During the month of June VET students Cristian and José had their first Erasmus program experience; namely Fundación Montemadrid granted them a scholarship for work practice in Maribor, a city in northwest Slovenia (105.089 inhabitants in 2018, second largest city behind Ljubljana).
First days were full of new experiences for them. We landed on Vienna and from there a rented van took us to our destination. There Tamara, ZNI coordinator, was already waiting for us; she would be in charge of making our stay there easier. She showed us our dormitory y gave us the documents which would guide the students during the two weeks they were going to spend there.
During the previous days to the meeting with the company and the start of the work practice, the students had time to prepare the interview with the organization, attended a course concerning prevention of occupational hazards and they also got the chance to know a bit about the culture of Slovenia.
One of the first trips we made almost as soon as we arrived was a visit to Pohorje. We met with a ZNI representative who would be our guide in the mountain, we also happened to meet a group of Czech Erasmus students and another group of French people doing their work practice in Maribor. One of the first things they realized was the importance of the English language (in this case) as a means of communicating with other people who do not speak your language. Throughout the weeks they had the chance to learn and practice their English from a different perspective: the necessity to make yourself be understood in a country which is not yours. Back to the mountain: we were able to have a great journey in the middle of the wilderness, surrounded by trees and with a magnificent view of the city.
Visitting the City and the Regional Museum
As a way for the students to get to know Maribor and the Slovenian culture, we had the chance to visit Maribor7s Regional Museum, where, in a very friendly manner, we were told the city's recent history and the importance of the city during WWII and about the historical figures that happened to visit the city. We were also told about the different stages had gone through until it became part of EU, and we were shown some old coins and bills, the first inventions used to generate electricity in Europe...
We also had the luck of being able to visit St. John the Baptist Cathedral, a 12th century gothic building, as well as the franciscan Basilic of Our Mother of Mercy, a brick building from the late 19th century.
Work Practice at the Company
But everything wasn't trips and tourism, for after a few days they started their work practice. The meeting with the director and with their mentor during the internship was positive and on the second day the students were confident at their workplaces and were able to go on with their work practice. At all moments, the ZNI representatives were paying attention to the way they were fitting in their respective companies and solved every question that emerged.
Trip to Ljubljana
We woke up having prepared everything already the night before and at 9:50 a bus picked us up in front of the dormitory along with some Italian students and we got off to Ljubljana. The travel lasted a bit less than two hours. Around 12 AM we arrived at Ljubljana. During the trip we had the chance of enjoying the green landscapes, filled with houses built in valleys and mountains, that cover the whole country. Once we got there the ZNI representative that had come alongside us guided us throughout the city. The visit ended at Ljubljanski Grad (a Medieval castle upon the ''Castle's Hill).
After that we had some spare time so we had lunch and saw the city. Our meeting point was the main square, at 17:45, so we had plenty of time to go for a walk, buy some souvenirs and enjoy the city in general. We also had the chance to try the traditionally Viennese schnitzel prepared in Slovenian fashion.
Bike Outing in Maribor
One of the most memorable experiences of our time in Slovenia was renting some bicycles to stroll around the city of Maribor, which is full of bike lanes going both ways; we also biked next to the Drava river. We got this way a different point of view of Maribor, and it is never a bad moment for some exercise.
Farewell and Getting our Internship Certificates
We met with the ZNI representatives in order to get our certificates and say our farewell to this fantastic experience, which we will remember forever. The students are very happy of having stayed for some time in another country, having very enriching experiences, sorting out any difficulty which happened to appear, and learning how to develop as adults. I am sure this experience also made them open themselves to the world and become better people.