In a land far, far away

I am currently sitting in a tiny dorm room in Koper, Slovenia. The heat has turned itself off, I have no sheets on my bed, and the hot water tank is dripping. Ah, the life of a student abroad. But before I get ahead of myself, let me explain a little about why I am in said dorm room, and how the opportunity arose.
I am a third-year arts student, and at about this time last year I was feeling pretty unmotivated to continue my university education. The pile of assignments beside my desk kept getting taller and taller, and no matter how much work I seemed to do, the load never lightened. It was at this point, during one of many -40 C walks to the bus stop, that I decided it was time for a change. I had heard of a student exchange program run out of the Arthur V. Mauro Centre for Peace and Justice in St. Paul’s, so I decided to check it out. Within about six weeks, I had applied, been interviewed and been accepted into the program. For me, a semester abroad is the perfect solution to my wintertime university blues. It allows me to continue putting hours towards my degree (albeit not that many) while also getting the opportunity to travel and experience something new. Not to mention that, with this program specifically, a stipend is provided to help cover the cost of tuition, accommodation and flights. Free money, travel and credit hours? Count me in!
When I was preparing to leave, helpful information was hard to come by. Everything from living accommodations to class schedules was, and in some cases still is, a mystery to me. After contacting a student who was here for the September-January semester, a few things became a bit clearer, but one question still goes unanswered. What the hell are my courses about and when do I actually have class? It feels like this university is trying to trick me into coming all the way here to “study,” but actually wants to harvest my organs or something. It really does confuse me. I have a feeling I won’t know exactly what I am supposed to be doing until I am done in June. Fortunately, about two weeks before I left to come here, accommodation was provided, so at least I am not homeless as well as confused.
So here it is kids: your portal to helpful information! I will do my best to include any and all information that will make your potential semester abroad run smoothly — or at least more smoothly than mine has been thus far. And you can bet your ass that you will read all about when my classes are and what they are about. Also, I intend to include other aspects of a student life abroad and information about my current home country, Slovenia, so that when you are taking your obligatory backpacking trip through Europe, you will know to stop and take a look instead of backpacking straight through it.
My first bit of helpful information pertains to paperwork. I know; you can hardly contain your excitement. Paperwork is the most important thing, so listen up. They can kick you out of the country if you do this incorrectly. I took the wrong approach when doing this, which was the “I’ll get to it later” tactic. For this reason, my visa application is still sitting on my dining room table in Winnipeg, waiting to be translated into Slovenian and sent to the embassy in Ottawa. I have three tips to ensure success in your paperwork.
Number one: Do not wait until the last minute! Due dates sneak up fast for applications just like they do for assignments, so get it under control as early as possible. Number two: Make sure you read the instructions very carefully and thoroughly. Sometimes words like “certified” and “translated” can get lost amongst the small print, or in my case, the bold print I chose not to read. Getting stuff certified is easy, but just not the morning of your flight overseas. Number three relates to the possible necessity of translating your documents. Contact people in the city who can help you! If you’re going to Germany, call up a German community club, if you’re going to France, email your eighth grade French teacher. Utilize your connections. For me, it was easier because my family is part Slovenian, so I had quite a strong connection to utilize, but I also helped the other people going who didn’t have connections. Folklorama is a good way to get involved with your culture of choice.
In short, if you are considering taking the leap and spending some time away from the ‘Peg, let this be your window into what you are actually getting yourself into; the good, the bad and the things that are neither good nor bad.
And finally, does anyone know how to fix a heater?