In a land far, far away

That game was awesome! I realize that the gold medal win will be old news by the time this goes to print, but if you understood the lengths the other three Canadians and I went to to see that game, you would understand my excitement. Let’s just say that we are now on the black list at Lord Byron Pub in Koper, Slovenia, because we changed the channel from soccer to hockey — the resident old crazy man was not happy.
Classes have started at long last! Well, sort of. My first lecture for my Gender and Language class consisted of my professor chatting with me and the one other student in the class, who also happens to be my roommate, Marie from Ottawa, about her previous teaching experience and where she completed her degrees. Laura, another exchange student from the U of M, came along to the lecture as well, just because she had been craving some intellectual stimulation after almost three full months off. After an introduction to the basic idea of the course, our professor, Paula, asked us what exactly we wanted to write our 10-page paper about. Since I am the only literature student in a group of global-political economy students, the freedom of being allowed to turn the course in whatever direction we choose is pretty much ideal. Paula went down the line and suggested specific books for all of us, and even gave us some to read from her own personal library. After an hour and a half, Paula asked if we wanted to meet again in one week, or two. Never having been asked that before, we all looked at each other confusedly and sputtered out that one week would be good. However, Marie and Laura will both be on a ski-trip in the Slovenian mountains when our next lecture was planned to be, so it will be a one on one for me this week. Missing a lecture for a ski-trip you ask? Why yes, yes they are, and it’s no problem at all! In fact, it is practically encouraged. “Enjoy your time in Koper!” they tell us — we do what we like, as long as the work gets done before we leave in June. My roommate Marie will also be missing a mandatory lecture in the capitol city of Ljubljana next week because she is going to Croatia with some friends from Canada. She told the coordinator that she would be missing the lecture and the coordinator responded: “Get one of your friends to record it for you, it’s no problem, have a safe trip!”
Koper is a very small town — you can walk around the whole thing in about 15 minutes. So, after the initial “ooh la la” factor of being on the seaside, the hills/mountains and the old, gothic buildings fades away, there is not much to do when not in class or studying. I am slowly learning to embrace the Mediterranean in me as I find myself wandering down to the local favourite Café Calypso every afternoon to meet up with people and have coffee (they call it Bela Kava here). Unless you are willing to take a day trip to one of the other beautiful coastal cities such as Piran, Izola or Portorož, then there really isn’t much else to do. The funny thing is that idea having nothing to do only bothers the Canadian people. We are so programmed to be doing something all the time, that having incredible amounts of time to oneself is very uncomfortable. Or at least it was uncomfortable until we found the rental car place around the corner — road trip to Austria, anyone? One perk to living in Slovenia specifically is that it is so centrally located. It is bordered by Italy, Croatia, Austria, and Hungary, and it is very small. Driving across the entire country and into Austria to Vienna only took five hours. There are around 15 daily buses over the border into Trieste, Italy that only take about 45 minutes, and from there we can catch trains and planes to almost anywhere.
I just want to make a quick note about the exchange program itself. It is called Erasmus. Erasmus is an international student organization that works closely with my university student group, ŠOUP (Študenska Organizacija Univerze na Primorskem), as well as many others all over Europe to provide exchange opportunities. I have met some absolutely wonderful people so far from all over the world, including Scotland, Poland, Finland, Hungary and Spain, among others. I have only known them for about two weeks, and already it is like a little family. We go out together, have dinner, meet for coffee and just generally have a good time. I’ve noticed that students who do Erasmus exchanges are usually not the shy, wallflower type, which is excellent for me because it has forced me to come out of my shell a bit. If the last two weeks are anything to go by, the next four months will be a bit of a gong show — a glorious, international gong show. If you want more information about Erasmus, visit the website at