Discovering pharmacy in Croatia

Wednesday, November 16, 2022

Have you ever dreamed of combining your love of travel with your ambitions? For Nikola Cubelic this dream was made a reality with the help of the Student Exchange Program (SEP) at Waterloo School of Pharmacy.

After doing intensive research, seeing fellow students’ posts and gathering an understanding about SEP, the program organized by the International Pharmaceutical Students’ Federation (IPSF), Nikola knew that this was an opportunity he had to seize.

After finding out that Croatia was one of the host countries, he knew it would be a perfect fit, given his family’s roots in Croatia.

“I didn’t know that this was even an option,” says Nikola. “Then one day I saw another pharmacy student post about SEP and how they were able to take part in an exchange and I thought this is something I really want to do."

"It was honestly the best experience of my entire academic career." - Nikola Cubelic (Rx2023)

Nikola, a third-year pharmacy student, travelled to Zagreb, Croatia’s capital, for three weeks this past summer. He travelled, worked in a pharmacy, met other pharmacy students and gained the experience of a lifetime.

Nikola worked at the Ilica 11 Farmacia, a pharmacy that specializes in natural care. While learning more about global pharmaceutical practices, he assisted the pharmacist with daily tasks and learned about compounding natural health products, something he hadn’t experienced before.

two pharmacists with masks on

Nikola with preceptor Andrea Koščec, pharmacist at Farmacia.

“I was able to see the difference between Canada’s pharmacy system and Croatia’s. Seeing regulations put into practice and how they work to meet the unique needs of their patients and system helped me better understand why certain things work in one country and why other things work in the next,” he says. “I want to be able to reflect on what I’ve learned to see how I can take this information to help better Canada’s system.”

inside a pharmacy

Inside Farmacia, Ilica 11, Zagreb, Croatia​. 

In addition to learning about Croatia’s system, Nikola learned about various other countries as well, “Because there were different exchange students from all over the world, I got to learn about how their home countries’ systems operated and practiced.” He noted that when they learned about pharmacy practices in Croatia, the students would often go back and forth with how it compared and contrasted to the practices they were familiar with.

When he wasn’t working, he was able to visit other areas of the country and really immersed himself in the culture of Croatia.

statue in croatia

A picture taken by Nikola in Zagreb, Croatia. 

“Getting to travel the country and sightsee was unlike anything else. I learned from other pharmacy students about their pharmacy experiences and got to know them while trying the country’s foods and exploring. Making new connections while discovering how beautiful Croatia and its culture is, was a highlight of my trip,” he says.

sunset over a lake

Picture taken by Nikola in Opatija​, Croatia. 

Not only was this opportunity an incredible experience but it has since changed the way Nikola hopes to approach his career.

“I now want to choose an area in the pharmacy field that will allow me to travel. I want to be able to meet more international healthcare providers and learn from them,” he says. “I hadn’t quite considered that before, but after this exchange I know that I want to keep having experiences like it.”

Pharmacy is a regulated profession where you usually practice in the country that you get your degree and license in. Nikola advises students to strongly consider applying to an exchange because it gives students the opportunity to:

  • work in pharmacies around the world before degree completion
  • explore possible career choices they might not have considered
  • gain international exposure to a profession where there are often barriers in doing so

Nikola says that having doubts or questions is natural but doing your research beforehand will help you prepare. If you have questions specifically about international pharmacy, the best way to learn is by going on an exchange and answering them in person.

“Not many students from previous years have gotten this opportunity. I think if even just a small part of you wants to go, you should look into it,” says Nikola.

“Without Waterloo Pharmacy I wouldn’t have gone. I learned about the exchange through student stories like these and because it was advertised, otherwise I wouldn’t have known these things were possible. I’m really thankful for the school’s support of my participation in this exchange.”