Studying in Bratislava (part I)

Bratislava Panorama by jiri@flickr.com

 

Author: Joco Todorovski

The story about me studying here is closely connected with Mladiinfo. I applied for Sweden, but I didn’t get the full scholarship so I was kind of disappointed because my best friend and my best colleague got the scholarship and they were about to leave and study abroad. My best friend was encouraging me to apply to other open calls but I was not interested because I already started to develop different projects in Macedonia. So one morning, (it was Saturday) he woke me up and said to check my FB mail because he sent a message to me that there is an open call for studying in Slovakia. I opened my inbox and there was a Mladiinfo’s regular newsletter. I laughed and thought he was crazy when I saw the deadline – it was till Wednesday 5pm, which meant I had two and a half working days. I said that I had doubts that this was a “clean deal”, saying that it was announced late because there are probably admitted participants, and that this is just a public stunt. To cut the long story short, I activated my whole family to gather the necessary documents, because at that time I lived in Skopje, but coming from another city, and – in the end I got the scholarship.

 

The program

Currently I’m enrolled in a one-year preparation program of Slovak language and I also have some introductory courses such as Mathematics, Economy and English. After that I will pursue my Master’s degree at the Comenius University. The program is conducted in an institution called UJOP which stands for Institute of Language and Academic Preparation for Foreign Students, a division of the Comenius University. This program was created for foreign students to introduce them into Slovak language as such over the course of one year, but contains also other courses to learn Slovak terminology in their field of specialization. First we started with the Slovak language and then, as soon as we learned the basics of the language, based on our field of further academic education, we were divided into groups which took some additional courses. We study in groups of around 12 people, which is good because the professor is devoted to the students more directly. There are around 60 students from Macedonia, Russia, Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan, Palestine, Brazil, Mexico, Ecuador, Armenia, Albania, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, Croatia, Serbia and Moldova. (huh, I think I got them all J). The classes are from 8:30am – 4:30pm and we have examinations almost every week which is a preparation for the first round of testing in January and the second one, which is in May. Studying there is not hard and at the beginning it was fun because there were different languages to be heard in one place. Every day seems like a cocktail party, since you can always hear a mix of English, Spanish, Slovak and Russian. In February, we will apply for the faculties and hopefully, until August we will have been admitted.

Comenius University by Mickey Champion@flickr

A sneak peek at discovering Bratislava

To be honest I was very enthusiastic about going to Bratislava. I mean, it is in the heart of Europe which can’t be bad. But I ended up little disappointed at the beginning. I have been here for 5 months, and I think that Bratislava is similar to Skopje, the city where I come from. It is just like they are few steps ahead in some things and with time you learn how to hold on only to that. I’m talking about better public transport, bigger malls, green areas, better cinemas, shopping centers but that is it. The first month was filled with bureaucratic “issues” which are the same as in my home country. So, we immediately unmask “the European personality” of Slovakia. But, with time you get used to it. And now we are learning how to love it.

The Arrival – Q: Do you speak English?  A: No, no!

I just arrived at Vienna’s airport and went to buy a bus ticket to Bratislava. I went to the bus terminal and because I was having a lot of luggage one stewardess helped me. She was from Bratislava and she was going home. She was speaking English very well and it was a blast, I thought: “it is ok, at least people here in Europe can speak some good English. This thought was gone, as soon as I arrived at the bus station in Bratislava. At the bus station nobody speaks English. Luckily, I knew the number of the bus that I needed, so that was quick, plus I met a lot of nice people during my journey to the dorm where I am living now. The first impression you get from Bratislava is that it is a city with history and nice people.

Three months later – most of the people don’t speak English and those who speak are under 24. Just the other day I was speaking with one of my professors why it is like that and the answer was that the main reason why the population can speak English is the Internet: all the movies are dubbed into Slovak. Even the movies in the cinemas are with Slovak voice synchronization. There is a funny story about it, because one of my friends here is a huge Harry Potter fan and he was expecting the premiere here in Bratislava. He went to cinema, bought some popcorn and waited for the beginning with a huge smile on his face. After few moments he was like shot in the knee – the movie was with Slovak voices! Luckily, he got his money back and found out that in another cinema there is an opportunity to watch the movie in English. But, the most painful experience with the language is that in the main institutions that are established to work with foreigners, there is staff that don’t speak English.

 

The city

The city is divided into two parts. The first part is the old city of Bratislava where the architecture and the history of the city are kept. The other part is an urbanized new area where everything is modern and up to date.

Another narrow street by symmetry_mind@flickr

The “old” part of Bratislava

This is the part where I feel the best. Lot of thin streets, monuments, architecture, tradition, passive lifestyle, lots of tourists, pubs, restaurants, stores and the fortress. If you like peace and emotions, this is your place to be. Everything is calm, easygoing and from Monday to Friday you can see only tourist on the streets. At weekends you see the same only you can see Slovak people, too. An interesting part is the clubs, as they are all underground. On the street level there is a café or pub and under that is the club from which you can’t hear the noise nor lines of people waiting to enter. [Update: Last night we were in a club called Rio, and not only it is underground, it si also a labyrinth. From the street you see a nice, small café and then you walk, and walk, and walk through different sections and finally get down to the club where you see lot of hands in the air. It is really fun.]

When it is sunny, you can have a good daily walk on the river bank or you can enjoy yourself grabbing a cup of coffee in some café. I have had a big problem with ordering coffee: I just can’t order proper coffee. We went to one place where I ordered Macchiato. The waitress brought me coffee in a glass for drinking tequila shot. I said ok, my bad. One sunny day we were sitting on the Danube river bank, with a great view by the way, I ordered Nescafe with milk and the waiter brought me half a litter glass. I just can’t make it right.

Here are some quick facts about coffee:

–          Follow the tourists, especially Greeks, they know where the best coffee is.

–          There are a lot of branded cafés which I think is influence from Austria.

There is one new place on the river: a green area with a lot of gym machines. So you can go and lay on the grass, exercise, make your daily routine there, jogging maybe, drinking coffee…I call it a youth area.

 

To be continued….