Why study abroad? Opportunities and the value of student exchange programs

The Western Balkan region was a synonym for an 'isolated area that is located on the edge of Europe'. But, the start of the 21st century, marked the beginning of changes in the political system and initiation of the democratization process in the region.  This brought many changes, but one positive change, which I experienced while I was doing my Master studies in Slovenia, inspired me to write about the opportunities that are available today in education sector.

Besides the fact that the citizens of the Western Balkan region were marginalized and left a side, I still could say that people from the WB region could benefit from numerous exchange programs available in Europe. Hence, I would like to mention especially the program CEEPUS, which entails the academic exchange program in the field of education and research which is available in 15 Central-European countries. The program offers a lot of opportunities for students who want to study abroad and learn and experience various European cultures and values.  In addition, the exchange program represents a unique opportunity to share knowledge, skills and experiences among the students from countries with a different cultural and social heritage and with a strong background for further academic cooperation.  That is why, I hope, this blog will inspire all the young people who are enough motivated and brave to change horizons and experience this adventure, feel the 'cultural shock' and live the Latin expression carpe diem.

My experience, as a direct beneficiary of the exchange program provided me with the opportunity to meet and work with honorable professors and experts that enjoy great respect not only in Slovenia, but in other European countries where they lecture at.  It was unforgettable experience, since their support served as a guide for me to further improve academically and develop new skills, which enabled me to publish my first article in the Faculty Journal, titled “Importance and Role of Turkey in the Western Balkans”

During my Master studies in Slovenia, where I stayed 5 months, I felt great and relaxed, spending time not only on studying, reading, writing essays and preparing for exams, but exploring country, Slovenian history, culture, gastronomy and a bit of Slovenian language. The Faculty of Applied Social Studies was located in Nova Gorica, nearby Italy, so in weekends I went for long walks from one country to another, where I had chance to learn about other cultures and also, promote Montenegrin customs and values.      

What impressed me the most was the relation between student and professor in Slovenia (that) is much closer and friendlier, than in Montenegro. Studying is done in smaller groups with interactive methodology applied and very less theory. Almost every student is required to work on their spare time, which is great opportunity to learn and develop their work habits. Programs like this and/or similar may contribute to the labor market by offering more competitive and educated young workers with new modern skillset that could be utilized by governments or private sector to improve processes and move forward as a region.

Today, I feel very happy, because we see more and more young people taking this step, just like I did.  With good education, vision and skills, everything is possible, and one should always aspire to be open to learning. 

I will conclude with very inspirational quote of a South African anti-apartheid revolutionary, Nelson Mandela who said that 'Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world'. Those powerful words are full of further meaning and symbols. In accordance with that philosophy, every person should effect that play a role so that our planet becomes a better place to live, study and work together.

Author: Mira Šorović

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Writing for the Balkans

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