“These things used to be so much easier to write. I used to have a blog until I was about 15 and then high school reputation smacked me in the face and I couldn’t afford to have a blog anymore. Shame really, I might have been one of those popular blog people who eat, and travel, and have nice Instagram profiles…
Well, now that I think about it, I do eat. I travel quite a lot. And I just opened an Instagram account – so, hey, I’m not that far off. But even better is that I am studying what I adore at this magnificent place called Stirling. I’m one of those students who are inexplicably happy with their choice of studies, and who try to be as engaged as possible in the student life. I have only finished a first year of my degree in International Politics and French, and I couldn’t be happier with it.
You hear students talking how they picked their universities: how they went for the open days and visited campuses, how their parents heard good things about a certain course, or they liked the fact that it is far away from their hometown. Well, none of that quite explains what happened to me…
Croatia, the wee country I’m from, only joined the European Union in 2013, when I was 17. Until then, the idea of studying somewhere else was foreign to me. I had my mind set on the University of Zadar, in my hometown. And then suddenly, Croatia signs some papers and voilà! Dozens of new things you can do!
We had people from the UK and other parts of the EU coming to give presentations at our school and explaining how we could enrol at the universities there. And all of a sudden, I wanted to go abroad. In my last year of high school, I worked with the agency that was helping students enrol in universities in England. I obtained my Cambridge certificate, wrote my personal statement, got my recommendations, translated my transcripts, prayed and more. On my prom night, I checked my e-mails, because that’s what you do when you are celebrating the end of your high school years and are having last few days with your class, and funnily enough I found out that said I had been accepted to all of the universities that I had applied to. I was good to go!
Or, not really. See, since we were the first generation of students from Croatia going to England with this programme, some mistakes were made. Long story short, they didn’t quite explain the financial aspects of studying there and a few of us realized we don’t have enough money to cover for… anything. We were just about to sign the papers for the loan for our tuition fees, but our accommodation would not be covered for the first year – as was initially promised.
What to do now? My ticket to London is already bought. I am packed. I have a new raincoat. I don’t want to stay in Zadar. But I also can’t go to study.
So, naturally, I took a gap year and spent the first two months of it volunteering on a farm in East Grinstead, next to London. The university was kind enough to save me the place for the next year, until I saved some money and came back to study. Life on the farm was reinvigorating. I was learning about beekeeping, sheep…; I was painting the shed and the cottage; I was pruning those little green bushes while being attacked by some bees because I put almond oil in my hair the night before and forgot about it…
It was time to find a job. I managed to find one, in the heart of the Europe – Luxembourg. I became an Au Pair and took care of one little girl who was 1.5 year old at the time. In Luxembourg everyone speaks at least 3 languages. And when I say at least, I mean the older generation of people who didn’t learn ‘any foreign languages’. German, Luxembourgish and French are the norm. And when you speak only 3 languages fluently and find yourself there, you don’t feel good about yourself. As the little girl was starting to talk more and more, so was I. We were learning French together, so for the first period of time, I used a lot of baby words like: dodo, lo-lo, pi-pi… I know, quite a vocabulary!
In the middle of my first gap year, I had an epiphany and realized I don’t want to be in debt for the rest of my life. So, as I was lying in my bed at 1am, I decided to e-mail the university in England and say: hey, I’m not coming. As I was lying in my bed at 1.20am, I realized I had no Plan B, and thought: merde.
After an intensive session of googling and trying to find the perfect university, I stumbled upon the SAAS page. I checked out all the uni portals and pictures, and what not, I had my mind set on Stirling. First of all, the programme. Secondly, the campus. Also, Scotland’s national animal is a unicorn…
Here I have to mention my mother, who loved to wear tartan since I was a child and has two tartan suits, one red and one green. They both have matching hats and shoes. No, it is not a thing in Croatia and yes, my mom is a very creative person and has her own style. I think that she subconsciously led me to study in Scotland.
I ended up taking another gap year and worked in Denmark as well as Luxembourg. I applied again to the universities in Scotland, by myself. At this point, I could already speak a lot of French and understand it better. Me and the little one had proper conversations about the horses and snails, the usual nanny talks. But, Luxembourg being Luxembourg, it did not allow me to practice my French more. People there are so nice and helpful, and when they see you struggling with a word or explaining something, they immediately start speaking English to you. Mais non, je voudrais pratiquer!
Even before I lived in Luxembourg, I wanted to learn another language. French became my obsession after reading Les Misérables, so the goal is to read it again in its original language. After experiencing a bit of francophone culture, Scotland was a great addition to my story. To study at its heart, in the current political climate and with all the benefits of the multicultural environment – some of the many reasons I’m happy here!
I should probably mention that I had never even visited Scotland before coming here in September last year. But hey, it turned out fine.
Even though it took me a bit longer to get here, I am very content with what I managed to do in my first year of the university. I was a course representative for the Introductory French module and I became the new president of the Politics Society. I am happy that the university let us settle in and discover our interests before pushing us into strict academic mould.
Hopefully, in the future I will write all of this in French. Until then, I’ll stick to my comfort zone with horses and snails.”
Many thanks to Margareta for finding the time to write this post and we do, indeed, look forward to future blog posts (whether in English or French, or maybe even a bit of Croatian!) as your degree progresses.