„The possibilities of studying abroad is not well-presented and people generally believe that it’s all too expensive and unavailable.“

Sara Mandić gaduated in 2014 in Vladimir Prelog Science School after that she enrolled in the Faculty of Pharmacy and Biochemistry in Zagreb is studying after one year attending she stopped and moved to Netherlands. Where she studies Applied chemistry  in Hogeschool Zeeland-HZ University of Vlissingen.

As ambassador of  HZ University she presented her’s faculty for the students of  Vladimir Prelog Science School. Encouraged by the given presentation we decided to visit the HZ University and see the advantages of studying in Netherlands. After gathering all neccessary information we headed to Vlissingen for Open Days of HZ University. In city of Vlissingen we spent three interesting and amazing days  from 7th to 9th April. Vlissingen is predominately student inhibited place that offers budget-friendly living and beautiful and relaxing beaches.

The college itself feels very much like home and gathers many students of different nationalities. It is an Applied Science and Business college so students spend a lot of their time doing projects and gaining actual work experience. It has a lot of different courses and programmes taught in English: International Business and Management Studies, International Business and Languages, Vitality and Tourism Management, Chemistry, Civil Engineering, Industrial Engineering and Management, Water Management, Logistics Engineering.

Sara answered some of the questions regarding her experience studying abroad.

Why did you decide to study at this university, what was the main reason to enroll in the HZ University?
The main reasons I applied for the HZ is because they spend a lot of time doing experiments in their labs. Of 4 years of college, a year and a half is exclusively practice at different companies or at other universities. In addition, I could’ve started studying as a second-year instead of starting from scratch, but I refused it because of the opportunity to join the ASTP (Analytical Sciences Talent Program), which is only possible in the first year. This is an additional program lasting 3 years and offering additional knowledge of analytical chemistry.

How do you feel studying at HZ University and what kind of the relationship is between professors and students?
At HZ there is a very relaxed atmosphere, mostly due to the small groups in which lectures are held (about 30 students per lecture). Such a way of lectures enables better collaboration between professors and students and a more personal approach. Relations between professors and students are good, but not as formal as in Croatia. For example, here most of the professors are addressed by the name, and the professors mostly know all students by their names too.
Did Vladimir Prelog Science School  prepare you well for the faculty?
Yes, I would say that. After studying chemistry and doing a lot of labwork, I was able to be quicker and more efficient in lab than the rest of my group.
Since all the lectures in English, did you have any problems?
In my ex school I had two English teachers, teacher Štruklec and teacher Katičić. Both teachers  insisted on speaking exclusively English in their classes, so listening to English lectures was not a problem, nor was it new to me. In addition, I find it is a lot easier for me to pass a standardized English exam than for those who had spoken English at high school only occasionally.

We know that you have actively participated in the international Comenius  school project “Eurobike”. Did your participateing in „Eurobike“ gave you opportunity to gain experience and knowledge about the values ​​of the European Society? Did it contribute to your decision of studying outside Croatia?
In a way it did. If I did not meet all the people involved in the project I would think that the ​​leaving abroad, in the unknown, would be far more terrifying.

Can you list benefits that you have gained from the project “Eurobike”?
Long lasting friendships are one of the biggest benefits. I also get to know different cultures, experienced an appreciation of differencies, learned a lot about organization and communication. Of course, it is not a lie that all the project participants offered accommodation in case someone decides to travel. 😉
What is your personal opinion about the education system in the Netherlands compared to the Croatian?
Initially, the Dutch system was very strange because it had grades 1-10 and had much more levels and divisions than secondary school types. Because of this, in the first year, all international students had very big differences in knowledge compared to the Netherlands. Maths for example was easy for me but for some students from other countries it was really hard. Generally I believe that, like our system, the Dutch one has its advantages and disadvantages.

What is typical for the Dutch society and how is it regulated? Which are its basic social values?
The Dutch society, at least in my opinion, appreciates the diversity of the population’s culture. A large number of foreigners can be immediately noticed, but until now I have never seen any condemnation or other behaviour towards immigrants. Work and effort is highly valued there.

What are the differences in the mentality and lifestyle of the Dutch over the Croats? What kind of people are they, do they respect other cultures, and what is their relationship with strangers?
As for the mentality, the differences are great, especially in accepting those who are different no matter their religion, nationality, skin colour, sexual orientation or anything. In addition, they are very direct and loud in expressing their opinions so they sometimes seem to be a bit agressive, but in fact it’s just their way of expression.

Can you list some similarities of your faculty and the Faculty of Pharmacy in Zagreb?
The faculties are actually quite similar, probably due to the Bologna system. At both faculties, a lot of time is devoted to the lab, but in my university every semester is increasingly devoted to practicality because it is a faculty of applied science.

What do you plan after graduation? Do you think about returning to Croatia?
I’m not planning to go back to Croatia. I would like to continue my studies, but I’m not sure in which country.

Do you consider that Croatia’s membership in the EU has brought many opportunities (benefits) to young people in Croatia especially for education ?
Definitely, more options are available, at a fairly more affordable price than a few years ago. It automatically means that getting to know other cultures is easier.

Do you believe that young people in Croatia are well informed about the possibilities of studying in European countries?
Unfortunately, the possibilities of studying abroad is not well-presented and people generally believe that it’s all too expensive and unavailable.

Do you have any advice for students planning to study abroad?
Just tell them to try and that they have nothing to fear because it’s really a very good experience.

Is there anything that you would “transfer” from the Netherlands to Croatia and vice versa?
In Croatia I would translate tolerance to diversity and not being afraid to express your own opinion because someone would attack you for that. Moreover, I think both countries are special in their own way.


Marko Milas, Helena Gadžo, Lara Šafar Godinić