“Croatia had caught my eye for some time, with its beautiful scenery and pictures online, but the undeserved defeat in the World Cup finals cemented my intention to visit. I believed studying in Croatia would give me the best opportunity to feel like a local and immerse myself in the culture. Zagreb was amazing. One of the cleanest and safest cities I have lived in," says Haitham Hamid from Australia, one of many students that visited Croatia this January and enjoyed his stay in our beautiful country while taking a lot of time to study and learn something new at Algebra International Winter School.
"The people were hands-down the highlight of my trip, everyone I met in Croatia was so nice and helpful. They will always be in my memories and have definitely shaped my great impression of Croatia. Don’t get me started on the food as well, one word – 'mmm'," he continues.
Haitham is not the only one who has found Zagreb and Croatia to be pleasurable destinations.
“Three weeks in January away from the dismal English winter, exploring the land of a thousand islands, of fairy tales and Game of Thrones shooting locations, while learning new technology trends at a premier educational institute and adding qualifications to my CV? Yes, I was more than interested!” explains Somdutta Sarkar, a student originally from India who is currently studying in the UK.
When Algebra started attracting international students to the Algebra University College they approached the organization of their International Summer School with immense enthusiasm and a "can do" attitude. "Little did we know that our success depended much less on us than on the overall issue of attracting international students to Croatia and proving that Croatia is a great study abroad destination," Lidija Šimrak, Algebra’s International School Project Manager, explains.
To achieve that goal, Algebra needed all Croatian institutions united and willing to invest time, resources and money in attracting brilliant and curious young minds to explore everything our country has to offer. "We are so proud that more and more Universities in Croatia realize this potential and strive in the same direction now. Each year we are getting more and more students on our short International Summer and Winter School programs, more Master students and are planning to start enrolling Bachelor students as well due to the overall interest. Our labor market is in need of educated, ambitious and creative young minds, and with enough help from the education institutions we can change the current gloomy state of things," Šimrak explains.
With one more International Winter School behind them, Algebra can certainly claim it was very successful and has checked all the boxes they hoped it will. Young people from all over the world chose Croatia as their place to be during the winter break, and chose Algebra as a place to learn something new.
There were three courses to choose from – Digital Marketing; with joint certifications by Google AdWords and Google Analytics, Cyber Security; with a focus on ethical hacking, breaking into the systems and protecting the systems from real hacking, and every industry’s new favorite; Artificial Intelligence. Considering Algebra University’s academic partnerships with companies like Microsoft, IBM, and Cisco, and the accreditation of its professional study programs by European bodies like NVAO and ASHE, it is no surprise that the winter school programs are particularly geared towards creating a digital future. Croatia, after all, is also the land of technological innovations.
When international guests representing some of the best universities in the world visit Algebra, Algebra's staff like to point out some of the key technological advances and discoveries that were made in Croatia – namely that this is a country where fingerprinting was developed into a method of identification, where the parachute was invented, where the precursor to atomic theory was nurtured, and also where Nikola Tesla was born – the man who practically invented the future.
With such a versatile group of students, the process of internationalization is just as beneficial to the lecturers. Teaching students from all over the world, getting to know them, see the way they think and how their cultural differences are overshadowed by the same interests is a reward on its own.
Maja Brkljačić was one of the lecturers on the program. She says: “What I enjoy most about teaching this program is the chance to teach foreign students. I have been working with international students for several years, both at International Winter and Summer school. I have found our students to be a lively group, always ready to chat and make jokes, but when it comes to sit down and learn I have found them focused, highly motivated and I have enjoyed their discussions greatly.”
Robert Petrunić, one of the leading Croatian IT security specialists, also taught a course on the program.
“What I love the most about teaching our students is the diversity I have in the classroom. This diversity brings new challenges to me as a teacher and a joy to the students and myself when this diverse group is acting as a single entity," he says.
"I enjoy the experience of teaching students from different cultures, different countries and experience of collaboration between them. What I like about our international students is the way they handle a new country, new teaching processes and the knowledge that is overwhelming at some points. It creates a little bit of tension, and I love seeing how they relax during the process when they become friends with their teachers, lecturers, staff of Algebra University College and most of all their colleagues," said Vanja Šebek, one of the lecturers on the digital marketing program in Winter School, and the head of the graduate programs in the field.
There is no better time to make Croatia a desirable study abroad destination, Lidija Šimrak believes. "Our silver in the World Cup last year, famous Game of Thrones filming locations, our beautiful coast and the fact that it is not an expensive destination puts us on the map as a great location for international students. Moreover, we try to incorporate as many field trips and company visits as possible in our three-week International Summer and Winter School programs to show our students not only our stunning nature, but also our business success stories. It really is of great importance to show the students the bright side of our economy and show them the future of Croatia’s digital technology industry," she says.
This year, in July, Algebra’s International Summer School will take place in Zagreb and Šibenik where they will be offering the students 8 different courses they can choose from. The shaping of digital future comes from various branches of technology, so they offer courses that are both creative and in accordance with the demands of the industry.
"The program tries to be high on involvement to facilitate the learning process; it even includes a workshop on financing startups, and another in Croatian language and culture, as well as social events and company visits. My experience has taught me that only good things can come of projects like our International School summer and winter programs," Lidija Šimrak explains, and continues: "Not only is it a great promotion of everything we can offer as a country and as an educational institution, but also an opportunity to learn about other cultures, to not only teach our students, but also learn from them and their ambitions. We remain optimistic and enthusiastic about the future of internationalization of higher education and we will continue to do everything in our power to show international students why Croatia is an excellent choice for a study abroad experience. Our mantra is to lead by example and encourage not only our students, but also other educational institutions to recognize the potential of internationalization."