Welcome to “Crushing it in Croatia”, a new series where we feature expats who have moved to Croatia.
In this series, we take a deeper dive into the realities of moving to Croatia, including how long it takes, what drew people here and the things they hoped to leave behind, experiences of dealing with the infamous Croatian police, shocks and challenges, how Expat in Croatia’s resources made the transition easier, advice for the next wave and whether or not it was all worth it in the end.
Today, we speak to Alexandra Bucko, an American living in Split. She shares her draw to a simpler life, her family roots, what it’s like to go to medical school here, and the many “miscommunications” with MUP.
Take it away, Alexandra!
Hey Alexandra! Tell us a little bit about yourself.
My name is Alexandra Bucko. I’m a nutritional therapist and medical student (currently) born and raised from Chicago, IL, USA. My family is from Korenica. I came to Croatia to fall back into touch with my roots and pursue school.
Where do you live in Croatia?
What drew you to Croatia?
Heritage. Atmosphere. Good food.
Was there anything about life in the US that you were hoping to leave behind? If so, do you feel like you were successfully able to?
I chose Croatia to get away from the rush, overworking, no focus on quality in life, “excess” requirements to live (big rent payment, car payment, overpriced wardrobe). Basically the idea of too much for not much! So far, it’s been a better trade. It’s much easier to live “well” and adequately here. In my opinion, anyway.
When you decided to move to Croatia, how did you prepare? What did you do first when planning your move?
I have always been a more spontaneous person. I packed everything I wanted in two suitcases, a purse, and a carry-on and made the hop. The first thing I did was book an Airbnb so that I could come and look for a place to live first-hand.
How did you find Expat in Croatia?
I’m currently pursuant of obtaining citizenship in Croatia because of my heritage. Because of Sara and Expat in Croatia, I knew I was eligible! The formal rules are very “wordy” and hard to understand. Her article let me understand I was able to apply. I’ve been a happy follower ever since. 🙂
How did Expat in Croatia help with your transition to Croatia? Which resources did you use?
Expat in Croatia helped me connect to an immigration lawyer to work towards my citizenship. It helped me apply for my OIB and navigate bureaucracy. Sara also helped me educate myself on how to apply for residence permits based on different circumstances (I was on the fence about going to school here) so that I knew my options for both. As you can see, Expat in Croatia helped me a LOT!
On what basis did you apply for residence?
I am currently a student, so my residence permit was easy to apply for.
How were you treated by the police when you applied?
I think well. Some days were better than others depending on the time of day I went and the length of the lines I waited in. It took me several appearances to get all of my documents submitted because of some ….bureaucratic miscommunications (to be kind), a lot of which had to do with corona.
MUP kept making me return (4 times, to be exact) with different documents plus or minus a few. All were the same documents, just in different formats. Having a copy of a document was okay one time, then the next time I had to have an original. On the fourth attempt, I was finally told I had to email the documents for submission. It was frustrating and I cumulatively wasted about 9 hours of queuing.
Although short-tempered, I would say the police are nice.
Did you move directly from the US to Croatia? Have you ever lived abroad before besides Croatia?
Yes, I moved right from the US. I’ve also lived in Australia. I would say Croatian bureaucracy is much… slower than the others.
How much time passed from the time you decided to move to Croatia, to the time you arrived here?
I decided I wanted to move to Croatia November 2019. I was coming with or without my acceptance to school! I arrived here in August of ‘20, but was here before corona last year (October, November, December of 2019).
For this realm, it was considerably instantaneous.
Once you settled in Croatia, what were the biggest shocks or challenges you experienced? How did you overcome them?
I wouldn’t say there were many shocks. The most challenging was definitely applying for my residence permit and making sure Croatia had all of the documents they needed (these changed every time I visited) so as not to get in trouble with the police.
I guess I just overcame them by being diligent and making sure I submitted EVERYTHING and followed up with them. There’s my tip: follow up with them and take initiative!
What has your experience been like attending medical school in Croatia? How does it differ from school in the United States? Do you feel like you’re getting a quality education? Do you one day hope to practice medicine in Croatia?
It’s hard to say how medical school is compared to school in the US considering I spent my first year taking courses online! It’s kind of hard to give it a fair analysis because this is new for teachers and students. There’s some disorganization within the program, but who wouldn’t expect there to be under these circumstances?
I do feel like the education I’m getting is quality, although I have to work a bit harder here.
Some cons: Sometimes texts aren’t translated clearly and it leaves things open to interpretation. Chain of command is definitely different, and sometimes communication is inefficient. A syllabus isn’t always “what you see is what you get” like it is in the States, and sometimes this is stressful. After talking to some of my US friends, there are definitely aspects that make school here harder. For example: we have oral exams.
Some pros: Class sizes are small and it’s easy to ask for help and get attention. It’s easy to know faculty members. Faculty is so empathetic and kind towards adversities with health and familial conflicts. They really try and accommodate if you need to take time off of school. In the States—as you know!—universities rarely give a damn about your health whether it be mental or physical.
In Split, we take one class at a time for a shorter amount of time (Zagreb does not do this). For example, I will take Physics everyday for the month of January instead of physics 2x a week for 16 weeks. This is nice for some because it keeps your mind in one place!
Overall: I do feel like my education is quality. I just have to do a bit more work with organization, planning, and asking questions. I think a lot of the extra money spent in the US goes towards organizing a program, aside from erroneous inflation. I never thought about it until I was here, but it takes SO MUCH TIME to engineer a program. Most faculty members work full-time and teach periodically in the program throughout the year whereas most US professors just teach full-time. I hope you can understand what I’m trying to show!
Would I like to practice in HR? Ako uspijem naučiti govoriti (If I can learn to speak!) 🙂
Where are you now with your life in Croatia? Are you happy here? How long do you plan to stay?
I never want to leave I am so happy. I plan to stay for a few years… whether I maintain my school path… or not. 😉 This has been made easier with a digital nomad permit that I learned about from Sara, by the way!
What advice do you have for anyone wanting to move to Croatia in the future?
Just do it. Croatia is a simple way of living with very welcoming and hospitable people. The quality of life is high for very little, and someone is always willing to lend you a hand (and a plate of sarma).
Thank you Alexandra!
Here are the resources Alexandra mentioned in her interview:
- Available residence permits
- How to apply for an OIB
- How to apply for Croatian citizenship
- How to apply for residence based on being a digital nomad
- How to apply for residence based on being a student