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Prostovoljski blog – Jakob

Chapter 1: First half of my journey

Now a little more than half of the project time of my European Solidarity Corps (ESC) program at EPI Mladinski Center is over. A good moment to look back on my previous 6 months in Slovenia. Beforehand I can say that it has been a very exciting period with a whole lot of new experiences.

To be honest, before I came to Slovenia I had a very little idea about the country. This was also a reason why I (luckily) choose Slovenia for my ESC program. Most of the people back home in Germany either did not know anything about Slovenia, mixed it up with Slovakia or told me Slovenia has a very nice countryside and is a good country for holidays.
Indeed, I can confirm how beautiful the Slovenian landscape is. Indeed, by travelling to places in the country like Bled, Maribor, Kranj, Celje and Ljubljana, I discovered the actual diversity of this small nation. Each region is different. You have the Alps in the North, the Mediterranean Sea and coast in the West and hills and valleys in the East and the South. Of course, you have a lot of interesting cities, castles and churches and much more in-between. Only the public transport between those places could be better, at least from the point of view of a ’spoiled’ German.
What makes it hard for a non-Slovenian like me is the fact that all of these regions also have their own dialects. Luckily, as I pretend to speak a little Italian (I had it for three years in high school), the Primorska region has a dialect, which was influenced by the Italian/Venetian language. Anyways, I could always use English or even German to get around.
In the area of Piran and Portorož, I have worked and lived the last 6 months and I can truly call it a home now. For me, working in EPI Center has been a very interesting and mostly positive challenge. Obviously, at the beginning I had to adapt and learn how things go in EPI. Now that I know nearly all the kids and I am used to the normal course of action, it has become a central part of my everyday life, which I enjoy very much. My work has helped me to develop myself further, learn about the people here on the coast and gain knowledge about youth work. In my free time, I have discovered the cafes, bars, restaurants and other ‘cultural institutions’ along the coast with my co-volunteer Lyasmin or students of the Primorska University.
One thing that I still find astonishing is the seasonality and the dominance of tourism in the local infrastructure. It means that I have to go to Koper just to buy not overpriced clothes. Nevertheless, when I think back of going swimming after work until late September, I think it is a fair price to pay.

Today, EPI Center is still closed due to the COVID-19 and I realise how much I miss being there and playing with the kids. At the same time, I can look back at my time in Slovenia thus far and realize that I have really developed as a personality and enjoyed my time there. It is a country that in some ways is very different from Germany, but in other ways very similar, too. For example, some of the food is similar. I am sure that I will truly miss Slovenia and its people when finishing my year as a volunteer.