Špela studies social work at the university of Ljubljana in Slovenia and spend the acacemic year 2013/14 as a student at ASH Berlin.
Špela, what is your home university and what do you study?
I am studying at the University of Ljubljana, specifically in the Department of Social Work, in which the only major is social work. My department is small, with about 100 students each year. The building in which it is housed consists of a ground floor and the basement, altogether eight classrooms. Its size can also be an advantage because students and professors are somehow more familiar with each other, especially in the 3rd and 4th years. It’s a free programme of studies, though not yet for the masters programmes (though a recent development may be about to kick in, or maybe not). The Department has a post-socialistic spirit, and the students are motivated and altruistic. Many have been activists on several occasions.
Do you like it here at ASH Berlin?
I do! The classrooms are better equipped than I’m used to from my home university. There’s a music room, creative room and a gym where everything is available to students free of charge. There’s free printing, a computer room, scanner, copy machines and the library is well stocked on a variety of topics. The most important thing is the flow of information and I really appreciate how the International Office has been sending us e-mails in both English and German, always at the right time and then some reminders right before the event or a deadline. They have really been doing a great job keeping us informed about everything that is going on.
What things do you like less?
I’m not particularly fond of the food in the Mensa to be honest. It’s really cheap and all but it seems like they put some kind of herb in there that makes everything taste the same. Also it would be awesome if they could gather all the English books in one section in the library or maybe make a list of all the books available in English.
How do you perceive studying here?
I’m fully aware of the fact that the schedule and workload of an average Erasmus student always differs from regular students and maybe rightfully so. When I’ve compared my schedule with those Erasmus students who are studying in German there were many differences. They seemed to have a heavier workload and will be given different examinations. I get just to listen and participate in the lectures, not getting stressed about taking notes on everything that is being said, knowing I can find it on moodle later. That takes the pressure off and increases retention.
Why did you choose this university for your exchange programme?
I chose this university for reasons that kind of complimented each other. It’s the first school of social work in the world (or so I’ve heard). We were learning about Alice Salomon just last year in class, and as if that’s not enough, it’s located in Berlin! Well... Hellersdorf.
Did you learn any German so far?
Hate this question! It makes me feel lazy, guilty and irresponsible. But yes, some. Not as much as I thought I would after four months though. Everyone says how it’s so easy to learn a language when you’re in the country where it’s spoken. I’m not sure if that’s true. I should have definitely done more groundwork before coming here. My schedule is also a little all over the place so it’s hard to coordinate it with another language school and the distances make it very difficult.
Do you see differences between Ljubljana and Berlin?
Oh so many! The really obvious one is the size of the two cities. Ljubljana has a little less than 300.000 inhabitants, Berlin more than ten times more. Berlin is also more multicultural and I’m particularly enjoying that aspect when I’m stuffing my face with zum Beispiel Sudanese falafel. It’s really hard to compare these two cities. I’m enjoying Berlin more than my home town, mainly because of the variety of choices I have for everything and the nightly transportation during weekends, but I also wouldn’t stay here for longer than a few years. This winter is killing me, and today I was skating all day instead of walking. There is also some comfort in smaller cities, they are more manageable.
Do you have any suggestions for someone who is new to Berlin?
Don’t just get sucked into a blur of bars, clubs, drinking, photo taking and other painfully typical Erasmus activities. Learn how to cook something exotic, head to Turkish markets, stop for a Gluhwein at Warschauer and listen to a street musician. Talk to people from countries far away; let them show you their culture. Get the feeling of the city and trust me: The world isn’t going to end if you never get into Berghain.
Thank you very much!
The interview was conducted by Diana Grothues.