RIT Global Scholars - Student Stories

Everyday Adventures in Zagreb, Croatia by Marshall Hurst

My name is Marshall Hurst; I grew up in a tiny town named Vineland in Ontario, Canada. You might be wondering, "Where the heck is Vineland?" Vineland is only 17 minutes away from the Lewiston-Queenston Border to the United States. The cultures are pretty similar, just that we follow the metric system, have British-influenced words such as color with the 'U.' Fascinating, eh?

When I came to RIT, it did not feel too different in terms of my home to Rochester, but one significant thing was the massive Deaf community there is in Rochester. As the years went by, I felt something was missing, a brand new experience … so I decided to study abroad after a lot of encouragement from my friends and family members. I went to Zagreb, Croatia with two of my best friends, Noah and Joey. I had a couple of friends who went abroad to Zagreb the year before, so they gave us tips, advice, and ideas of what to expect in Zagreb. However, I told myself to expect absolutely nothing and went to Zagreb with a fresh mind and go with the flow attitude. I learned that I am instead a Type A person who likes everything in my way, but I also learned that it is excellent to go with the flow sometimes and enjoy life as it goes by - I learned that in the first weeks of living in Zagreb and adopted that mindset as the semester went on. I learned and developed my passion for travel, which resulted in me working abroad on the other side of the world in Sydney, Australia, around 16,000 miles away from home. Ever since my passion for travel has always been there, and I am glad I learned about my passion when studying abroad, as it will continue for the rest of my life.

In September 2017, we decided to go to Mt. Medvednica, the mountain right above Zagreb. We hiked to the top with beautiful views of Zagreb and, in the distance, Slovenia. We went to this small, quaint restaurant on top of the mountain and met a new friend, a 55-year old man who holds the world record for the most extended time skiing backward from the top to bottom of the mountain. This man knew no English, but we understood him through gestures, which is a big part of our daily lives as Deaf people. I am mentioning this person because he highly suggested to us to eat a specific meal by pointing at the name on the menu. What was the meal may you ask? Horse meat. Yes, I said horse meat. We were all thrown off because that is something you never find at home. We all tried it because, first of all, why not and the man highly suggested we try it. We figured it would be a great experience by tasting it. We all ordered it and ate it, which was an interesting taste - similar to a steak but more sturdy. We would have never gotten a chance to taste horse meat if we never met the man. This was one of the significant experiences of our time in Zagreb.

Before, during, and after my time in Zagreb, Croatia has truly meant a lot to me. Three years after the experience and I still think about it every day. Our daily life of waking up, eating breakfast, getting coffee from a small shop on the way to school where we often walked to, is a life I truly miss. Studying abroad made us feel so free; we did not have to worry about anything, and we could enjoy our lives in Southeastern Europe. After the semester finished and we all flew back home, we all looked back on the semester, and we all thought, "What the heck of a semester!" It was full of life-changing experiences - experiences that we all still cherish to this day.

Marshall Hurst is a graduate student studying Business Administration in the Saunders College of Business and studied abroad in Zagreb, Croatia in fall of 2017.

Where I Left My Footprint in Europe by Jesse Phelps

I did not know that I was in for an adventure of a lifetime as the airplane touched down in Zagreb, Croatia. For the first time in my life I was completely alone in a country where I did not know the language, however it would not be the last. Throughout my six weeks in Europe I left my footprint in a total of five different countries and fell in love with an aspect of every one.

Croatia was my home away from home during my stay in Europe. I quickly found myself acclimating to the culture and referring to my new apartment as ‘home’. Seeing my address on the outside of my apartment building elicited an exhausted sigh of relief as I returned from a weekend adventure. Zagreb had a fast pace in the heart of the city, and luscious parks surrounding the outskirts, which is where I liked to study. My commute to class during the week became a routine I still remember. I loved the rhythm of the city and the flow of people all determined to arrive at their destinations on time. One of my favorite places to unwind was in the center of the city at sunset. I sat watching people return from their days at work while soaking up the warm rays and listening to the gentle lapping of water. Kids often came up with a Kuna, a Croatian coin, and threw it in the fountain with their eyes closed hoping for their wish to come true.

Dubrovnik is a shore side city in Croatia that I was lucky enough to visit. I traveled back a thousand years as I climbed the stairs of the city walls and peered into the horizon. I could envision battleships charging towards the strong walls of Dubrovnik and ultimately succumbing to its power. I kayaked five miles through the Adriatic Sea encircling the old city and ventured to Lokrum Island off the coast of Dubrovnik. Watching the sunset from the peak of Mt. SRD 1,362’ in the air was one of the most peaceful experiences of my life. Overall, Croatia will always be a place I call home.

My first weekend excursion was to Budapest, Hungary. We took an overnight bus and then had to navigate the Hungarian subway system to get to our Airbnb. I always describe getting into our Airbnb like trying to win an Escape Room. The owner of the apartment had left us multiple passwords and keys and figuring out which passcode or key went where was a difficult task at 1 a.m. Budapest was easily one of my favorite destinations. After our first day of adventuring, I had become encompassed by both sectors of the city, Buda and Pest. Buda Mountain was home to the old King’s palace, called Fisherman's Bastion, and a monastery. I loved the archaic and nature-friendly feeling of Buda. While in Buda I went into a labyrinth that was supposedly home to Dracula. Pest housed the city life of Budapest as well as the Parliament building. In Pest, I relaxed after a long day in the Széchenyi Thermal Bath which is a natural hot spring. The two sectors are united by the Széchenyi Chain Bridge that runs over the Danube River. One of my favorite memories from Budapest was taking a cruise down the Danube and learning about the history of the city. At the end of our trip, I looked into how to move to Budapest in the future.

I left my next footprint in Venice, Italy. Venice’s culture welcomed me immediately. I was in awe of the Basilica Cattedrale Patriarcale di San Marco and ate breakfast while looking at the church every morning of my stay. I climbed St Mark's Campanile and was able to take in the whole city from 323’ in the air. I toured the courthouse and old prison of Venice and even walked the Bridge of Sighs that many prisoners walked in the past. I loved every second of my gondola ride through the canals of the city and ate the best food in Venice. My favorite meal was a pasta and lobster dish that had homemade noodles. On my last night in Venice, I took a ghost tour of the city and learned about its spiritual history. If presented with the opportunity, Venice and the rest of Italy are definitely on my travel bucket list.

Next, I ventured by train to Vienna, Austria. Vienna had a similar environment to an American city with tall buildings, bright lights, and bustling people. Compared to the other cities that had a much more unique architecture and relaxed tempo, Vienna reminded me of home the most. My absolute favorite day in Vienna was my day at Schönbrunn Palace. I toured the palace, reenacted prominent statues, raced through a maze, and relaxed in the botanical gardens. I also went inside the most extravagant library I have ever seen. Every wall was covered in books and the ceiling had a beautiful mural painted on it. The Hundertwasser House showed me a new type of art and taught me the power of observation. Lastly, the House of Music took me back to the classic composers, specifically Mozart who was born in Austria and taught me the science of music. If I were to go back to Vienna I would be able to find things that I missed during my first trip there.

The last leg of my adventure brought me to Munich, Germany. On the train ride, I watched rolling hills take me from Vienna to Munich. The first thing I noticed about Munich was its incredible architecture. I watched the Glockenspiel in the center of the city and felt like I was watching the ‘Welcome to Duloc’ scene from the movie Shrek when the figurines sang and danced. I ate at the notorious Hofbrauhaus and watched German band play music in lederhosen. Of all of the cities I visited, Munich definitely had the most unique culture. My favorite part of Munich was watching people surf the Eisbachwelle River. I witnessed a march for climate justice light up the city streets and felt empowered by the activists. I concluded my stay in Munich with a tour of Bayern Stadium and the best steak and potatoes dinner I have ever had. Experiencing Munich’s unique culture will always stand out to me as a highlight of my travels.

Although I like to think I left my mark on Europe through my study abroad experience, I think Europe actually left its mark on me.

After my adventure, I found I had a new sense of confidence in my abilities to thrive in new environments. I learned to act on the fly and acclimate to new surroundings quickly. Exploring Europe also made me more conscious of some of the biases Americans have. During my program, I often felt confused by the many new cultures, which made me more understanding of people from other countries who feel overwhelmed in America. As I am writing this piece and reliving my experiences, I cannot wait to get back to exploring the world.

Jesse Phelps is a Physician Assistant major in the College of Health Sciences & Technology and studied on the Summer Psychology in Croatia program in Zagreb, Croatia in summer 2019.

Summer in Zagreb by Hunter Mascia

Bok! I’m Hunter Mascia and I am a 3rd year 3D Animation major. I studied psychology in Zagreb, Croatia, at an RIT global campus. Studying abroad in Zagreb was an amazing experience! It gave me a chance to see so much of Europe! During my time abroad I was also able to go to Italy, Austria, and Germany. I was also able to see most of Croatia outside of Zagreb as well. My friends and I were able to make it to Plitvice, Split, Zadar, and Dubrovnik. While in Zagreb I also attended many festivals, museums, and attractions. Zagreb offers a lot to do. During the day you can explore the historic city, go shopping, or even go hiking. During one hiking trip, my friends and I ran into an abandoned castle! I loved trying all the food and walking through the beautiful city every week. My favorite part was all the friends I was able to make overseas! Going abroad reinstalled the hope in me that there is so much out there. It was a major confidence boost too, knowing I could go somewhere and not only survive, but thrive.

Hunter Mascia is a  Film and Animation major in the College of Imaging Arts and Sciences and studied on the Summer Psychology in Croatia program in Zagreb, Croatia in summer 2019.


Summer Psychology by Thomas Morris

How did you find out about the Psychology summer program in Croatia?

I have seen a poster on a wall at the courtyard entrance to James E. Gleason Engineering Hall.

What made you choose this particular program?

I was considering an immersion in Psychology and I like the idea of taking classes during the summer to make my remaining academic semesters a little easier. This program finished my immersion and gave me something interesting to occupy my summer.

How did you like the group?

The group was very friendly and interesting and I enjoyed my time with them.

How was the trip to Austria and Germany?

I greatly enjoyed going to Austria and Germany; plenty of time was spent walking through Vienna and Munich, seeing the stores and architecture, and getting to visit a number of museums and other attractions in Vienna.

Would you recommend it to other RIT students?

Yes, but I agree with some of the other students in the group in their opinion that it is best if the group remains relatively small. A group around fifteen to twenty in size was nice because it felt more personal and rewarding to share this experience with a few companions rather than a massive tour group. Everyone was able to meet one another and it was relatively easy to coordinate and organize ourselves into decently sized groups, or gather the entire party.

Thomas Morris studies Computer Science at the Golisano College of Computing and Information Sciences and has attended Summer Psychology in Croatia program in Zagreb, Croatia in summer 2018.