Part 1: uncomfortable, yet determined.
It was the 6th of August I was meeting with my friend for a little walk. It had been some weeks since the last time I saw her, but as always, the better the reunion. I remember we were dancing on some hay bale and we looked out on the river. In one moment I said to her: “I think I found a project abroad, and I think I want to do it, but I need your perspective on it”. The more I talked about it, the more assured I became. She was so supportive, enthusiastic, and above all: she was happy for me. “Yes you should do this, you’ve worked hard this year, and you got literally nothing to lose”. But soon after that the moment of realization came: “Oh, but that’s a long time… I’m really gonna miss you”. She touched one of my fears before coming to Slovenia: missing my family and friends too much. At the same time I knew that we were quite good at picking up where we left off, just like that day. In the evening I called my parents to tell them about the project and ask their opinion on it. They were very supportive as well, which I was happy with. The next morning I sent an e-mail to EPI with the confirmation that I would like to volunteer in their youth center. Less than four weeks to arrange everything and to say goodbye, but that wasn’t an obstacle for me. I graduated that year from my masters and it was hard. The covid situation didn’t help for sure. I really felt like taking time off from the university world and going into a whole new environment. Learn in a different way. Immerse myself in a new culture. I felt uncomfortable, yet determined to take on this adventure.
Once I was in the plane, the excitement came. I experienced a sense of freedom I hadn’t felt in a while. I talked a little with an old lady sitting next to me. She asked why I was going to Slovenia, and I answered with “I’m going to volunteer in a youth center for half a year”. It sounded very random, but came out so natural, as if I’ve been a world traveler my entire life. Of course I didn’t feel that way and I certainly didn’t see myself like that. But the women responded with “Wow, that’s amazing, what an adventure!”. And I thought: “well, yes, maybe I am the adventurous type right now”.
After the plane landed, I took the shared taxi to Lucija. This was literally for me the beginning of meeting new people from different countries. I spoke to a Croatian girl my age for almost the entire car ride. We talked about different housing prices, her work and her monthly salary. I enjoyed that conversation and could tell that I really like to be amazed by differences, in any kind of way. First “cultural shock” experience out of many that followed.
Arriving to the apartment was a strange moment for me. I didn’t look on Google Maps before, because I didn’t feel the need to. Some things you have to leave as an adventure. “This is it”, the driver said. He pointed at the apartment building on the right. I acted cool and said “Okay then”, as if I was going on a holiday instead of living there. But I felt so out of habit. This is going to be my home and I can’t even find the entrance door to my apartment building… I said goodbye to the Croatian girl and walked with my three bags to the building. There at the entrance, my new flatmate was waiting for me. This is where the Spanish cultural shocks began, but more of that in next week’s blog… 😊