One of the main reasons I considered studying in Slovenia was my decision to go somewhere for a whole year. This ruled out some of the more popular options, and one in particular I had been accepted to. I had also been worrying that I had taken the easiest option instead of the best one so as I researched all the other exchange options (and I mean ALL) I realised that it was the best possible thing that could have happened, and I am still thankful for it.
So my first advice to anyone who is considering exchange would be, firstly; Consider doing exchange for a year, either in one place or different places for each semester. I think after 5-6 months I wouldn’t have been ready to go home, and I wouldn’t have had the holidays to travel. And secondly, Don’t be afraid to look at ALL the options, no matter the language barriers or how much (or little) you know about the country already. That’s enough of the tips for now; I will do a whole post devoted to advice from my application process and exchange experience when it is coming to an end.
It has been a long time since I posted and quite a bit has happened. I finished my semester at the end of June and headed off travelling. Thankfully I passed all my subjects without too much strain and didn’t have to take any re-sits (but they do give you about 3 tries to pass a subject here, which you may be thankful for if you plan on partying and travelling a lot!). So I had the entire 3 months of summer holidays to do with as I pleased.
One of the major advantages of living in Slovenia has been the position. Not only is it really close to Austria, Italy and Croatia, but it is also close to Eastern Europe and the Balkans. I have been to a lot of countries in the past few months that I hadn’t originally planned to visit and really wouldn’t have known much about if I hadn’t been living in this part of Europe. Firstly I did a trip to Montenegro and Croatia to get some sun and beach time. It is so cheap to rent a car in Slovenia that 4 of us (2 Australians, a French-Canadian and a Dane) all rented one for over a week and made our plans as we went. Then I continued by bus with 2 friends onto more of Eastern Europe, including Tirana (Albania), Ohrid, Skopje (Macedonia), Pristina (Kosovo) and back again to Croatia and Montenegro. I then had the opportunity to visit some friends in Portugal and stay with them in their summerhouses along the beautiful southern coast before making my way to Spain and Morocco. I returned to Ljubljana in time for my parents to visit and together we rented a car and explored some more of Slovenia and Croatia.
Slovenia itself has many beautiful natural landmarks and scenery. I have been lucky enough to go rafting on the crystal blue waters of the Soca river, seen spectacular waterfalls (in Slovenia and nearby in Croatia), done hikes up mountains, been through kilometres of underground caves and climbed up to a castle or two, as well as some other amazing experiences. Slovenia is a great place to visit if you are interested in outdoor activities, including snow sports in the north, which I am excited to have a go at now that the weather is turning cold.
Ljubljana itself is a beautiful little European city. It has most of the things a Western-European capital would have but in a more compact area. There is a really lovely city centre with a river running through it, surrounded by bars and cafes on either side and the Old Town, made up of gorgeous old buildings filled with restaurants and shops. Also, there is quite an alternate lifestyle in parts of Ljubljana, and one of my favourite areas in the city is Metelkova. This is where the old army barracks were in the city and is now made up of bars, galleries and a contemporary art museum. Not to mention all the interesting street art that is part of the place and surrounds it all.
People also enjoy going out for drinks or coffee in one of the many, many bars along the river, or in one of the squares or a park (Hallelujah to no open container laws!). On Saturday mornings there are the markets next to the river, near the centre and here you can buy fruit and vegetables from local farmers or producers as well as some other foods. There is also a massive shopping centre/complex about 20mins out of the city by bus that we sometimes go to. It has most shops you could want as well as a water park, cinema, bowling alley, go-karts, restaurants, bars and a lot of other things.
Now my parents have left and I have started university again. I said good-bye to the last of the exchange students from the semester before and helped them do the traditional throwing of their old shoes onto the wire. Now, the new group of exchange students have arrived and I have got to meet a lot of new people through events organised by the university or the student organisation and just from going out.
Moreover, the faculty organises trips during orientation week, and intermittently throughout the semester, to Slovenian cities and other nearby cities. It’s a great way to see some more of Slovenia and also a really fun way to meet some people that you are on exchange with. Trust me, spending 6 hours on a bus, sharing hotel rooms, partying together and being hung-over together can really help you get to know someone.
I decided to move out of the student accommodation for the reasons that I wanted my own room/space and to be able to cook more and to generally have a bit more freedom. However, there are a lot of people in the dorms and a lot of partying and pre-drinking goes on there and it is definitely a fun and cheaper place to live. I now live with two German friends in an apartment near the centre, which is about 200 euros per month. The Student Meal Coupon system that subsidises student meals is still available, thankfully, and so we eat quite a lot of meals out, as do most students here.
My classes this semester don’t seem to be very difficult, we are in the 3rd week and I think they will require similar or less work than classes in Australia. Also, because it is pass/fail grades, and being native English it certainly is a lot easier. Class sizes for exchange students and the Slovenes studying in English generally tend to be around 30 people, however they can be larger or smaller. My smallest last semester was around 6 and this semester I have one that is around 100. Typically the lecturers are friendly and willing to help and are available for consultation and by email. The International Office is also very helpful and available for any issues, not to mention your tutor that is assigned to you by the university to help with any problems or anything that needs organising when you first arrive.
There is also the option of doing sports activities through the university. This includes; Volleyball, Basketball, Tennis, Horse riding and Aerobics to name a few. Of course being a city there are also a lot of gyms that you can pay for per session or become a member of.
This is about all the new information about exchange in Slovenia that I can think of right now, but feel free to ask me any questions about anything! In the meantime, here is a song about exchange life in LJ (warning about some of the content) but there are some beautiful images of the city! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M9t-d7Ur1Bg