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Croatia & Rochester – Making Connections Abroad

From Rochester to… Croatia?

Being a college alumni often carries a vested interest in helping your college succeed in the future. It’s the driving force behind things like alumni donations and continued involvement years after you graduate.  As anyone who talks to me during the NCAA season knows, I love the fact that I went to RIT. I hype the school because I believe strongly in what it did for me as a person. But I have to admit that the last place I expected to be talking about RIT was at the World Championships in Israel. But as chance would have it, that’s exactly what wound up happening.

Croatia Lacrosse
Photo: ShutterLax.com

It started because alumni groups LOVE giveaways. School branded SWAG to keep their name out there. Recently, I was given one of those credit card holders for the back of your cell phone that had a simple “RIT” in orange on it. So when I was down at a game taking some postgame photos with my phone instead of my regular camera, the last thing on my mind was this small traveling billboard normally in my pocket. But after the teams had their photos done, an young player from the Croatian team came over and said “Do you go to RIT? In Rochester”. I responded that I don’t anymore, but did graduate from there, sensing that the typical upstate/western New York connection was about to be formed. But that he smiled very wide and replied “That’s great, I actually go there. But, in Croatia.”

His name is Joško Car, a 18 year old who is about to start his first year of college at RIT Croatia, studying International Business. The first set of questions was about the campus, and life in Rochester. I of course did warn him it would be cold, but I tried to focus more on describing the campus, the student life, cost of living, and many other questions someone may have about a college campus. As it turns out, he was very curious about the Rochester campus because he would like to transfer there if given the chance. That way, he could keep working on his degree in the school he chose, but have even more exposure by moving to a different country.austria lacrosse rochester

When I asked him if the desire to transfer to the Rochester campus was related to a larger want to move outside of Croatia longer term, he really hesitated. “I’d like to move out, I’d like to go to Canada, but I’m not sure about that. It would be really hard to leave my friends and family”. So, then the question begs, how did he wind up at RIT? As he described the university structure in Croatia, he mentioned how the public universities actually have a much better reputation inside the country than the private schools.

What made him excited about RIT is their reputation has improved quite a bit in the last year or two. He went to visit the campus and “loved it”. In terms of a degree field, he chose International Business over IT based on his academic interests and asking around for which degree would support his longer term goals best. I also asked him because of the international business field, how many languages he spoke, since his english was excellent. “Only two…or three if you include Klingon. Just kidding.” Yeah, RIT really is the perfect school for him.croatia lacrosse taiwan

So how does lacrosse factor in? He started playing two years ago because part of his school’s programs is that they are required to be active in some sport. He chose lacrosse and loved immediately. Right now, lacrosse in Croatia has about 60-70 players across the country, but are typically focused around the capital city of Zagreb or the smaller city, Split, in the south. “We sometimes play 10 on 10, sometimes, it’s more 8 on 8. It depends on the time of the year and how often they can come. We play every 2-3 weeks, when we’ll have a tournament.”

Croatia Lacrosse
Photo: ShutterLax.com

In terms of his time spent at the World Games, he summed it up well: “It’s awesome, it’s a great experience. I love how everyone is so nice, everyone is friendly. We’re all connected by lacrosse, it’s amazing. It’s a small community and that’s what makes us so close together.” This also extended to basic things like the team locker room area. “This is really fun because we get to meet everyone there. Team Canada is right next to us.”

As far as his favorite thing about the venue, he loved the vendor village. This we quite evident given that he had a wooden stick from woodlacrossesticks.com strapped to his backpack, which he had picked up early on here. That made me curious to see what someone from Croatia thinks about the other gear world within the lacrosse community. He mentioned how the power of social media allows him to stay current with what’s out there. For example, he plays with a Warrior Warp, which is something he wanted to try immediately. But it’s so expensive to just go online, buy, and ship it that it takes away the possibility of it being an option. So even asked product costs goes down and the sticker price gets cheaper, the shipping cost can be prohibitive. So when you can browse a place with multiple vendors selling lacrosse gear, it’s a unique experience.

Croatia Spain Katie Conwell 2018 FIL World Lacrosse Championships world games
Photo: Katie Conwell / LaxAllStars.com

Circling back to RIT though, I of course had to ask him the obvious question: if he did manage to transfer to the Rochester campus, would he want to play there? “Of course. I’d like to play for them. But the biggest part of it would be to come back to Croatia to teach the other guys so we can be better as a nation.” He also asked me separately “are they good?”

I don’t need to go into the details of what my response was, but like I said in the beginning; as an alumni, you have a responsibility to present your school in the best light.