Vermont Bar Journal
Summer 2008 - #6.
Livin' the Life in Slovenia on a Fulbright
The Vermont Bar Journal #174, Volume 34, No. 2 SUMMER 2008
Livin' the Life in Slovenia on a Fulbrightby Harland L. Miller, III, Esq.As I sit down to write this article, it's hard to believe that I have been in Maribor for more than three months. In many ways it seems like we just arrived, but in others, it feels like we have been here all our lives. The money problems we had in our first days worked themselves out and getting cash or using credit cards has seldom presented any problems. We have gone from winter to summer. Snow in March. Rain in April. Sunshine and 89 degrees in May.
In many ways, Slovenia feels and looks like Vermont. The lambs, kids, and foals let us know that spring has sprung. With summer weather arriving, everything has turned greener. The rolling hills of farmland and vineyards remind us of the Champlain Valley. And just like in the United States, classes are winding down, students are distracted by the nice weather, and final exams are hanging over their heads.
We have taken advantage of Slovenia's central location. On various weekend trips and day trips we were able to visit Budapest, Venice, Salzburg, Munich (the Hofbrau Haus saved us a table), Bavaria, Vienna (running in the Vienna City Marathon, where I did a half-marathon and Ashley ran the full--a first for each of us), and Croatia (including and the Plitvice Lakes and waterfalls in the Croatian National Park where the first casualty in the war with Serbia occurred). We have also explored a lot of Slovenia, visiting caves, the Adriatic coast, Lake Bled, Vintgar Gorge, Lake Bohinj, the Julian Alps, the Soca River valley, Ptuj Castle, and many other places. Lake Bled is a like a fairytale with a beautiful church on an island overlooked by a cliff top castle. Nearby was Vintgar Gorge and a surreal walk along boardwalks and waterfalls. The drive through the Julian Alps was scary and amazing, with the hairpin turns and snow covered mountain peaks around every corner. The turquoise blue water of the Soca River was ice cold, even on a hot day. The town of Kobarid, the scene of fierce fighting in World War I, was where Ernest Hemingway fought and drove an ambulance before writing A Farewell to Arms." There are many more, but I don't want you to think I've done nothing but travel, as these were all experienced on day trips and weekend excursions.
Ostensibly I am here to teach. My Fulbright award was not for research, but rather to lecture. There is a very strict curriculum for the law students and my Real Property course was not part of that curriculum. It was offered as extra credit for the students. As a result, the ones that took the course were third and fourth year students genuinely interested in the topic and, as it turned out, some of the brightest and best in the law faculty. Rather than give one or two one-hour lectures each week, the course was condensed into a four-week period with two-hour lectures on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. As I mentioned in the last article, I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of the teaching facilities at the University. The building had been recently renovated and all the classrooms have computers, projectors, and sound systems, making it very easy to prepare lectures and classes in PowerPoint. That was the good news. The bad news was that I had not anticipated this and none of my classes were prepared for PowerPoint. I quickly became acquainted with using this software and proficient at transferring my notes into PowerPoint presentations.
The students were engaged, interested, and willing to participate in class discussions. The Socratic method is not used at the two law faculties in Slovenia (the University of Ljubljana and the University of Maribor). The typical style of teaching involves one or two lectures a week by the professors and a class of exercises usually taught by junior professors or teaching assistants. I tried to combine all three methods and found the students seemed to really enjoy this diversion.
Most of the students had not had a real property course, yet they were familiar with many concepts, such as landlord tenant issues and general principles of common ownership...