“Sooty Alley” on Avala
They are young, beautiful, eager to learn. They came from 22 non-aligned countries, asfellowsof the Serbian Government. For a year, they studied Serbian language at the Faculty of Philology and lived at a student hostel on Avala. Now they are commencing their selected studies and are moving to student dormitories, and a group of 17 0 new colleagues are coming here on their place, from 40 countries. They are thrilled with Avala, hostel, people and conditions. In fluent Serbian, they sang a song of “Garavi sokak” (Sooty Alley), a band from Novi Sad

For years we have not seen them in the streets of Belgrade, and now, all of a sudden, as if they flooded them. We meet them in public transportation, on Ada, in cafes, places where young people gather. They have learned the language, and are jokingly repeating the saying: Speak Serbian, so that the whole world would understand you. There are about one hundred of them now. Some are freshmen, some are here to gain academic knowledge and degrees higher than those they already have. Most of them arrived a year agofrom 22 non-aligned countries. From Kenya, Dominican Republic, Palestine, Burundi, Mali, Bangladesh, Syria, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Iran... All of them eager to learn. They are fellows of the Serbian Government and are here within project “World in Serbia”. They are placed at student hostel “Avala”, at the foot of the mountain with the same name near Belgrade. They have scholarship, paid accommodation and food.
They spend the last year studying Serbian language. When they passed the final language exam in July, as a prerequisite for normal continuation of selected studies, these days they are starting going to their faculties and dormitories. A new group of fellows is arriving to the hostel on Avala. For now, 170 of them are registered, from 40 countries.


They have come from different cultures and religions. Many of them have come to Serbia, and Europe in general, for the first time. They are full of praise for the host country. They are delighted with kindness, hospitality and directedness of people they meet everywhere. The only thing they don’t like is the climate. They are used to average temperature between 20 and 30 degrees, without great oscillations. When they saw snow here, for the first time in their life, they ran out of they rooms wearing only slippers and T-shirts. They have learned to sled here, and some of them are getting ready to start skiing this winter.
– We have had to adapt the food for these young guests. We have vegetarians, Muslims, Christians... They are used to eating rice, and not bread. They ate watermelon for the first time here. They love fruits. We are trying to accommodate them not only when it comes to food, but with their other needs as well. Every day we interview them and based on that make the menu. They eat very little meat, but like cabbage rolls, stuffed peppers, beans, sautéed potatoes with onions... Chicken is their favorite. They have adapted and almost all of them have gained weight. They are modest and respect the fact that they are here. We take care of their religious holidays. We have introduced internet in halls and rooms free of charge. Most of them are from South African countries. Many of them spend the summer here because the trip home for them is extremely pricey – says Zoran Spasojević, manager of “Avale”, and adds:
– The live in double and single rooms. They are using monthly passes for public transportation. While they were studying language, they didn’t go to the city so often. In the summer they were going out more, they know exactly where everything is, where there are good places for going out.
Jean Bosco is 25 years old, from Burundi, wants to improve his skills in medicine. He speaks French, and has learned Serbian here.
– I like Belgrade. I like Serbia. I have learned your language. I had a hard time. I can communicate well and listen to lectures. The only thing is that I speak slowly. I don’t like winter and snow, it will be difficult for me to get used to that.
Twenty one years old David Kajumbi, future doctor, came from Kenya:
– I love people here. They are very kind and always ready to help. I have learned to like snow, but I don’t like winter, coldness. However, I have prepared myself for it. I have used a part of my break and with colleagues from the dormitory I visited Novi Sad, Niš, Kragujevac, Novi Pazar... It was very nice.
Elijah Troičić, 21 years old, ishis countryman. Not only does his name reminiscent of our own, but he was also nicknamed Ilija. At home, he began his studies in biomedicine, and he will transfer to medical school here. In his home country, a country of 40 million people, a job is waiting for him. Doctors are very sought for there. He wants to help people around the world, not just their fellow citizens.
– Besides language, it was hard for me to get used to standing in the bus, because in my country everybody is sitting in a bus. But I'm used to this now. In my country people speak 42 different languages, and as lingua franca we are mostly using English. Everybody here speaks one language and it is easy for them to communicate. They like to socialize, and in my country this is not exactly the case. I like your older architecture, in areas were buildings are preserved, the Kalemegdan fortress. During the day we would go to Ada to swim and ride bicycles, and in the evening we would go to cafes and night clubs on the river.


Hassan Alnajjar, a Palestinian from Gaza, fell in love in a girl named Sanja from Zvornik. He has not been to this town on the Drina River, but he is getting ready to go with her to Tara, when the snow falls, and learn to ski well. He has learned to sled on Avala. He is used to our food, and his favorite is cabbage rolls.
Omar Fufana from Mali fell in love with airplanes when he was a child, and so he enrolled the Faculty of Traffic Management, Department of Air Traffic. His friend is David Down, who will study at the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering to become an aeronautical engineer. Both of them love fruits. They have eaten pears for the first time (they have apples at home), blackberries (they have raspberries), grapes. They say that melons here are different from theirs and that ours are much tastier.
Mulikaken Mainvujezet came from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to study agronomy. Understandable, since he wants to increase the production of food in his country. Nineteen years old Aminata Sanu came from Bamak, Mali, to study economy and thus to continue her family tradition. Mari Onah came from Nigeria to pursue a graduate degree in biochemistry. She has chosen Belgrade University, because she met Serbis in her country, those who used to work in “Energoprojekt” on electrification of Nigeria. She knew a lot about our country. Now she has grown even more fond of people here, says this 35 year old, because she had a chance to get to know them better.
And so, each one of these students have their own story, their own reasons to come to study in Serbia. They all agree on one thing: the hostel on Avala is a little heaven, a god given place to study and to live. If it only weren’t for the winter. In comparison with Africa, this is far north, right?


Seven decades of taking care of students
Student hostels are an institution founded in 1948, in a barrack brought from a settlement of young people who participated in work actions on the construction of Šamac – Sarajevo Railway. The existing building on Avalski put was purchased in early 1950’s from PTT. Its complete reconstruction was finished last year, and now it is one of the most luxurious student hostels in this part of Europe.
– Such facilities used to be classified as recovery facilities. Food has always been good here, students also had medical doctors, full care. In the current medical categorization there are no recovery facilities, and so we have become a hostel – says Rade Dabetić, an economist and legal officer, Director of the Student Hostel Institute (who has been taking care of hostels for 25 years) for National Review.


Advantages for external users
Student hostels used to be under control of Belgrade University. Since about fifteen years ago, the institution has been under control of the Ministry of Education, Department for Pupil and Student Standard. Organizationally, it also includes hostels on Zlatibor and Palić.
– We are currently completing a congress centre on Zlatibor, with conference halls equipped with audio-visual equipment, and the sports hall will be completed this fall – says Rade Dabetić. – On Palić, on 6.5 hectares of land, we have partially refurbished a building with 300 seats. We hope to continue these works in October. Here, on Avala, we have purchased a neighboring house in order to make parking and garages. Since we are an open-type facility, we must provide our guests with all amenities and ensure a pleasant stay. We offer full board with very favorable prices, and we also have the most advanced kitchen in the Balkans, with top quality chefs.


Studentska odmarališta Srbije
Avalski put bb
Telephone: +381 11 3907 225 946


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