Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Welcome to Ljubljana

As well experienced country hoppers, the next move of the Flood Risk Management crew to Ljubljana, Slovenia, was the smoothest move yet. Enthusiasm for new adventures may have weaned a little as we bid farewell to beautiful Barcelona, but, as we settle into life in Ljubljana, there is a brimming anticipation of the new experiences we will gain.

In our 'woollies' enjoying Ljubljana's festivities
Given the short time we will spend here - a mere two months - housing was an initial concern, with the fear of living in a hostel loomed large. However, the good landlords of Ljubljana came to the rescue and within a few days the whole class had managed to find decent accommodation. We were definitely off to a good start!

The first word on everyone’s lips was how freezing cold Ljubljana was. Brrr... We had grown used to balmy evenings at the tapas bars in Barcelona and were rudely awaken with snow and sub-zero temperatures in Ljubljana. Time to resurrect those Dresden winter woollies!

Our stay in Ljubljana will be the shortest yet with a semester of only 2 months. Factor in some hard-earned Christmas holidays and time will truly fly. With that in mind, we made the decision to “hit the ground running” and quickly establish ourselves in the Slovenian capital. With the essentials of internet, yet another new SIM card sorted and getting to grips with the city buses, it was time to turn our attention to our studies in Slovenia.

The University of Ljubljana will be our new base as we settle into classes on socio-economic assessment and spatial planning for flood protection. Ljubljana’s focus is more on the social aspects of flood risk management and the classes should prove interesting as we study a new dimension of our discipline. So far, three days into our classes, the university has proved to be impressively organised, with our “hit the ground running” attitude evident here too. Classes will be taken by several lecturers from across the social sciences and will be assessed with a mixture of written examinations and group project work. Hopefully the teamwork skills we developed in Barcelona will stand us in good stead.

The Ljuljanica river in all of  it's festive glory
But what of the other aspects of our new home? Surely there is more than just our studies? As the welcome words from our new head of department encouraged us, it was time to to make the most of the festive spirit in Ljubljana. The city’s centre is a winter-wonderland of Christmas lights, snow covered bridges and delicious kuhano vino (cooked wine) keeping the swarms of locals and tourists warm. Three of the class have landed an amazing apartment overlooking the picturesque city centre; undoubtedly this will be the new FRM hang-out house: Maria, Nilay and Ryanne prepare for lots of visitors!

We are also hoping to integrate into Ljubljana student life by getting involved in University sports and joining the local Erasmus network. With the great friendships made on our travels so far, we are eager to continue this trend on our final leg. Also, despite time being short, it would be nice to see some of the region - no doubt, our international high-flyer Duc will lead the way!

As the taught part of the course reaches its final months, the quest to find a suitable thesis topic is looming large. Given the great diversity of the student backgrounds and the number of universities involved, finding thesis topics to satisfy everyone was always going to be a complex task. Very fortunately, the universities have granted us great freedom and support in pursuing theses with other institutions and organisations. As the negotiation process continues, we all look forward to confirming our both our thesis topics and partners before getting stuck into some research.

Regardless, Ljubljana is set to be significantly different to anything we have experienced so far in terms of culture, climate and academic focus. Time is short and we have lots to learn, but we enjoy a challenge. So far, so good. Ljubljana bring it on!


Anthony Grady


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