ASEF fellows visit minister for Slovenians abroad
Ljubljana, 22 July - This year's representatives, mentors and fellows of the American-Slovenian Educational Foundation (ASEF) were received by Minister for Slovenians Abroad Helena Jaklitsch on Thursday. She stressed that the Government Office for Slovenians Abroad is very supportive of ASEF's work.
Connecting Slovenians in their homeland with Slovenians around the world, including younger generations through education and schooling, which is what ASEF is all about, is something exceptional, said Minister Jaklitsch.
Jure Leskovec, one of the founders of ASEF, a member of its board of directors and an associate professor at Stanford University, also spoke at Thursday's presentation. He said that ASEF was a multifaceted project with several different dimensions.
ASEF brings together more than 55 Slovenian professors from universities and research institutions around the world, from the US, Canada, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, the UK and beyond.
One of the dimensions of ASEF is working with young people, where two different fellowship programmes exist: the first is for young Slovenian students, enabling them to study and work with Slovenian professors abroad during the summer for 10 weeks, thus acquiring new skills and competences.
They live with Slovenian families, thus connecting with the Slovenian expatriate community as well. After ten weeks, the students return to Slovenia and ASEF continues to help them with their future career paths for the following three years through a tutoring programme.
"We are not encouraging emigration from Slovenia, but rather the integration and cooperation of Slovenians around the world, and the students' return to the homeland," Leskovec pointed out.
The second fellowship programme, which is similar and also lasts ten weeks, is aimed at Slovenian compatriots around the world. ASEF awards 35 fellowships per year in various field of studies, covering all expenses, including accommodation and health insurance.
According to Leskovec, ASEF cooperates fruitfully with both the Government Office for Slovenians Abroad and the Slovenian Research Agency, receiving around EUR 100,000 per year in funding from them in total. Nevertheless, interest in ASEF's programmes, both among students and mentors, is outstripping ASEF's current funding capacity.
In order to upgrade its programmes, ASEF would need additional systemic sources of funding to enable as many Slovenian students as possible to develop and connect with each other, so that they can help Slovenia with their knowledge and skills and pass this on to the next generation, Leskovec added.
While ASEF is mostly funded by donations from various individuals and groups, all professors participate in its programmes free of charge and contribute their own funds, as do the Slovenian families who host the students in their homes.
There are twelve international students with Slovenian roots staying in Slovenia this year within the ASEF fellowship programme, with one long-distance student participating from Australia, and 23 students were sent from Slovenia around the world.
Among the mentors in the programme is Andrej Košmrlj, co-founder of ASEF and assistant professor at Princeton University, who has hosted six Slovenian students so far. At the presentation, he stressed the importance of continuing the cooperation even after students return to Slovenia.
Stefania Leber, one of this year's ASEF fellows who is currently studying dental medicine in Slovenia, also presented her personal experience. As a second-generation Argentinean, she felt very connected to Slovenia and expressed her happiness at being so well received.
On Tuesday, minister Jaklitsch and president Borut Pahor had already welcomed the graduates of the Slovenian Secondary School course by principal Marko Bajuk from Argentina, who are concluding their five-week visit to Slovenia.
President Pahor addressed the young Slovenes from Argentina: "Like every year, I am really happy with this tradition of meeting on the occasion of your visit to Slovenia."
Meanwhile, Minister Jaklitsch called on the young Slovenians from Argentina to remain faithful to the Slovenian nation and language, and to preserve the heritage of their grandfathers and great-grandfathers.