"I really want to see the Tatras," said Aistė Černauskytė, a political science student from Lithuania, after having laid her eyes on the landscape of Slovakia during her bus trip to Bratislava.
Aistė is one of the international students who arrived to spend a semester in Bratislava. She spent 21 hours on the bus from Vilnius, across Poland, right to the Slovak capital.
"Central Europe isn't very well-known to me," said Aistė Černauskytė, who appreciates the strategically good location of Bratislava for travelling.
Nearly 400 students have decided to spend their Erasmus semester at Comenius University in Bratislava this semester. On September 18 they gathered at the university’s main hall to take their student oath.
"Let me hope that you will keep Comenius university in your hearts and remain ambassadors of Slovakia in your countries once you come back home," said Daniela Ostatniková, vice-rector for international relations, in welcoming them.
Exchange is a challenge, sometimes even frightening
"I want to grow up as a person," Spanish student Angela Sanchez Vazquez explaining one of her reasons on why she decided to experience different cultures in Bratislava.
On the other hand, Melody Rambat, a young student from France, is scared at the moment to go outside Bratislava, based on having watched movies such as Taken.
"If we're comfortable with the people and the country, we might go to other places," she said, adding that she is looking forward to meeting people from everywhere and the locals, too.
Karen Ohara comes from Tokyo and considers Slovakia a really safe country.
"I do love this city," she revealed. "It's like my hometown," she added, comparing Bratislava to one of the two dozen districts in Tokyo.
"I'm looking around and don't understand anything," commented Alejandra Ojeda Nuez, a law student from the Canary Islands who wants to learn about Slovakia's legal system for her thesis.
Also, Karen Ohara, an art student from Japan, likes the fact that the Slovak language remains undiscovered to the majority.
"No foreigners can speak perfect Slovak, which is perfect for me," she explained. Karen didn't want to go to any English-speaking country as her teachers speak English at her university. Moreover, her father lived for some time in the Czech Republic in the past, and that’s why she opted for Slovakia.
Aistė Černauskytė reckoned it's her very first time travelling alone, and she is ready to challenge herself in every situation.
"I've already had some challenges, like getting to the dormitory," she admitted since a cab driver didn’t speak English.
Bratislava made a pleasant impression, unlike the accommodation
The student dorms are the one thing that proved a challenge for most of the new arrivals from abroad.
"In a good way, the public transport is very punctual but the place where we live is very dirty," Rossella Buda revealing the best and worst impression of Bratislava so far.
Alexandre Bourdeaux, Alexandre Naudin, and Hadjadj-Aoul Samir are all French-speaking management students who decided to stay for a few days at local hotels and find a room or a flat to rent. They did so after hearing about many people living together in small and unclean dormitory rooms.
"It's a bit complicated since property owners are looking for people staying longer than a few months," described Hadjadj-Aoul Samir his efforts to find a place.
"I was expecting something worse," claimed Aistė Černauskytė, regarding the dormitory life as another challenge, mostly the fact that the bathrooms are shared between ten students.
"The number of students in one dormitory meets hygiene standards," said Peter Šagát from the Mlyny student residence, admitting that a few problems arose but the defects were immediately removed.
Almost 250 international students from Comenius University are staying at Mlyny.
Cold weather doesn't mean cold Slovaks
This year, the majority of international students at Comenius come from Spain. Alejandra Ojeda Nuez thinks it's because the Spaniards want to experience a completely different country and culture.
"Bratislava has very good nights out and people try to come to such places," she said.
The weather is an aspect that the students, coming mostly from Spain and Italy this year, aren't happy about at all. Angela Sanchez Vazquez googled the forecast before arriving to Bratislava.
"Are you crazy? It's so cold there," Angela cited a common reaction of her friends to the fact she would spend her Erasmus exchange here.
"I was very cold and no one here was wearing jackets," Alejandra Ojeda Nuez, who arrived a week ago, describing her very first, but shocking experience.
Not like in the movies
Even though it's just their first days in a new environment, most of the students have had to deal with not just low temperatures but also Slovaks.
"The people are so friendly and nice," said Rossella Buda, a student from Sicily. It's her first time in Slovakia and has already learnt what "áno" and "nie" means.
Karen Ohara fell in love with Bratislava last winter when she visited the city.
"People are like the Japanese - modest and not direct, but I wouldn’t say they're not open-minded,” describing her impression of Slovaks.
Exchange students attended a lecture on Slovaks and Slovakia through the Eyes of Foreigners to learn about what Slovaks are like and to overcome the stereotypes they may have acquired previously.
"What people, or me, say about myself is less true than reality itself," said Ľubica Voľanská, lecturer from the Slovak Academy of Sciences, adding that people come across skewed information, which originating from the personal experience of an individual, which is non-transferable and unique.
"We've found out a lot about the behaviour of Slovaks, which is useful," said Nika Jančić from Slovenia, admitting humorously that a few stereotypes remained until now due to the EuroTrip movie she had seen.
27. Sep 2017 at 11:27 | Peter Dlhopolec