How hard can it be to enroll at a university in a foreign country? You just have to decide which program you want to enroll in and in which country. At least that’s what we first thought before starting the enrollment process. When I decided that I wanted to go to Slovenia and heard that EX-YU countries have some kind of agreement on the basis of which schooling for Macedonians is free and facilitated I was overjoyed. I thought that I had solved all my problems. But it wasn’t that easy. The enrollment process was long and exhausting. But soon I realized that wasn’t even the hard part. The real challenges started after I received the acceptance letter, which happened in August. And at the beginning of September I started looking for a room. The search from Macedonia was impossible. Rents were too high, apartment conditions were catastrophic and even beside that there were many people interested in the same room, which contributed to the owners having the freedom to choose. And of course, no one wants foreign student who doesn’t speak the Slovenian language. When I finally found one, I had to pay 250 euros, at a time when my parents’ salary was lower than the rent for a room in Ljubljana. But I didn’t have a choice. In addition to accommodation, students have a number of additional costs, for books, food, bus transportation and so on. Foreign students in Slovenia have to work from the beginning to be able to study and live there. Beside the financial difficulties, we additionally have a problem with the language and the adaptation of the culture. But I am convinced that at the end of the day it is a sacrifice worth making. The education system in Slovenia is excellent and it opens many doors for us in the future.
Despite the fact that we are ready for a certain sacrifice and we know the challenges that we have to face as foreign students, this year the government of Slovenia decided to make our lives even more difficult. Instead of striving to improve the conditions for foreign students and equalize us with Slovenian students, they posed another obstacle. With the new changes, the Slovenian government requires students who are citizens of the countries of the former Yugoslavia to show a certain amount of money in their bank accounts to obtain a visa. Given the standard in those countries, putting 5,000 euros in a bank account is almost impossible for the majority. The short research I did showed that such a decision would prevent a large number of excellent young people from Macedonia from enrolling at university in Slovenia. My research included about twenty high school students who plan to continue their education in Slovenia and parents whose children want to study there. I asked them what this change in the law meant to them. The answer was the same for everyone, ‘it means shortening the opportunity for me / my child to continue their education in Slovenia.’
S.P. who is an excellent student in a high school in Skopje answered that such a change will prevent her from enrolling at a university in Slovenia. “Despite the fact that I have excellent grades all four years and that last year I tried to learn the Slovenian language, this change will prevent me from enrolling in college in Slovenia. My parents are employed, but their salary is not enough. I sincerely hope that I will find a way and succeed, but if that does not happen I will be very disappointed.”
The parents are even more disappointed. They have worked hard all their lives to enable their children to have a better future, and suddenly their sacrifice is not enough. H. Р. from Tetovo wrote to me that she wanted her son to study in Ljubljana, but with this change she is not sure that they will be able to afford it. “My son is in his fourth year of high school and wants to enroll in Ljubljana at law school. We as parents fully support him in that decision, but now I am not sure that we will be able to enable it. “It means that I, the parents, did not succeed.”
T. H. from Ohrid answered me that although it is a large amount of money he is ready to borrow in order to enable his child to study in Slovenia. “This is the first time I have heard about this change from you. I am surprised, but I will find a way to make it possible for my child, if necessary, and I will take a loan.”
The answers of the others did not differ much either. Many are willing to sacrifice even more to achieve their goal, but for some this change will be the end of their plans and desires.
After talking to the children and parents, I wondered if that extra sacrifice was necessary. Is it necessary to put another obstacle in the way that foreign students have to cross? What is the goal of the government of the Republic of Slovenia? Does it want to reduce the number of foreigners? We live in a 21st century where equality and inclusion need to be overcome long ago, but unfortunately we are witnessing another form of discrimination.