Our interlocutor today is Natalia Moiseeva, a second-year student of the Digital Arts and Practices programme in English at the University of Nova Gorica. At home, in St. Petersburg, she graduated from the Russian College of Traditional Culture with a degree in Tourism. Two years ago, she came to Slovenia. Initially, Natalia entered the Marketing study programme at the University of Ljubljana but then she transferred to a creative study programme at the University of Nova Gorica. In her conversation with a 2TM journalist, the girl tells about her study experience in Ljubljana and Nova Gorica giving practical advice to future students on adaptation, mastering of the Slovenian language and employment.
Photo: © Natalia Moiseeva
– Natalia, good afternoon! Why have you decided to study in Europe and not in your homeland?
– Good afternoon! I have been attracted to life abroad since my school age – after I went on a tour to Europe. The people, the atmosphere and the life there seemed to me so extraordinary… A lot of time passed, and I returned to this thought more concretely. Mom supported me, and we began to think about my options for studying in Europe after graduating from college. During college, I was very fascinated by the English language. This allowed me to learn the language in two years, and as a result, I was encouraged to open up new horizons, such as studying abroad.
– Why have you chosen the Slovenian universities?
– Initially, I planned to go to Finland. It is in Europe, but at the same time, close to home. However, a year before my admission, the prices for higher education soared there, and we decided to look for another option. My mother started watching YouTube videos on immigration and study abroad, and Slovenia was one of the leaders among Russians in this matter. Thus, I got acquainted with this country. At first, I entered the University of Ljubljana. It was there that I found a suitable programme in English since I did not know Slovenian.
– How was the admission process? Were there any difficulties?
– The admission process was calm, without nerves. We contacted 2TM for assistance. They sent a list of the necessary documents, which we prepared and sent. I specifically had to write a motivation letter and fill out an application for admission. The whole admission process took about 2–3 months. There were no difficulties since I did everything on time. In general, cooperation experience is positive. I confess that I have a rather complicated character, but the 2TM employees found an approach to me and competently performed their duties.
– You say that you entered the English-language programme because you did not speak Slovenian at that time. And what about now? Do you know the language?
– I currently study the Slovenian language, let’s say, for my overall development. In my first year of studies, I learned all the words necessary for life – the names of food products, greetings, and the names of documents. I think that now I am at the Beginner level. Teachers speak to us in English but sometimes transfer to Slovenian. It often happens that Slovenian words coincide with Russian but, unfortunately, they do not always coincide in meaning. By the way, for foreign students, free Slovene language courses are organized at the university. I think this is a good opportunity for foreigners to at least become familiar with this language. Of course, to overcome the language barrier, you need to communicate with the locals, there is no other way out. In the beginning, I was very worried that everyone would notice my accent, mistakes, or how slowly I spoke, but in fact, it makes you only more interesting for others, a sort of “wonder.” People Immediately start asking you, “What is your name?”, “Where are you from?”, “Why Slovenia?”, “Do you like it here?” etc. Be prepared to answer these questions, because you will hear them very often during your studies.
– Was an English certificate required from you upon admission?
– In fact, I was surprised to know that the university does not require a supporting document (certificate or diploma) about the level of language. This applies to both the English and the Slovenian languages. I myself understood that at the Faculty of Economics, English should be at a high level, so that I could understand lectures, write tests, pass exams and eventually defend a thesis. In my opinion, for a comfortable study in English, your level should be between B2 and C1.
– Tell us in more detail how you managed to master English and what could you advise to those who are just starting to learn it?
– As I have already said, I studied English myself, without courses and tutors and in a fairly short time, although I did not set myself such a goal. I was helped by serials, which gave me a set of vocabulary from various spheres of life, from medicine to politics. Now, I freely read books in English in order to maintain and improve the lexical and phonetic component of my knowledge.
My advice is if you like to watch movies or TV shows, watch them in the original language. If you like to read books, read them in the original language too. In addition, since we live in the age of high technology, it will not be difficult to find special sites for learning a foreign language.
– Please, share your impressions of studying under the Marketing programme at the University of Ljubljana. Why did you decide to change the study programme and the university?
– The first year was directed mainly to higher mathematics, economics, accounting, statistics and law. Lectures were held in large, spacious classrooms, with a large screen, on which professors demonstrate their presentations and explain everything in detail. There are early midterm exams. These are mini-tests or some works that help prepare for exams at the end of each semester. The exams themselves are quite complicated, you need to work hard to pass them. All topics that were covered during the semester are affected. Textbooks, presentations, your notes and constantly working email of professors are always at your disposal. It is also strictly forbidden to cheat off. Inspectors go everywhere and follow this.
The education that is given here is of high class. It is immediately obvious that professors love their work and the subject they teach. If there are any questions, they will be happy to answer, both personally and by mail. However, unfortunately, I didn’t find Marketing as such at this programme. The first year was aimed at a deep study of the economy. I realized that I personally do not want to do this. It is not my cup of tea, and therefore I decided to change the programme. I am glad that I did it on time.
– How do you study now? What subjects do you have on the new programme? What is the language of instruction?
– I am currently studying Digital Art and Practices at the University of Nova Gorica. This is the only university that offers this programme in English. I have chosen the Cinematography and Photography majors. There is also the Animation major in this programme. As far as I know, this is the only university in Slovenia where you can immerse yourself in digital art.
– How does the state help students in Slovenia? Do you personally feel this support? What is it like?
– Frankly speaking, in my opinion, I do not feel it so much. Of course, there are bonuses for food – “bons”, as well as discounts to movies and museums. But otherwise, of course, a foreign student has a hard time. The period of processing documents and issuing a residence permit took me up to 3 months. For some students, this is not critical, but my situation is special. The fact is that my Faculty is located on the territory of another state, and according to the existing rules, as long as I do not have a residence permit, I cannot leave the territory of Slovenia. However, in the end, the issue was successfully resolved.
As for student meal bonuses, this is an amazing system that allows you to eat in restaurants and cafes at a big discount. In Ljubljana, there are a couple of places where you can dine for free. On average, any lunch, including salad, main course, soup and water, will cost 2.50 EUR. The portions are simply gigantic, so I always carry food containers with me to take home what is left. I don’t know about scholarships as well as about the quotas for accommodation in dormitories. But my friend from Moldova got a 50% discount on tuition due to good academic performance.
– You have already lived in two cities of this country, Ljubljana and Nova Gorica. What are your impressions of them?
– Impressions are amazing. In my opinion, Ljubljana is more chaotic, and Nova Gorica is a calm and peaceful city. In Ljubljana, of course, there are more opportunities to go somewhere, to relax. Nova Gorica is interesting because it is located on the border with Italy, which in my case allows me to live and study in two different countries. This is of course great! The nature in this city is amazing. It is located close to the sea and the climate is much warmer than in Ljubljana. You can travel both from Ljubljana and from Nova Gorica. In the first case, this is the airport or Flixbus, which goes everywhere, sometimes you can find very cheap tickets. From Nova Gorica, all of Italy is in full view.
– How strong are the differences in the way of life here as compared to your native St. Petersburg?
– The first thing that catches the eye in Slovenia is that people do not hurry anywhere and solve all issues calmly, without nerves. Besides, I can’t get used to the fact that there are fewer people here. I also like that in Slovenia, they follow the ecology. I’m already so used to sorting out the garbage and not using plastic bags, that when I come home, tears well up in my eyes. I would very much like Russia to take care of nature as well.
– How is your life here? Where do you live? How have you found an apartment to rent?
– It is difficult to find a dormitory in Ljubljana, especially for foreigners. Therefore, I again turned to 2TM for assistance. They helped me with finding a room in an apartment. I was very lucky. I lived in a three-room apartment where I occupied one room. My neighbours were a Frenchwoman and a young Slovenian couple. We are very good friends and still communicate with each other. When I moved to Nova Gorica, I had some difficulties because Slovenes are always the first in line for renting an apartment in Slovenia. I was lucky again – I rented almost the last bed in a room for two people. I could not find a common language with my new neighbour and the times were difficult for me. Later, I agreed with another dormitory to book a single room for me for the next year, and now I am the happy owner of a separate room. As elsewhere, kitchen, shower and toilets are shared here. At first, it was not very comfortable, but now I’m used to it and I feel almost at home.
– In general, how much does it cost a student to live in Slovenia? Is it possible to have varied leisure, to travel?
– I won’t say that it’s cheap to live here. A room in Ljubljana cost 200 EUR per month, plus 30–50 EUR for utilities depending on the season. The first dormitory in Nova Gorica wanted 145 EUR for a double room. Now my single room costs 160 EUR. As for expenses in general, 400–500 EUR are more than enough for a comfortable life. I like Nova Gorica more maybe because I enjoy the process of studying here and amazing people around me. Moreover, if I need to go to Ljubljana, it will take me only an hour by car. I have friends who have their own car, so we often travel and it comes out to be cheap. We have already travelled almost around all of Slovenia, Italy and Austria.
– Have you come across a side job? Have you ever applied to the Student Service?
– At the end of my first year of study, I lost my wallet with a residence permit, credit cards, a student card, and cash. Mom sent me a new card, but a residence permit was worth 120 EUR, so I decided to earn myself. I went to the Student Service, they helped with the documents, and I found work the very next day. I cleaned the rooms of the Faculty of Mathematics at my university. I got tired very much and I certainly would not advise combining work with studies in the first year. But they pay very well (if you are a resident of the Republic). I was told about this only before I received my salary. I do not know about others, but Russian students pay 40% of taxes – part to Slovenia and part to Russia. I received my honestly earned 140 EUR, made a residence permit and flew home. Later, I learned that at the end of the year, you can apply and return part of the taxes. However, I did not find out more information about this issue.
Now, I sometimes earn by freelancing. I make videos and photos to order. Less often than I would like to because I have very little time outside the university. We are constantly engaged in some projects.
– What is your social circle here? Who are your friends, how do you spend your leisure time?
– I have wonderful groupmates. We spend a lot of time together. I also found a tennis club here, and it turned out that I practice there for free. In general, the social circle depends solely on you, since life here begins from scratch. It is necessary to be interested in everything, to communicate with people and then extraordinary opportunities will open in front of you. By the way, there were many Russian-speaking guys in Ljubljana, only in one university, there were 5 girls whom I knew personally, plus other courses. As soon as I heard the Russian language on the street, I immediately approached those people to get acquainted. I once met a blogger girl, thanks to whom my mother became interested in Slovenia. We had a very soulful chat. In Nova Gorica, on the contrary, no one speaks Russian, which I also like very much. Here I speak more English, unlike Ljubljana, where I had mostly Russian-speaking contacts.
– How often do you manage to travel home? Do your relatives and St. Petersburg friends support you in your choice?
– Usually I am at home only in the summer, but this year, I have managed to come home for the winter holidays, which I am infinitely happy about. Everyone supports me. Moreover, they even want to move to Slovenia together with me.
– I would like to hear your advice to future students about how to successfully adapt to a new place in a new country.
– You know, adaptation goes differently for everyone and depends on a particular person. Some people are very sad within the new environment and away from home, while others, on the contrary, feel great. I have had different days, but the most important advice that I could give is to leave your comfort zone. To talk more with people, to be interested in something new, to develop and not to be afraid of anything.
– In conclusion, I would like to ask you if you intend to continue studying and receive a Master’s degree. Where do you see yourself after receiving a diploma – both in terms of profession and place of residence?
– I don’t look into the future yet. Next year, I plan to go on an exchange study programme and graduate from the university. I am sure that I will not return back to Russia, especially now when I see so many opportunities and prospects that exist abroad.
– Natalia, thanks for the conversation! We wish you good luck!
– Thank you!
Interviewer: Polina Avfukova