Valentina, who comes from the Slovenian Littoral, has been living in Czech Republic, namely in Brno, for nearly two years. As a researcher, she got a job at the International Clinical Research Center. As she says, she has grown accustomed to living there, only missing her friends and family. She is not thinking of returning to Slovenia.
What has brought you to Brno and what do you do there?
I came to Brno because I got a job offer here and I didn’t hesitate for even a second. I gladly took it. After getting my PhD in biomedicine at the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Ljubljana, I was unemployed for almost a year, putting my interest in science aside. That was partly because I needed a break but also because there weren’t many possibilities for pursuing my profession in Slovenia. Sadly, doctors find it hard to get a job, which I realized in 2012 with the rebalancing of public sector financing. Research institutions are, unfortunately, a part of the public sector. So, after getting my PhD and completing my specialization, I became too qualified. I sent around some job applications but most of them never got any response. By coincidence, I met Gorazd Bernard Stokin, my mentor, who was at the time forming his research group at the International Clinical Research Center. After speaking with him, I applied for the formal interview with other workers and, ultimately, got the position of a researcher. In April 2014, I finally moved to Czech Republic.
What was it like to live in a new country, how did you experience it?
My first contact was very positive. I immediately felt right at home. By size, Brno was similar to Ljubljana. I could say it’s a typical Austro-Hungarian city that grew beside the Svartka River. The city is known for the beautiful Gothic St Peter and Paul Cathedral and the Špilberk castle. It’s a university town with a long history in technical arts and sciences. Brno is, aside from everything else, the city of Gregor Johan Mendel, the father of genetics. Inhabitants who are also scientists are very proud of this fact.
What do you miss most from Slovenia? What would you import to Czech Republic?
I don’t miss Slovenia much. What I perhaps miss the most are snowy mountains and the sea beside which I grew up. I would, however, like to import my family and friends.
How would you compare life in Slovenia and life in Czech Republic? Could you find any common features or list the biggest differences?
The quality of life in Czech Republic is much higher, in my opinion. The costs and expenses are about 30% lower than in Slovenia and you get a lot more for less money. The Czech know how to enjoy life much more than Slovenians, they are more positive and rarely whine or complain. On Friday evenings, you can hardly get a free table without a prior reservation. Bars are full of old and young people who like to relax in good company over a beer or a meal. They organize family trips into nature at weekends. They enjoy good food and love beer which is easily noticeable. The prices of beer are also low. It shows that they don’t have the European currency. Unemployment rates are low and the birth rate high. Brno offers a great and diverse cultural program. I, myself, like to see a ballet or opera in the city theaters. All in all, it is great!
Do you meet other Slovenians and do you organize meetings or events? How do you stay in contact with Slovenia and how often do you return home?
I must admit I have very little contact with Slovenians. With the exception of some who I ran into in transport, I don’t know many. There are some Erasmus students here but it’s a much younger generation that I don’t meet often. I am lucky to be working in a really young and positive international team who I can also spend my leisure time with. However, my free time is very limited. I stay in contact with those at home via Skype and social networks. I return at least once a month but I am happier when my family and relatives visit me in Brno.
What are your plans for the future? Do you plan on returning home or do you want to continue living abroad?
I don’t have a fixed plan for the future. I live here and I live now. I have grown so accustomed to living abroad that I don’t even remember how it feels to live differently. I am currently not thinking about returning to Slovenia – I am much more interested in living abroad.
Text: Andreja Jernejčič
Photo: Personal archive of Valentina