medieval tours, palaces, and markets, Zagreb is definitely a perfect city to explore. It’s the heart of Croatia’s culture and I just can’t get enough of it. I have been here for a month so far and there is still so much I want to see! I definitely enjoy the lifestyle here in Zagreb. The prices are very affordable, the transportation makes it so easy for me to get around and discover, and the people are just so kind and helpful. I was so blessed to have the opportunity to move here and study at RIT Croatia.

Starting RIT was definitely a very memorable day in my life. Walking into the building, and immediately feeling comfortable and safe in a new environment isn’t something every school has. The happy music playing in the building, the people so welcoming and friendly, and even the decorative hallways, with its pictures and motivating quotes all over definitely played a huge role in allowing students, such as myself, to feel at home and at ease. In addition, the staff at RIT Croatia are friendly and approachable. They always care to stop you and converse with you, as well as assisting you in any way possible, even if it’s just with a simple question like "where’s the restroom?” They will always get out of their chair with a smile and help you out. Every class is an enjoyable one, as the professors at the campus always have a fun and sociable way of making the study material easy, and they also make sure to provide you with a ton of resources and study material that may come in handy. They certainly guide you with every new thing you learn, so you can’t go wrong. Getting around campus is definitely easy, especially since the classes are really close to each other. Near the campus facility, you can find a mall, which is only a short walk away, a supermarket, café’s, and even stores for the convenience of the students. It’s safe to say that RIT definitely has an immensely convenient location. As the days passed, I developed some heartwarming friendships and tight bonds with the students at RIT Croatia, and we always make plans to go out together as there’s so much to do in Zagreb. RIT Croatia may be a small campus, but it’s a campus full of positive vibes, peace, and it’s an open community to all students, making it easy for students to approach and converse with other students. RIT also offers a variety of activities, such as an outdoor BBQ, a party, and even clubs to help students balance between a fun and educational lifestyle.  RIT definitely has a vibrant sense of togetherness, and I couldn’t have been happier becoming a part of this family.

I originally chose RIT Croatia because it offered a great curriculum for my chosen major, the faculty is incredible, and you have access to two different degrees, a Croatian one and an American one. Also, at RIT, you can get an incredible advantage of studying abroad in several different campus locations for a semester. Additionally, at RIT, the emphasis on the diversity of the student body can be seen through the multinational students that are attending, so it’s a great way to learn and interact with different cultural and ethnic groups. RIT gives you the motivation to study and work hard. The collaboration between the faculty and students, the sense of a community, and the exciting opportunities RIT offers is the reason why every foreign student should definitely consider it as a university option. Once you become a part of the RIT community, you’re a part of something very special. You won’t regret it. RIT is the place for you!


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