In other words: Ljubljana vs. London or the Faculty of Arts vs. Middlesex University, or to be even more accurate, normal studies vs. an Erasmus exchange. I had been thinking about studying abroad in my last years of high school, but I was too young. Living in a foreign country seemed like a scary thing at the time. Then I learned all about Erasmus in my first year of university, and the idea lived in the back of my mind until the last year of my bachelor’s when I decided to apply. I was initially planning on going only in the second year of my master’s, but then a friend changed my mind and I went in the first. I’ll always be grateful to that friend because it was one of the best years of my life. Let’s look at the key differences and similarities between studying in my tiny country and in the capital of the UK.
Studying at university is free in Slovenia as long as you’re a full-time student. You do need to have a certain mark and number of points to enter most programmes, though. If you’re studying part-time, so with fewer contact hours and mostly in the afternoons or at weekends, you do have to pay. But it’s nothing compared to what you’ll pay in England. Tuition fees there are around ten thousand pounds, depending on the university and the programme. A lot of people get loans to be able to study in England, whether they are English or not. Studying part-time in Slovenia will typically only cost you a couple of thousands of euros.
In England, there are significantly fewer contact hours than in Slovenia. You either hate it or love it but I guess most students at least like it; I certainly did. At my university in Ljubljana, I had to spend around 25 hours per week at uni (and then also do homework, write essays, make presentations and study at home), while in England it was typically around ten. Students are supposed to do a lot of reading, writing and independent work at home, but in my case, it was less than I had to do in Slovenia.
During the exam periods in Slovenia, I was typically a mess: I had a severe lack of sleep, was very stressed and basically didn’t have a life. I usually had around fifteen exams per academic year, sometimes several per week. The exam period in London was a vacation compared to the one in Slovenia. I didn’t actually have any exams, just some essays. Of course, exams do exist, I just accidentally chose modules that didn’t have any (as an Erasmus student, I could choose). But in general, there are fewer exams and more essays that count as coursework; they are what gets you the mark and lets you pass the module. Another difference is that in Slovenia you can take an exam several times. Some people will take it for the first time without studying «just to see what it looks like». This doesn’t happen in England.
The number of modules/subjects
In Slovenia, I always had lots of subjects. That’s also because I was doing a double major: English and Russian. At Middlesex University, most people had five modules that went on for two semesters. This meant less homework, fewer exams and fewer contact hours. It was more relaxed and easier to focus on the subjects that I had. At my own uni, it was often hard to concentrate on something, even if I liked it, because I had ten other things to focus on.
In Ljubljana, there is no campus. The University of Ljubljana is composed of many faculties that are scattered all over the city. Middlesex University has a campus and all its faculties are there, which is common in England. The Middlesex campus is pretty cool: there’s a huge library, several cafes and (mainly fast food) restaurants, a gym, etc. The best thing is that the buildings are surrounded by trees and grass, so you basically have a park where you can sit and read or hang out while waiting for your next class.
Extra stuff that the university offers
Middlesex University offers its students certain things that clearly tell you that they have paid ten thousand quid for studying there. Among those are free printing, several computers that students can use for free in the library, a library that’s open 24/7, information/help points, a generally higher degree of organisation, not to mention various events such as a welcome fete for new students, a tour of London, regular student parties, etc.
I don’t know whether that’s connected to the money or to the English culture, but the relationship between students and lecturers is somehow less formal and more friendly. Students call the lecturer by his/her first name and not «professor» as we do in Slovenia. The lecturers in England make sure everyone comes to the office hours to get their coursework checked and hand it in on time. They also make sure there is at least some debate during almost every lecture; in Slovenia, it’s not unusual if the lecturer’s the only person speaking throughout the lecture. Students aren’t that keen on taking part in a conversation or asking a lot of questions.
Ljubljana vs. London
This is just a personal preference, but London is a thousand times more interesting to me. It is, however, very expensive, and while Ljubljana is by no means cheap when it comes to accommodation (except for student halls – these are very cheap), it’s a lot cheaper than London. It’s also smaller which makes it comfortable to move around by bike, and public transport isn’t that expensive. London is a crazy international city with lots of traffic and people, but also lots of events, parks and diversity. My inner Harry Potter-loving child was having the time of her life when I moved there for ten months. And so was my twenty-something-year-old self.
How long does it take
In England, at least from what I’ve seen, most people finish their bachelor’s in three years and their master’s in one. In Slovenia, it’s supposed to take five years in total, but in reality, it mostly takes longer. Most people take an extra year or at least six months to write the bachelor’s thesis and then again to write the master’s thesis. Failing a year or changing your mind about your studies is also pretty common. Consequently, most people need around six to seven years to finish their studies. Also, we start university when we are nineteen in Slovenia, while in England most people are a year younger.
Do I regret studying at my university?
In short: no. I liked studying English because I love it while studying Russian opened a whole new world to me. Besides, it’s sort of cool to be able to read and speak a language that’s almost exotic to most people. I do love writing, though, and a major in journalism or creative writing (which doesn’t exist in Slovenia) would have given me opportunities to do it a lot more often. I can still write, though. Studying English and Russian made me more enthusiastic about languages in general. I started liking and then consequently improving my Italian, as well as learning Spanish. Studying languages has broadened my horizons, and I’m hoping that it will open interesting doors for me. Another plus of studying in my own country was the amount of money that I saved and how close I was to my family and friends.
If I hadn’t chosen my uni, finished my bachelor’s and then applied for a master’s and an exchange in London at the same time, I would have never experienced the Erasmus year that I’ve experienced. The London period was one of the best periods of my life. During that exchange, I met some pretty incredible people that I’m still very close to. It’s where and how I met my boyfriend, and at this point, I can’t imagine a world without him in it. This is what I think of every time I doubt my university-related choices. It helps, it truly does.