Hi everyone! In the fall semester of 2019 I went to study abroad in Bratislava, Slovakia, at the Comenius University. At the time I was a fourth year Econometrics Bachelor student. I had always wanted to study abroad, and when the curriculum of the Bachelor’s changed I saw my opportunity. This means that I did not do a minor abroad (which is possible now), but I chose to do the three third year elective courses abroad. This means that 15 ECTs counted towards my degree, and had to be relevant and quantitative enough, and the other 15ECTs could be chosen freely.
As a FEB student, I was assigned to the Faculty of Management of the Comenius University. There I took the courses “Financial Mathematics” and “Money and Banking”. As this faculty had the largest amount of Erasmus students, they were prepared quite well. I was in classes with (almost) only exchange students, and the teachers definitely took that into account. These courses were actually very easy, especially as an Econometrics student. But they also had to be, since mainly the Italian and Spanish were struggling with the English language! (Yes, as far as I have experienced the stereotypes are true.)
Since I did not find enough quantitative courses I liked at that faculty, I decided to also take courses at the Faculty of Mathematics, Physics and Informatics. There I took ”Set Theory and Mathematical Logic” and “Introduction to Artificial Intelligence”, where my classes were on a lot smaller scale. Even though these courses were a bit out of my comfort zone, I really enjoyed them. The teachers were super nice and understanding, and did definitely reward me with good grades! This faculty was a lot smaller, and in the entire faculty there were only a handful of exchange students. I quite liked to see this side of the university too, it felt a lot more representative. This way I got to meet the teachers and a few of my Slovak classmates as well, instead of only international students.
Now, going to study in a Eastern European country, you need to lower your expectations a bit when it comes to organization…. Studying at two faculties was very confusing for the coordinators, so I had to make a lot of visits to make sure that everything was arranged well. I also planned on taking another mathematics course, but when I showed up for the first lecture, it turned out the teacher did not speak English, even though on the website it said I could pick this course in English. As I did not want to take it as a self-study course (where they could only offer me books in Slovak, Czech, Polish or German…), I decided to drop that course.
I also followed the language course, “Slovak as a Foreign Language A1”, which was super cool! It was also very convenient, since half of the lectures were taught in the mornings of the introduction week (which meant going there hungover, but my Slovak teacher was super cool about it. She even thought it was funny, and learnt us more about Slovak liquor!) After a few more lessons in the upcoming weeks, we could already take a super easy exam, which meant I had already scored 5 ECTS. But what I liked most about it is that you knew your way around the supermarket a little bit, could read billboards, and sometimes even understand the topics of people on the bus. This made me feel a lot more at home, and not just a visitor or tourist, so I would definitely recommend to take a language course, wherever you go! I also recommend doing a (free) walking tour in your city. Since Slovakia has a very sad but interesting past, being a communist satellite state of the Soviet Union, I was very interested in its history and went on a few historic walking tours where I learned a lot.
But what I found most important, is meeting new people and making new experiences when abroad! I would recommend going to a lot of ESN activities from the start, because that’s where it is easiest meeting new people. Since I had quite easy courses, and teachers did not expect that much from Erasmus students, I had plenty of time to go to ESN parties, karaoke nights, dinners and go on trips. Bratislava is an amazing city for going out at night, as it has many bars, karaoke places, and a few clubs, and Slovak alcohol is amazing and very cheap as well. Needless to say, I spent many nights going out with friends, meeting new people every time! Luckily, Ubers were very cheap, so it was always easy and safe to go home at the end of the night. Night busses also operated, but they only rode once an hour. Occasionally, you could also take the earliest tram in the morning….
Since Bratislava is super close to Vienna, it was always very easy to fly somewhere. Both airports offered ridiculously cheap tickets to many destinations, so it was not difficult to make a weekend/week trip. Taking a Flixbus or a train was also a cheap option, as we got student discounts on trains. In case you visit Bratislava, I would also recommend to take a (night) train to the Tatra mountains, a very beautiful area which is even suitable for skiing.
The place I stayed, was a room in an apartment. Before going on exchange, I had already heard from people that the dorms were not so nice (which was true), therefore I found a room via Facebook. I did go to the dorms a couple of times for pre-drinks, and always had a good time. The guards were quite strict however when it came to noise disturbance, or sneaking people in without telling them, so you had to watch out. In hindsight, I would’ve preferred to stay in a dorm. Of course, you have to be lucky with your roommates, since you have to share a room with 1 or 2 others, but life is always interesting there! You will have less privacy and luxury, but you will always have friends around, and living there is extremely cheap too. Also, there are some cafeterias around which offer a big variety of food for very low prices, which comes in handy when sharing a kitchen with many students.
All in all, if you are looking for a really good time, get to know a completely different culture and cuisine, with some studying on the side, Bratislava is a great destination to spend your Erasmus. You will make many memories with many people, that you will never forget!