Ecotopia Exchange Program

“Living in Ljubljana has been an amazing experience”

  • 27/06/2024
  • 2 mins reading time
Ecotopia Ljubljana
Montse Cirera and Max Guasch during their exchange in Ljubljana. / Photo: Max Guasch

Montse Cirera and Max Guasch are two GNMI students participating in the first edition of the Ecotopia exchange program in Ljubljana. Now that their exchange experience is ending, they tell us more about what it's like to be part of the Ecotopia Program.

After being accepted as Ecotopia students and following an online course, the program’s first step starts with the Ljubljana Summer School. Last July, Montse Cirera and Max Guasch, two ESCI-UPF GNMI students who take part in the program, travelled to the Slovenian capital to meet all the participants.

The summer course brought together more than 40 students from the 6 universities of the program –Babeș-Bolyai University from Romania, Ca’ Foscari University of Venice, CY Cergy Paris University and ESSEC Business School from France, University of Ljubljana, and Pompeu Fabra University. In their own words, this first experience was just amazing. They were more than thrilled to finally get to know all the program participants, and it was a great opportunity to network and start feeling part of the Ecotopia community.

They explained that the main reason they wanted to participate in the Ecotopia program was the idea of spending a whole academic year abroad, interacting with international and local students, and learning new learning methodologies.

As Montse and Max confess, the first days of the exchange are the most challenging. Adapting to a new city and country, acquiring new daily routines, and meeting new people is hard. And it is even tough to do it while you try to understand how the receiving university works: “When you finally keep in step with the lessons and seminars at ESCI-UPF at the end of the first year, you have to reset your mind and get used to a new way of studying”!

They are also aware that Ecotopia is a very young program, which means that some academic aspects still need to be worked on to fit the different universities’ syllabi perfectly. “In the end, to make this kind of program successful, you have to go trial-and-error, and since we are among the program’s first students, we’ve been some sort of Ecotopia guinea pigs,” they joked. However, they are very grateful for the help received from the University of Ljubljana and ESCI-UPF in resolving the few inconveniences they had to deal with.

“Living in Ljubljana has been an amazing experience so far,” they stated. The Slovenian capital is a alive, pedestrian-centred city packed with students. They made tons of new friends with other exchange students and participated in lots of extracurricular activities organized by the University of Ljubljana.

The best way to get around is by foot or bicycle, and on the cold, rainy winter days, the bus takes you outside the city centre in less than half an hour. The daily life expenses –especially the groceries–, are rather similar to Barcelona, Max and Montse said, but the main difference from the day-to-day life in Catalonia are Bonis, to which they’ve fallen in love. Bonis are student vouchers financed by the Slovenian government that offer great discounts on a whole range of products and make eating out really, really affordable: “We dine out with our friends almost every day!” Montse and Max admitted.

Without any doubt, they would choose to participate in the Ecotopia program again. However, they suggest that students thinking about enrolling in it should be prepared to face some challenges –“Don’t expect everything to run tight!”. And, if someone wishes to stay in Ljubljana, they recommend looking for accommodation long in advance, since the apartments and the student dormitories fill up quickly.

Even so, Montse and Max cheer the students to apply for the program and encourage them not to give up on the first days of the exchange because the experience pays off completely.

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