Take a perfect coastal town and put it between the sea and a mountain. Now add steps. Lots of them, and there you have Dubrovnik. At first the people can seem kind of off-putting, especially if you arrive at the end of tourist season just because it is the end of the season and everyone wants all these strangers to leave and not come back for a while. Being here In Dubrovnik from September to December allows one to see the change of the city itself from a popular tourist destination to an empty town with only the locals to keep you company. While I was here I was able to meet students from not only Croatia but also all around Europe. From Bosnia to Poland I was able to make new friends from RIT Dubrovnik, and through ERASMUS, the official study abroad program of the European Union and they were awesome.
When I went to Mostar and Sarajevo in Bosnia I was able to see up close how the balkan countries embrace their conflicted past. From making art out of discarded weapons and expanded ammunition to open display of the reminders of the conflict, despite the divide between cultures that exist. This attitude in addition to the diversity in the area made this one of my favorite places that I visited while studying abroad.
As the tourist season dies down and the rain begins to fall you can see the change in everyone here including myself. Everyone's mood becomes just a bit more somber. With greyer weather and showers that can go on for days the many stairways become rivers, so rain boots are a must to stay here during the winter and spring seasons.
Throughout Dubrovnik and the surrounding regions are many ruins from the past that have become tourist destinations. Many of these locations have actually been rebuilt after the long periods of time during which they were destroyed or fell apart through UNESCO and other culturally/tourist oriented conservation organizations.
I also had the opportunity to visit Montenegro while here. This small country borders 5 others, and is chock full of mountains, abandoned fortresses, and walled seaside towns, all adding to its unique charm. The roads are all winding right up the side of mountains that when reaching the top of treat you to incredible vistas of the surrounding area. The roads themselves are also an adventure, as you will be sharing these roads with cyclist, and full sized buses. Once you are up through the mountains you are treated any number of quaint mountain towns dotting the area with real live mountain goats wandering around.
One thing to bring if you are studying in Dubrovnik is several regular spiral bound college ruled notebooks. After looking all over for them I could not find any to save my life. Most of the students here use write in what we consider small notebooks, more for writing down addresses and to-do list rather than taking notes. This is the only thing that I could not actually find actively searching for it for the first several weeks I was here.
The food selection in dubrovnik while not as broad, as that of back home has a much heavier focus on fresh ingredients. From vegetables to fish freshly caught, the factorization of the food industry has been kept to a minimum. Interestingly enough much of the cuisine in the area is homogenous with only a few relative differences with heavy influences from italian cuisine. When I have spoken with persons that traveled to the states they state that this was the one thing that they missed the most. Unlike the foods from the many coastal towns of the adriatic, much of our food in the states goes through several factories and processes before it ever reaches our tables.
Dubrovnik is a popular pick for many Erasmus students due placement on the Adriatic Sea as well as a stop on the Study at Sea program also available to students in the United States. A study abroad experience allows for you to meet people from entirely different walks of life and cultures. When studying here don't exist in a bubble with your fellow Americans. Reach out to other students studying under different programs from other countries and through this way make your study abroad experience even more immersive. Don't be afraid to introduce yourself and always make an effort to understand the perspective of others. You are no longer in the states so everything you do from enunciating your words more clearly to realizing that you do have an accent will help in your experiences while abroad. Some of the best friends that I made didn't even go to RIT Croatia but to the public university of Dubrovnik. Luckily, because Dubrovnik most people speak some english, and are not unwilling to communicate but you will have to put in the effort.