Foto: Sandra Grego/Global

Croatia is one of the few countries in Europe that provides students restaurants – not only for the regular students but for the Erasmus students as well. Student restaurants and cafeterias are run by the Student Centre University of Zagreb. There are 20 students restaurants in Zagreb and the biggest one is located in the Student Centre, Savska 25. The menu for the day may vary in all 20 restaurants, but it gives variety and it helps those who may go there more the once per day. The real magic of the student restaurants is in the affordable prices. You can find not only meals but drinks, cakes, sweets and other things for the insanely cheaper price than in the grocery store. 

Mensa – to the rescue!

Exchange students are entitled to a weekly subsidy of  225,40 kunas. They get the student card, known as “Xica” that enables students to eat in student restaurants and get a discount on their meals. But in a growing trend of leading a fit and healthy life, do exchange students think that student restaurants provide good choices and meals for them and do they even care ?

“I wish there was something like this in Poland, it helps a lot since students don’t really have time to cook” says Wera, a foreign student that came in Croatia for both semesters. Wera Stec, 21, has been in Zagreb since September last year. At first, she didn’t know about student restaurants so-called mensa, so first she tried some of our traditional foods. The favourite food she has tried was međimurska gibanica, but she says that burek with cheese and štrukli are great as well. 

Foto: Andrea Lombarović

“When I came in mensa for the first time, it was very strange. I didn’t expect so many people and such a huge variety of food.” Wera is a vegetarian, she added that she had been afraid that there would be no options for her. But once she went, she was pleased that she won’t leave hungry. 

As many students say, when you go there every day, you eventually get really bored. Food starts to taste the same and it always takes a lot of time to wait in the line. Wera says that she tended to cook more at home now but agrees that the price in mensa is undeniably the best part of it. “I am fascinated that you can get the full meal for just 6,50 kunas. Sometimes you pay 10 kunas in the market just for the water.”

Student restaurants are still not for everyone

Ani Gobechia, 23, shares a completely different experience than Wera. She comes from Georgia and she came here this semester to study business administration. When she first came, she was shocked how different the food here is comparing to Georgia. At first, she only ate Kebab, since it is similar to the Georgias shaurma. “I think I will have some problems with food for the next five months here.” She added that she had also tried čevapi, štrukli and she didn’t like that type of food at all. “Even bread taste strange. I buy different type of bread every day and it all taste very sweet. I didn’t know that bread can have sugar in it”, complaines Ani. 

Because of that she decided that she doesn’t want to go to the mensa and she also doesn’t live in a dorm, so it takes a lot of time for her to get to there and to wait. She fell in the trap a lot of students fall in when they go on Erasmus. When you are in the country where you don’t understand a lot of the dishes and you are afraid to eat most, you tend to eat fast food almost every day. “I don’t know how I would survive without McDonalds, it is the only thing that I am familiar with in Croatia”

SD ‘Cvjetno naselje’ – foreign student’s favourite

A lot of students think that the best student restaurant is Cvjetno. That opinion shares the exchange student Filip Kiko, 22, from Slovenia. “The best thing I have ever eaten was a burger in lepinja with ajvar. The meat was so delicious and I love ajvar a lot. That is one of the many favourites I have eaten in Cvjetno”.

He added that the first time he visited mensa, he thought it would very similar to the food from his country. “When I came, I saw a lot of  food that I am very familiar with, but the food combinations were something I have never expected.” Chicken and pasta was one of the combinations that threw him off. The best thing for him, as many students would say, are cakes and little juices you can buy for the affordable price. 

Foto: Miranda Cikotic/PIXSELL

“The only thing that I don’t like about mensa is that a lot of food is wasted because the portions are really big” says Paloma Gutierrez, 24, from Mexico. She stayed in Croatia last semester to study law. She got used to students restaurants very fast since the food is very similar to her country, especially for lunch. Paloma tried some of our traditional food like čevapi and burek in mensa and was really satisfied with the taste. 

Like Filip Kiko said, the best meal he had was on Cvjetno and Paloma Gutierrez agreed on it as well. The tastiest dish she had was rice with vegetables and pasta. „I usually tend to go for the vegetarian meal since it always looks better.“ She also mentioned that she didn’t understand why they don’t make meals for the vegans as well. It would really help those who follow this type of diet.

The next student said something that a lot of people didn’t refer to. There were multiple times when students didn’t understand what was something on the plate. This problem is accurate even for the students from Croatia. Unfortunately, the menu on the front door is just in Croatian, so it makes it harder for the international students to understand the offer. „Normally I would come with my boyfriend and he would explain the menu to me. But most of the time I just take what’s familiar” says Ani. 

Students restaurants give every student an opportunity to eat proper food and more wholesome meals in busy college life. They should be enabled in every country since it saves time and money for many. 

Author: Anamaria Jurković