Industrial Design student Saara Ollila is currently on exchange at the University of Ljubljana. Below you can find her description of Ljubljana in the eyes of a student.
I began my student exchange at the University of Ljubljana in the beginning of October. However, I moved into the city already in the beginning of September to participate in an intensive course of the Slovenian language. About 150 students from 25 different countries took part in the course, where we learned the basics of Slovenian; ordering in restaurants, shopping, numbers and other vocabulary to facilitate every-day life. The Slovenians have excellent English skills, so it is easy to get by without the Slovenian language as well. First and foremost the intensive course was a great way to meet new people, and I am still good friends with some of my classmates. For a Design student such as myself, this was an excellent opportunity to connect with other exchange students, since I am the only exchange student in the Industrial Design programme this year.
Like hundreds of other exchange students, I arrived in the city without accommodation, but luckily found a room in the city centre within a few days after my arrival. The majority of the exchange students arrived in Ljubljana when the actual semester started in the beginning of October, when it was impossible to find an apartment. The cost of rent is considerably lower than in Helsinki (a room in the centre: ~€250 per month), so there is plenty of money left to spend on other things. I share an apartment with other exchange students from Poland, Germany, Spain and France, and living together has gone extremely well. Due to the central location of our apartment, our home has become a popular hang-out, so all I need to do is to walk into the kitchen to spend time with other people. The apartment is located in one of the many beautiful old buildings in the centre, and on a clear day you can see the Julian Alps from the front door.
The University of Ljubljana has 23 faculties and 3 art academies, of which I study in the Academy of Fine Arts and Design. This academy operates in two separate buildings, and I take courses in both. The Arts building is located in the city next to the Tivoli park and the Design building is an old brick factory a few kilometres from the centre. The old factory building works well as a design school with its loft studios and huge windows. The walls are covered with the students’ works and the overall atmosphere is bohemian.
The studying does not differ much from studying in Finland; the class sizes are small and the atmosphere is laid back. The design projects are mostly commissioned by businesses, which makes them interesting. All of the teaching is in Slovenian, so selecting courses was tricky at first. However, the professors are very helpful and happy to give instruction in English as well as they can. In the end I managed to find project-based courses in order to accumulate enough credits, but I have also sat through some classes taught in Slovenian.
The centre of Ljubljana is compact and I usually get around by city bike, or just walking. Buses are the only option for public transportation, and I use them mainly for getting to the university. Students get a discount card for the buses, which can also be used for the city bikes: the Urbana Card. The city bikes in Ljubljana are very popular and avalaible all year, with the cost of €3 per year.
The restaurant scene in Ljubljana is very Southern European; in any weather, the residents enjoy themselves at the numerous restaurants and outdoor cafés by the river Ljubljanica. One can even spot muskrats from the several bridges over the river that runs through the city. Eating at restaurants is very cheap in the majority of Ljubljana’s restaurants. The students can get a salad, a soup, a main dish and adessert for €0-5 with the “študentski boni” benefit. The benefit is available every day of the week and it can be used as many times as there are working days in a given month. The locals are very proud of the študentski boni system, and I myself cannot complain when fetching free pizza from the restaurant downstairs.
Travelling from Slovenia to other countries is easy due to its central location. In an hour you can drive to the neighbouring countries of Croatia, Italy, Austria or Hungary. Renting a car is easy and affordable with the student discounts, which results in the students travelling around Slovenia and abroad almost every weekend. Slovenia is a tiny country, but the excellent location gives the country a beach by the Mediterranean Sea, the Alps and everything in between. Time goes by incredibly fast and the semester is halfway through already, but instead of homesickness my departure seems to approach way too fast.
Hvala lepa in se vidimo!