Guest post 6 – Arjana Blazic on teaching, travelling and exchanges

Today’s guest blogger is Arjana Blazic from Croatia. I really enjoy her cheerful and positive blog-writing style. She’s made this blogpost very competitive and, like me, has offered food and drink to the winners, so she’s a woman after my own heart. 😛

Plus, although I love all the countries that I’ve visited in former Yugoslavia (and hoping my Serbian and Slovenian friends will understand), I have a very soft spot for Croatia. I think Arjana’s home town of Zagreb is a fascinating place and I’ve also been lucky enough to explore the Dalmatian coast in a series of author and training visits.

Do you know where this photo was taken? If yes, a home-made chocolate cake awaits you in Zagreb.

 My name is Arjana Blazic and I’m an English and German teacher from Zagreb, Croatia. I have been teaching for 24 years and I love it, even more than I did on the first day. I’m an avid user of new technologies and one of my major goals is to teach my students how to take advantage of all the possibilities that technology-enhanced learning can offer. I’m committed to lifelong learning and I do it with great joy. I also have a passion for travel.

On Travelling and Teaching

While I have no idea when and where I got bitten by the travel bug, I certainly know the reason why I am a teacher. Teaching runs in my family. Thirteen of my family members are or used to be teachers. The first to take this path was my Aunt Teresa, who started her 40-year teaching career before World War II in a small village not far from Zagreb.

She used to say that in those days teachers were not only more respected than today, but also better paid, because her monthly salary could buy her a cow!

I’m not sure if I could afford to buy a cow a month with my teacher pay today, but what I’m sure of is that teaching and travelling don’t go together so well. We might have long holidays, but we can’t travel during the off-peak season when the prices are lower. That’s why I came up with three different scenarios on how to do what I like doing most, to teach and to travel:

1)    Become a published author and get invited to conferences worldwide,

2)    Marry an airline employee and fly (almost) free,

3)    Organize international student exchanges and learn from your peers.

The only book that I’ve written so far was published in 2003 and has sold 1,000 copies. Unfortunately, I have never been invited to speak at a conference, as my book is actually just a basic guide to computers and the Internet.


: Can you translate the title? If yes, a home-made chocolate cake awaits you in Zagreb

The recipe for scenario #2 is really simple. All it takes is love, or at least it does so in my case. In fact, I met my airline employee long before he landed himself a job in the airline industry. No, he’s not a pilot; he’s in computing, which is a true win-win formula for a bitten-by-the-travel-bug technophile teacher like me.

Do you know where we are? If yes, a home-made chestnut cake awaits you in Zagreb.

The third scenario is the only one where you’ll be rewarded with the opportunity to learn about people, their countries, customs and traditions first hand, from a native’s perspective, not from a touristy, guidebook point of view.

Say where my students are and you’ll get a cake of your choice.

The first step towards a successful exchange project is to find like-minded teachers who are eager to collaborate. Fund-raising should be your next step, followed by fund-raising and even more fund-raising. After that you can travel with 2 or 22 students of yours (depending on how successful your fund-raising was) to different parts of the world to learn about understanding, tolerance and respect. 

My first exchange project, organized in 1998 with a school from Switzerland, was started purely by coincidence. Julia, a Swiss teacher who wanted to collaborate, knew someone who knew someone who had a friend whose friend’s friend worked at my school.

This has been the only exchange project that the two of us organized. We have also visited each other privately on several occasions, and we are still in touch, although not as often as we used to be, because she quit teaching and went sailing around the world!

It was during this visit to Switzerland that we learned how quickly and easily the differences between us can cause misunderstandings. We arrived in Buchs early in the morning after a long bus ride and went straight to the school. When the time finally came to go to the hosts’ homes, we were both starving and totally exhausted.

One of our students, when asked by the host mother if she wanted to have something to eat, declined her offer, even though she was hungry. You may call it a lie, but she did it because this is the way we’re taught, firstly because we don’t want to bother our host, and secondly, because we know that the host will make the offer again, and then we’ll readily accept it, as this is what we consider polite.

However, the Swiss mother didn’t ask again. To her, a No meant a No. Since then our students have been taught not to be hesitant to speak their mind and no one has ever gone to bed hungry. 



23 thoughts on “Guest post 6 – Arjana Blazic on teaching, travelling and exchanges

  1. great to read about your exchanges, brilliant thing to do. Always enjoying coming to HUPE events and enjoy reading your blog! The picture looks a bit like Warsaw to me, only been there a couple of times but remember something like that! Greetings from a snowy Budapest and good to read your strategies for international travel…Mark Andrews

  2. Hello Arjana,

    You know I love reading your blog and I hope your students and you get the award because you deserve it! I love reading about the places you have traveled. I also love to travel. I’m going to give some guesses only because I plan on visiting you and hope I get some yummy cake when I do!

    Does the title mean? Information Technology for the Youngest

    In the next picture are you both at Universal Studios in the movie set for the Terminator?

    In the last picture I think you maybe somewhere in Australia, but I have no clue!

    If not, well at least I hope to still get to visit you and see the beautiful beach in Croatia!


    1. Hi Shelly,
      not only are you well-travelled, but you also speak Croatian! Congrats! Chocolate and chestnut cakes will be waiting for you in Zagreb whenever you decide to come.

  3. Hi Mark,
    thank you for you comment. I’m really pleased that you like reading about my exchanges. If only we could do it more often.
    I’m sorry, but it’s not Warsaw in the photo! I have never been there but would love to go.
    Try again, especially if you’re coming to the next HUPE conference this spring:-)
    All the best,

  4. The first picture is somewhere with a really wide river. I guess that’s not enough to win me a cake, so I’ll have a stab at Novi Sad.

    1. Hi Andy,
      you’re right, a really wide river doesn’t count!
      I’m sorry but it’s not the Danube. Let me give you a hint: it’s not a European river!

      1. Not a European river … and the bridge looks quite old, and the river is frozen (more or less). Where could it be? USA? It doesn’t look like New York in the distance! Canada? The river is too wide to be the St Lawrence in Quebec City or Montreal.

        btw – did you know that the name ‘Quebec’ comes from a First National Canadian (ie native North American) word meaning ‘where the river narrows’?

        Am I even close?

  5. Hi Arjana!
    What an interesting blogpost, thank you very much!
    You give nice tips on how to teach and travel.
    I also found the last part of your post very interesting, as it had a cultural side to it. I am Greek-Canadian, so if someone asked me if I were hungry I would answer “No” as a Greek (as in Croatia, it is a form of politeness, knowing that we will be asked again), but if the Canadian in me were asked the same question, I would answer “Sure!” Interesting similarity there between Croatians and Greeks!
    I like the fact that you enjoy learning – I don’t remember who said “Good teachers are also good learners” (may he or she forgive me!).
    I wish you every success and if you ever find yourself in Switzerland again, I would like to meet you in person!
    Thank you very much for a great blogpost – your enthusiasm is infectious!

  6. Well, I looooove cake as I have said in one of your posts Ken, so….hmmmmmm…… the first picture in Buffalo, USA? Kind of reminds me (is there a bridge there, or is it another city I am confusing?).
    Is the second one in Paramount Studios? (Don’t think it’s called that, but…)
    About the mudbath…hmmmmmmm…..
    Do I have one right at least?

  7. Hi again Arjana,

    so if it’s not Europe is it Washington DC. The river freezes there, doesn’t it? I did a Pecha Kucha on the bridges of Budapest across the Danube at the Hungarian IATEFL this year and am interested in bridges a lot….

    1. It sure as hell ain’t Canada – do you know why? I checked Arjana’s blog and she lists all the places she’s been – and she ain’t been to Canada 😛

  8. Well, Your challenge is quite difficult. But I think the first one is a great place in beautiful Croatia. The last one also should be somewhere in Adriatic. The one with your students? Well, tricky…. Is it a Greenpeace project? 🙂 You look great on the motorbike but I think it’s somewhere near your home and very successfully you played with the photo.I’m not very good at guessing, Arjana but If you visit Istanbul, promise I’ll make you a great cheesecake. (ıf you like) or any other desserts. Don’t worry I’m a good cook. :-))

  9. Hi Arjana! Really enjoyable post here! Thanks for telling us that dreams do come true and for sharing a slice of your happiness:) Look forward to reading more of you.

  10. Hi,
    just got home from the afternoon “shift” at school:-(.
    So here are the results:
    Photo 1: Washington DC – Mark gets a cake 🙂
    Photo 2: Information Technology for the Youngest – the cake goes to Shelly 🙂
    Photo 3: L.A. – Universal Studios, the Terminator movie set –
    Shelly got it right 🙂
    Photo 4: hint: it’s a sea, not in Europe, but not very far from it…..

    Ken, what a brilliant idea to check my blog! I haven’t been to Canada yet, but it’s on my wish list.

    Vicky, it’s good to hear that there is a country where we wouldn’t be misunderstood. I’d love to meet you too, either here in Croatia or in Switzerland.

    Eva, I’m already looking forward to a homemade cheese cake in Istanbul.

    Cristiana, thank you very much for your nice comment. It’s great to hear from you.


  11. Hmm, a sea, not in in Europe, but not very far from it… I have vague memories of such mud-based antics in a place near Oludeniz/Fethiye in Turkey. I can’t remember the name – Dalman, Dalyan? Something like that?

  12. I was going to say the Potomac River. I recognized that bridge right away. Arlington, VA is right behind you.

    Mark gets the cake, aw shucks!

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