Chapter 1: Arriving in Slovenia and on-arrival training
Ok, so here goes, this is my first time writing a blog so please be forgiving.
My name is Clara, I’m 23 years old and I’m EPI’s newest volunteer (although not for long). I’m half French, half British. I grew up in Tavel, a small wine growing village in the South of France. I love working with children and teenagers and have been a camp counsellor since 2016. I also spent all of last year coaching rugby and teaching it in schools. After I finished my studies (Law & Intercultural Management), I really wanted to see the world and have experiences. I discovered the European Solidarity Corps through research and immediately liked the idea. Slovenia has been my dream destination since I saw a documentary about the Soča river a few years ago, so when I found out about this opportunity, I jumped at it.
Nothing exceptional happened when preparing to come here, so I won’t bore you with the details, I’ll just say that I was really excited!
First week in Slovenia
Before I go on, one thing you have to know about me: I hate travelling, I mean the part before the destination. I find it really boring and usually uncomfortable. Also, I can never fall asleep in cars, planes, trains…
On September 12th, I woke up at 4.30 am. I left my house soon after to go to the airport in Marseille. From there, I flew to Venice. A GoOpti car brought me all the way to my flat in Lucija. I was so tired, I fell asleep, which as I said, is really rare for me. It actually worked out well though, because I woke up at the border, missed most of the motorway and only got the lovely views. I instantly found Slovenia very beautiful and thought about how much I was going to enjoy exploring.
When I arrived, Martina and Lada were waiting for me at my flat (and helped me carry my suitcases up three flights of stairs). I had time to settle down and even go for a walk around the Marina. In the evening, I met Alberto, my roommate who also volunteers here in EPI. I started work the next day in Lucija and worked there Wednesday and Thursday as well. The children were curious, and kind to me. On Friday, I went to EPI Piran, we played A LOT of werewolves (by the way, if you plan on volunteering here and hate that game, I suggest you look for something else, the kids are OBSESSED). That weekend, I cycled around and just took in the views.
One thing I HAVE to point out, from our balcony, we get the most stunning sunsets!
My on-arrival training took place in Zreče, from September 19th to September 23rd.
On Monday, September 19th, I had to get up at 4.15 am to be on time for the training. If you’ve kept track, yes, this is the second Monday in a row that I had to be up soooo early. Martina picked me up (she’s an angel), and took me to Koper train station. I got on the first train (it was late). I had to change in Ljubljana, but because of the first delay, I missed the second train and had to take a later one (I had McDonald’s whilst waiting). When I was finally on the train (it was late), I settled down and read, at least until Zidani Most, where I changed trains again. The train station in Zidani Most is gorgeous and I got on the final train to Celje (it was late). So, as you may have noticed, every single train was late, so I was also late for my bus from Celje to Zreče. I met a couple of other volunteers on the train and we all ran to the bus station, only to realise we were too late. Or so we thought. When we arrived in front of the bus stop, a bunch of other volunteers were also waiting. The bus finally arrived (it was late, like 40 minutes late).
I came to the conclusion that public transport in Slovenia is terrible.
Anyway, in Zreče, Vanja and Tanja, the mentors, were waiting for us. “Us” is the group of international volunteers that were there for the training. We were 13 of different nationalities: 4 French, 2 Russian, 2 Ukrainian, 1 Turkish, 1 Slovak, 1 Polish, 1 Serbian and 1 Slovenian.
We dropped our stuff off and went for lunch in the hotel where we were staying (Terme Zreče). In the afternoon we began the course. We started with introductions, then moved on to games to get to know each other. Every day, we started at 9.30am, and finished at 7pm, with lunch and coffee breaks, of course. Throughout the week we alternated between short lectures (maximum 1 hour), group work and games. I enjoyed them very much because I love playing, but some of the group didn’t like this way of learning and considered it too childish. We talked mainly about the ESC and project management. I have joined a picture of the program for more details.
My favourite day was Wednesday. Wednesday was project day: we, in groups of 4-5, were tasked with cooking something without buying any ingredients, instead, we had to go talk to locals and exchange acts of solidarity for what we needed. During this activity, I realised just how different all of us volunteers were. I was in a group with a Polish, a Russian and a Serbian girl. It was a culture shock for me when I saw how uncomfortable the task made the Serbian and Russian girls. The Polish girl and I ended up collecting everything we needed. After a handful of rejections, we managed to swap cake for flour. Then we met this adorable family, who gave us eggs from their hens, and tried to give us 3kg of potatoes from their garden. We only needed a few so they gave us 4 and an onion. They were really nice and we ended up speaking with them for 15 minutes. After this, we cooked focaccia and frittata.
On Thursday afternoon we visited the Noordung museum (about space) and Žička kartuzija.
On-arrival training was great, and while we did do a lot of work and learning, we had opportunities for free time. The hotel has a heated pool and jacuzzi. During the waiting time on project day, my friend and I decided to cycle to the top of a hill, where there was a little church. We had beautiful views and I even met a cute dog. In the evenings, we had access to the conference rooms where we played more games and socialised with the others (we were allowed to drink, if that’s something you’re interested in). Thursday night was amazing, we were dancing and singing until 3 am.
Friday, after lunch, most of us headed to the bus station to go back to our places. As you can probably guess, the bus was late. Over an hour late.
Overall, I had a really good time that week. Despite, the truly terrible public transport.