For those in the know, Slovakia is famous for its pristine nature, its hearty national dish bryndzove halusky (an ultimate comfort food made from potato dumplings, sheep cheese, and bacon), and its potent alcoholic beverages. Gaining independence in 1993, Slovakia is a relatively new country, but its rich, deeply slavic history extends back to the 8th century.
The remnants of many past European empires that have fought over the Slovak homeland remain scattered throughout its cities and countryside; but the great pride of Slovakia is its stunning natural beauty. This small country lies at the very heart of Europe, yet remains off the radar of many tourist circuits, granting it a distinct appeal for those that enjoy truly emerging in foreign cultures and experiencing Europe off the beaten track.
Bratislava: The most popular city for international students is the country’s capital, Bratislava. It is centrally located on the Danube River and easily accessible for travel within Slovakia and to the popular destinations in neighboring countries such as Vienna, Prague, and Budapest. While smaller and quieter than many capitals, it offers much of the same old-world, picturesque charm found in Western European cities. The most popular and prestigious university in Bratislava is Comenius University. This public school has 13 faculties (departments), a student body of about 30 thousand, and offers many courses and few complete programs in English, French, and German.
Kosice: Formerly a key royal town in the Austro-Hungarian monarchy, Kosice is the largest city in eastern Slovakia. Together with Marseille, France, it is also the 2013 European Capital of Culture. Foreign students come to Kosice mainly for the study of medicine and dentistry at Pavol Jozef Safarik University or the University of Technology in Kosice.
Nitra: Nitra is one of Slovakia’s oldest cities, and offers appeal for both its wealth of important historical and cultural structures and its surrounding natural beauty. One of the most important international events in Slovakia, the International Theatre Festival, is hosted at Nitra’s very modern Andrej Bagar Theatre. It also has a fairly bustling club and café scene, popular among the many students that occupy the city most of the year. It is home to the University of Constantine the Philosopher and the Slovak University of Agriculture.
How to Choose a Program
There are many factors to keep in mind when choosing a program. Consider the academic resources the program provides, as well as your own preferences for independence or support.
- Academics: Slovak higher education, or vysoká škola (literally translated as “high school”) is composed of public, state, and private institutions. Typical Bachelor’s programs take 3 years of study to complete, and Master’s Degrees take an additional two years. PhD programs tend to take 3-4 years. Professional degrees, such as medicine and law, do not tend to require a bachelor’s degree to enroll, and can be pursued directly following the completion of secondary school. The credit system follows the rules of the European Credit Transfer Systems (ECTS).
- Housing: Foreign students, like domestic students, tend to live in dormitories, which are the most affordable housing option for students and are often equipped with laundry, dining halls, and even fitness facilities. International students are often grouped together, which is useful for socializing on weekends, when domestic students usually go home.
- Language:The language of instruction is predominately Slovak, however many schools offer programs in English, German, and French. Most English language study programs at all levels are offered in the areas of natural sciences, civil engineering, economics, medicine, and dentistry. Many universities organize Slovak language courses for international students, the most well known and intensive of which is Studia Academica Slovaca (SAS), offered through Comenius University in Bratislava.
Social Life and Student Culture
Slovak students enjoy visiting cafes, bars, clubs, and spending time exploring their country’s beautiful natural resources. Beer is generally cheaper than water, so make sure to try Zlatý Bažant, a crisp, delicious Slovak beer.
Student discounts are offered for almost every form of transportation, entertainment, and museum. However, they will not accept foreign home institution IDs so it is essential to have a Slovak student ID or an ISIC card.
While in Slovakia, it is definitely worth taking a trip to the Tatras mountain range, Slovak Paradise National Park, UNESCO World Heritage Site Banska Stiavnica, and Slovakias majestic and well-preserved castles, most notably Bojnice and Spiš.
POP QUIZ: True or False: there are people willing to give you money to help you travel.
True! There are tons of scholarships out there. The Slovak Government offers several scholarship programs to attract foreign students, including CEEPUS, the International Visegrad Fund (IVF), and other targeted funds for mobility and mobilization.
- CEEPUS offers funds to students studying Danube countries, such as Hungary, Slovakia, Romania and Poland.
- International Visegrad Fund (IVF) offers money to graduate students and scholars whose research brings them to Slovakia.
- More Study Abroad Grants and Scholarships