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Dear future international student teacher,
First of all, congratulations on taking the leap to embark on this exciting, unique adventure! You will leave the United States with an open mind, curiosity, and endless questions; you will return with an overflowing heart, a more diverse perspective on teaching and living, some answers, and more questions. Student teaching abroad pushes you to think outside everything that you have learned about teaching: what is the “right” way to teach and be with students, and what you wish the United States might do differently.
The first few weeks, culture shock will hit hard. You will be surrounded by café bars and bakeries selling fresh pastries. Get a pastry on your first day! Your life will never be the same (I highly recommend the chocolate croissants). You’ll realize how Croatians take things slow, enjoying four-hour-long conversations over just one shot of espresso. You’ll struggle to learn Croatian, a language that is moons away from English, so you’ll practice whispering street names under your breath to learn pronunciation.
You’ll be shocked to hear your school day ends at 12:30 and think, “how can I ever go back?”. You’ll question everything your teachers do in the school, but then remind yourself to remain objective and learn about cultural differences with grace. You’ll build relationships with students (who will always struggle to remember your name) that are special and heartbreaking to let go of. You’ll pinch yourself everyday on your walk to school, even as it begins to feel “normal.”
Before you pack your suitcase, keep these tips in mind:
Now, we’ll get into the part you read this letter for: the food and cultural experiences. First, if you are not a coffee drinker, you will convert while you are here. Coffee is central to Croatian culture, and is a common avenue for conversation or reconnecting with friends and colleagues. My mom –a strict mocha drinker– and Jane –previously tolerant of coffee– now gladly enjoy cappuccinos and lattes (with sugar, of course. . .they have to start somewhere).
Some of our go-to coffee places include:
Outside of coffee, I have two dinner places to recommend: one for pasta and one for traditional Croatian food.
On the afternoons –after drinking delicious coffee and filling up on savory pasta– visit one of the many museums in Zagreb! It is unbelievable to think of the kinds of museums they have here, including the Museum of Broken Relationships, the Museum of Hangovers, and the Chocolate Museum. Each of these are a good time! There isn’t any other city with these oddly specific museums. . .it helps give Zagreb its charm.
There are many other things I could ramble on about Zagreb, but I’ll leave that for you to discover. Take advantage of your free time to get out, walk, explore, and be present in a different city! It is a once in a lifetime opportunity, so treat it as such. I’ll end this letter with a message my dad told me everyday in elementary school: “Have fun, learn a lot, and ask good questions!”.
With love from Zagreb,
Previous post: A journal entry from Croatia
I was surprised to find how quickly six weeks flew by. It still feels like yesterday when I first arrived in Zagreb, tried my first pastry, and ate my first Croatian meal.
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Meghan Hesterman (she/her) is a child advocate and education blogger. While a student at the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD), she created Journal of a Future Teacher to share her journey in becoming an early childhood teacher.