Student exchange programs are one of the most enriching experiences of being a student. UPES offers exchange programs to foreign universities such as Polytech Nantes France, ECE Paris, University of Berkeley, United States, University of Maribor, Slovenia, and several other reputed academic institutions from across the world. Nitya Agarwal, a student of UPES’ BBA Foreign Trade (2017-2020), shared her experience and learnings from her student exchange program to the University of Maribor, Slovenia, from September 2019 to January 2020.
What motivated you to take part in the exchange program?
The beauty and the culture of Europe always fascinated me. On getting the opportunity to go to Slovenia, I grabbed it with both hands. Living on my own, away from my family, helped me to become more independent and confident. Of course, it was difficult at first, but it was totally worth it. I was in a student–friendly and safe city in Slovenia, sharing borders with Italy and Austria. The intra-city commute was convenient and even travelling to neighbouring countries was fairly easy.
What is the academic process like in Slovenia?
The system of education in Slovenia is very different from that of India. If here we have 4-5 lectures per day, there we had 4-5 lectures per week, which gave me plenty of time to engage in other activities. Also, in the beginning of the semester, they provided us with all the schedules of the examinations and the classes. It helped me to prepare for my exams right from the beginning. One challenging thing for me was that we had to submit the research papers in every subject which I had never done before. However, it implied more self-education, reading books, surfing the net, gathering knowledge on various topics, improving writing skills, etc. Also, there was a community for the exchange students, i.e. ESN (Erasmus Student Network), which organised various parties and activities and gave us a chance to interact with people from different cultures.
How was your boarding and lodging arranged? Was it tough for you to live on your own?
Our accommodation was provided by the university. We shared a dormitory in the centre of the city, with students from different countries – Spain, Turkey, China, Taiwan, Germany, Greece, etc. I had a roommate who was from China. The dormitory consisted of an integrated kitchen. I preferred to cook for myself which helped me to learn a crucial survival skill for the future. Sometimes my roommate used to cook Chinese food for me and I cooked Indian food for her and her friends. They were all fond of Indian curries. Once in a day I would eat outside so as to try out the varied Slovenian cuisine. Living alone helped me to discover my own self and the other worthy experiences of life.
How was your everyday life outside the university?
There are lot of exotic places to visit in and around Slovenia as it is situated in the centre of Europe, sharing borders with Italy, Austria, Hungary and Croatia. It is known for its mountains, ski resorts and lakes. Pohorje is the famous ski resort in Maribor. We had the Slovenia trip in the beginning of our semester. We visited Lake Bled, Postojna Caves, Predjama Castle, Piran, Portoroze, etc., and almost covered the most of Slovenia. I travelled alone to LjubLjana (the capital) and it was an amazing experience. We also visited Austria, Croatia, Czech Republic and Vienna. I always wanted to visit Prague (which I did) and the city has its own charm. I fell in love with the city of Maribor. I used to spend my free time walking around Maribor and sitting beside the river, peacefully watching the swans and ducks swim. The city looks magical around Christmas, covered with the lights, the smell of firs, cinnamon and mulled wine everywhere.
What is the thing you are going to miss the most about your host country?
I am going to miss the whole ‘European lifestyle’ the most – the weather, the atmosphere, the food, my friends and everything! Living in India, I will miss the freedom I had there. Despite all the difficulties there were some fascinating moments we experienced there; it is now a part of my life and these emotions and memories will forever be in my heart and mind.
What would you suggest to other aspirants who have fears and doubts about the exchange programs?
Not everyone gets an opportunity to go abroad and study there. So, if you get one, don’t lose it. Being an exchange student is an exclusive chance; it gives you an exposure to see a whole world outside of what you know and have seen. It is an unforgettable and transformational experience that will definitely change you for good. You will come to know once you experience it. I am extremely happy and grateful to UPES for this wonderful platform. Because of them I could realise my dream of studying abroad. I wish more power to the team and my juniors – just go for it and unleash your potential.