An Internship Turned Into 2 Year Stay: The Story of Maxi

An internship done in a foreign country is not just a chance to advance your CV. It’s also a possibility to gain new experience and try a taste of life in a completely different environment. Sounds like a dream or a challenge? If you are still in doubt, the story of Maxi is for you! Moreover, this story is about an internship not merely abroad, but in Slovenia!

Maxi is a young man who had a chance to do his Erasmus+ internship in Ljubljana, Slovenia, and, later, stayed in the country for two more years. In this interview, he shares his impressions about Slovenia and gives students and interns recommendations on how to make their stay in the country unforgettable.

In the interview, you will find out about:

  • the culture shock of Maxi
  • who Slovenians are and how to socialize with them
  • language problems in Slovenia
  • student cost of living in Ljubljana
  • 5 must-to-do things in Slovenia as a student
  • recommendations to those who are going to come to Slovenia

Maxi, could you please, tell us about yourself?

Hello everyone! My name is Maxi. I am 27, born and raised in the city of Huelva in Spain. At the moment, I am living in Morocco. I work at the Spanish embassy in Casablanca. I am consulting Spanish companies who are willing to come here. We help them to internationalize. 

How did you come up with the idea to do an internship in Slovenia, and when was that?

I came to Ljubljana as an intern after the fourth year of my studies at the University of Huelva. It was in 2015. According to my program’s curriculum (I studied business management, finances, and accounting), I had to do an internship before getting a diploma. Thus, I chose to do mine at Ljubljana’s creative co-working space called “Poligon.”

The reason why I decided on Slovenia is quite interesting and simple at the same time. I made friends with many Slovenians who were doing Erasmus+ exchange in my home city, Huelva. They told me very nice things about Ljubljana, and I got curious about this place. Then, it appeared that I got an internship, and I thought, “Why not to have a new experience?”

I came to Slovenia to do my Erasmus+ internship, which was lasting for about five months. After my graduation, I came one more time and stayed for almost two years as a participant in the Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs program.

What was the unusual thing you noticed when you had just arrived?

Since Slovenia is quite a small country, there was not a lot of information available about it. But when I arrived, I was amazed. I had no expectations of the country, which helped me appreciate the things it offered to the fullest. You may not expect a lot from the place you will visit, and exactly no expectation makes the experience more emotional and pleasant.

I already had friends in Ljubljana, so I got used to the place quite quickly. The weather was very friendly, people were welcoming, especially my colleagues, and there was a lot of nature. Those were the main reasons why I decided to stay in Slovenia also later on.

Approximately 70% of the country is pure nature, which you can discover endlessly. You have so many options of where to go. You literally can go to a new place every single day and never get bored because each and every part of the country is impressive. Moreover, Slovenia is surrounded by other really beautiful countries such as Croatia, Austria, Italy. So, you can plan more complex trips too.

When people visit a foreign country, they adapt to it and deal with such a problem as a culture shock. There are three stages of it: the first is when you notice beautiful things only and you are amazed by the new place; the second stage is frustration: you start realizing that not everything in the new location is perfect, and things that you find hard to deal with start irritating you; and finally, the third stage is when you accept your negative emotions and start dealing with the difficulties. Did you experience similar stages of adaptation? How did your culture shock look?

Honestly, I so much fell in love with Ljubljana and Slovenia in general that I stayed on the first stage of the process you have just described. I was fascinated by everything. I do not remember that I would be irritated with anything. Even if that happened, I forgot about it quickly.

I think I felt like that because of the kind multicultural environment at my working place. This helped me explore the country and get used to it with the same people as a foreigner. And also, I had friends in Ljubljana before I came there. They were supporting me too. Therefore, I did not step over the first stage of culture shock. Slovenia is a country where I would like to establish myself and live in the future. It’s my priority. I am planning to do that in the future.

Even though you worked in an international environment, you probably had a chance to communicate with native Slovenians. How would you describe them? How are Spanish and Slovenians different?

Yes, I’ve got a chance to communicate with many Slovenians, but, surprisingly, I did not find a lot of difference between their lifestyle and the lifestyle of the nation I come from. Slovenians are very open. They like to get to know new people, and they have a good temper of humor. Also, they are hard-working. I am still in contact with all Slovenians that I used to work with. It is easy to establish a working relationship with this nation. This is also the reason why I would like to live in this country in the future.

The difference between Slovenians and Spanish is more in the cultural aspect. The cuisine, music – these are the things that differ a lot. But everybody decides for himself whether to like it or not.

It is important to admit that there is a pretty big difference between young Slovenians and the elderly. Since Slovenia belonged to ancient Yugoslavia, which was much more prominent, the older generation used to get information from the other countries (Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Montenegro), and their life was more cooperative and much easier going. That’s why one can notice that the older generation is quite nostalgic about their past. But at the same time, Slovenians are very proud of themselves, and they appreciate their roots. That’s what I like about this nation a lot. Slovenians express their love towards the country and care about its development in all spheres. This also a difference between the Slovenians and the Spanish.

I think it is kind of the standard feature of the 21st century for the older generation to be different from the youth. We grew up during entirely different times.

Let’s talk about language. Every person needs to express their opinion or ideas and wants to be heard. When we face communication difficulties, we can often get frustrated. In general, difficulty with self-expression in a foreign language and problems with understanding quite often lead to the second stage of culture shock, the irritation stage. Could you tell us more about your experience of communicating in Slovenia? Did you have any language problems?

Not at all! The majority of Slovenians speak English fluently, so I had no problem in terms of communication. There were some situations when I had to interact with grannies around 80 years old who spoke only Slovenian, Bosnian, or Croatian. Still, in this case, my basic knowledge of Slovenian was enough. Also, there was a situation when I got to the hairdresser who did not speak any English, but we somehow understood each other. Yet, these situations are quite rare. You can go anywhere just speaking English only. Even in the countryside, you will find a person who speaks English fluently.

Do you have any recommendations on how to learn Slovenian or where to take a course?

I did not take any Slovenian courses because I was lucky to learn it from my friend. I got most of the knowledge from him because he spoke English fluently and could explain to me some words and phrases. But I know that there are courses available. People who I worked with at the co-working space used to take them. You just have to google.

I would say that learning Slovenian is a personal choice, and it is more about comfort. If you stay in Slovenia for a short term, English is enough. But if you have any long-term project, and have to stay in the country for a couple of years, it is recommended. It brings a lot of pleasure to communicate with the natives in their mother tongue, and it shows your respect towards the county, which Slovenians appreciate a lot.

Let’s move to the more practical part of life: is it expensive for an intern or a student to live in Ljubljana?

Slovenia is not an expensive country at all. I used to share a flat with my friends, and, if I am not mistaken, we used to pay around 300 euros/month in total. Our flat was in the city center next to the park.

Students can also get a discount on transport, but I had my own bike. It was super cheap. I bought it for 30 euros and sold it for 20.

If you want to dine out, it can also be easily done: as a student, you can get a relatively big discount at some places because the government pays a percentage of the meal you have at the restaurants. Therefore, there is usually a separate menu for students, which differs from the regular menu. You can spend a fortune too. It depends on how fancy restaurants you visit.

What about social life? How do Slovenians spend time together, and what is the best way to socialize with them?

It is easy to make friends with Slovenians. They are very easy-going. They like to party a lot, and there are many places in Ljubljana where you can have a drink and make friends with them. Like this, you can often meet new people by the river.

Also, an excellent way to socialize with Slovenians is to do sports with them. They love doing all kinds of sports, and they are very good at it. They are healthy people.

5 must-to-do things in Slovenia as a student

Oh, it will be more than five.

You cannot miss the thing called “open kitchen” in Ljubljana. This event happens every Friday. The local restaurants offer their treats to people right at the main square of Ljubljana. When people finish working, they usually meet their friends at the “open kitchen.” I enjoyed it a lot.

In Ljubljana, you should also visit the castle. Slovenians are proud of it.

If you are an ice-cream lover as, for example, I am, there is the place called “Vigò.” It was amazing! At this place, I have got lots of lovely memories with one good friend of mine.

As for food, you also have to try a burger at the place called “Pop’s place.” It is delicious! I also heard they have opened a Pop’s pizza place in town lately and I’m looking forward to try it as soon as I’ll be back in Ljubljana!

Without a doubt, you should visit the Bohinj lake and the town called Piran, by the seaside. Both places fascinated me!

You should go to Bled and try its typical dessert called Kremsnita. Very nice thing!

You should also go to the Vogel ski center. Even if you are not a fan of skiing, it is worth riding a funicular there and enjoy the view.

And of course, you have to ride a bike in Ljubljana. It was one of the most memorable things for me. One funny situation happened to me at the beginning of my stay. I went to a party one evening, and I got a bit drunk. I was riding a bike home. And what do you think? Police stopped me. I did not know that a bicycle is a vehicle equal to a car according to Slovenian law. Thus, I got in a little trouble. Do not repeat my mistake (laughs).

What recommendations would you give to those who are going to come to Slovenia?

Slovenia is a great country! It offers a lot not just to tourists, but also to students.

If you are going to come to Slovenia, I recommend going to the local food markets. There you can buy delicious products at very reasonable prices.

If you are going to live in Slovenia for a longer time, buy a bike. It is a cheap and healthy vehicle which is very pleasant to ride.

Also, go to nature every single weekend. You can have lots of one or two-day trips to various places. And that’s a great way to discover the country and find out its secrets.

Take advantage of everything the country offers. Make friends with Slovenians because they are great people. Discover the history of the places. Slovenia and Yugoslavia, in general, have an incredible history. Follow the example of Slovenes and go in for sports. I really recommend cycling. And actually, any sport is good: volleyball, basketball, anything! Just be active!

These are all recommendations I can give you at the moment.

Thank you so much for sharing! I hope your experience will be useful for our readers and they will follow your recommendations when visiting this beautiful country.

Thanks to you! It was a pleasure!

Thank you for reading our article. We do our best to provide you with first-hand information about Slovenia and its wonders. We know we are not infallible though. In case you encounter any mistakes in our articles or you have any suggestions, please contact us. Let us know how we could improve. It will help us to keep our information updated and deliver to readers the most valuable possible content.  We will gladly take your suggestions!

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