Now, the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about Slovenia is usually Slovakia. Unfortunately they have nothing else common than almost the same name and almost the same flag. The similarities usually end there, and diversity begins. And Slovenia should be your next destination for a short vacation!
Think of a country which has old culture starting from roman era, beautiful small towns, huge mighty mountains and beautiful mediterranean coast with old towns. Picture caves deep enough to ride a train inside and a ice cold blue mountain river that stays freezing cold during the hottest months of the year. Now picture everything I said, and put it to a size of a country that you can drive through in 3 hours. That is Slovenia, and it is much more than that. And it’s fairytale looks have been captured in the Narnia movie series.
I chose Slovenian coast as my destination, since it was a chance to enjoy a mediterranean lifestyle, with the possibilities to go to mountains and bigger cities with little commute. The possibilities to experience all of this was relatively easy since travel times were short, and prices affordable.
My destination town, Portoroz, is a small resort tourist town in the 44km long coast of Slovenia. Located just 5 kilometers from Croatian border, and 15km from Italian border. It is buzzing with tourists during the summer, but silent during the winter. My exchange period is the whole academic year that started from late October, and ends in the hottest month of the year, July.
TAMK hospitality management only could offer Restaurant management, so my interests to study tourism had to come from a another school, and the best place to study was a tourist town with school for this specific study line. I packed my bags, and joined the Erasmus flow and moved to the sunny coast of Slovenia.
Now studying compared to Finland is different. Much less group work, more writing, academic essays and a test season that requires a lot of reading. Methods are more university style than applied sciences, so people who are afraid of writing 15 page essays regularly, should try to research their places of study if this is too hard. I actually welcomed the change and challenge since I needed training for my upcoming thesis work. In the end, it was an rewarding experience.
People here are hardworking, precise, but have a relaxed Balkan attitude towards rules of society. Bureaucracy is a a nightmare, and just a opening of a bank account may require you to visit multiple times to the bank and dealing with clerks that do not speak english at all. But do not let these facts let you down, since your tutors will help you with everything!
Schedules are quite relaxed, and there is plenty of time to plan your life around studies. Travels, excursions and trips are possible. Venice, alps, Croatia and even Hungary are so nearby that you could experience all of these in short time.
I have skied in alps, hiking in the mountains, swam the in the ocean, seen Vienna, and been to Italy and explored olive gardens and vineyards. Tasted the local wine and olives, and explored the coastal towns with great food and cheap alcohol.
The coastal area and Ljubljana, capital of Slovenia, are especially expensive to accommodate, so prices can get up to Finnish prices in terms of rent, but life is relatively cheaper otherwise. Student services offer discounts to certain restaurants with student menus, and you can enjoy a nice dinner with less expenses. Eating out is quite the norm and worth trying out!
The mediterranen coast is a weird place in Slovenia, since it really feels like another country than rest of the Slovenia. There is so much variety in just 200km drive from the alps to the coast. Your journey may start from snow and blizzard of Julian Alps, and end up in the sunny palm tree filled Slovenian coast with plus 10 degrees. It is crazy!
So, if you want to see the hidden gem of Europe, come to Slovenia and experience it yourself, you will find out that jumping into the unknown can be very rewarding and you will meet people that are friendly and in love with their country’s beautiful scenery.