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Every time I smell the warm, ambery aroma of wood, I’m immediately transported back to childhood

Jerneja Svanjak, human resources officer at InnoRenew CoE

  • Where were you living in childhood and where do you live now?

I spent my childhood in Žusterna, a small suburb of Koper, and for the last few years I’ve lived in Koper. Koper is a small but truly beautiful town. And although living in the town centre has numerous advantages, I still miss Žusterna, where I lived in a house surrounded by greenery.

  • What have you studied and what were the motives for your decision?

I studied the Italian language. I’ve always loved Italian, ever since I was little. I remember that, as many of us living on the Coast, I learned the language “just like that”, without making a special effort, as the Italian culture has always played an important role here. For me, Italian is not a foreign language, it is the language of my surroundings, my “second” language. They say we always dream in our mother tongue, but I often dream in Italian.

  • How would you describe your work to someone outside your field?

At InnoRenew I work as an HR officer. The title itself explains what I do. A great deal of my work has to do with paperwork related to the employees and helping foreign employees with various matters, from finding accommodations and filling in various official forms to giving advice like where on the Coast they can have a good meal, haha ?).

  • What does your typical working day look like?

In fact, every day is different, but if there was something like a typical day, it would look approximately like this: My work starts at 8.00. First, I check my e-mail. If something urgent comes in, I resolve the emergency and then continue with other tasks. Every day I have to deal with personnel administration, which involves yet more paperwork, from acquiring permits for foreign employees at the Administrative Unit to organising safety at work and fire safety courses. Although paperwork sounds awfully boring, I don’t find it dull at all, as there’s always something new you can learn. I often have to go in person to this or that institution, or run from one to another, in order to get the papers in order, and interactions with my co-workers, who often have questions or need help, can be very lively, which I like a lot. ?

  • What makes you excited about your work?

I love working with people. I like that there are many foreign employees on our staff, so I not only learn about foreign customs, cultures, traditional dishes, etc., which is very interesting, but I also get to practice my English. The lingua franca for most of them is English.

  • And what is the biggest challenge at your work?

One of the biggest challenges is the English language. Although I started learning it at primary school, I never used it on a daily basis before, at least not actively. And now I have to wake up those parts of my brain where English has been stored for many years. ?

It’s both challenging and rewarding when I manage to successfully provide support to co-workers with different backgrounds. They face various problems related to the Slovenian red tape, looking for apartments, and integrating themselves and their families into the Slovenian social environment.

  • Which scientist or scientific achievement are you fascinated by and why?

Ehm… well, I never really wondered which scientist I admire the most. Probably Tesla. And not only for his most important inventions related to electricity, but for his way of thinking. Many people claim that he was a strange person, but, in my view, he was a very modest man whose work and inventions were his life. He didn’t want to make money, he simply wanted to help humankind.

  • Tell us about the work of art (books, music, movies, theatre, dance, visual arts) that has a special place in your life.

Books have always had a special place in my life. I read a variety of genres, but my favourites are detective stories and adventure books. I can’t name a single book, it’s impossible, as every new book thrills me and is my favourite when I’m reading it. Well, if I really had to choose, I would say Hamlet, Don Quixote, works by Wilde and Agatha Christie, and of course the Harry Potter series. Although the latter were written for children, I would advise any adult to read them, particularly as they take one into a magical world, which helps us forget a little about the quotidian.

  • What have you read, listened to, or watched lately?

I’m currently reading part 14 of Patterson’s detective series, and I’ve just read Agatha Christie’s Taken at the Flood. And then I’ll read Mojca Širok’s Pogodba, borrowed from a friend of mine.

  • Which place on the Slovene coast do you like the most?

I don’t have a favourite spot, but I love to walk along the sea or through nature. Koper is my birth town and the most beautiful place for me, which I can call home. I love the Slovenian coast, although it is very small, and when I’m away from home for longer periods, I miss it very much.

  • What makes you enthusiastic?

Hahaha… deadlines! I’m joking. ? Well, I think they make everybody enthusiastic (or else they make people go into panic). I feel enthusiastic when I’m motivated and when motivation comes from within. When I know that a certain task will lead to an achievement and bring satisfaction in the end. But sometimes this is very hard. In such moments, coffee definitely helps, haha.

  • Characterize your life’s guidance or an important realization (or epiphany) you have experienced.

One of my important recognitions is that one is fully responsible for everything in one’s life. Regardless of whether something good or bad happens, and regardless of who else is involved, you are the one who has to assume responsibility. This is why it’s important to learn how to say no every now and then, even if you feel guilty, for you must be aware that every action has consequences, so it’s important to think before you act.

  • What does the charm of wood mean to you?

I’ve always loved nature and forests, so wood has always had special charm for me. It reminds me of home, of Slovenia, which is very woody, and takes me back to my childhood, as I used to spend a great deal of time at my aunt’s in the Koroška region. Her house stood – and still stands – in the middle of a forest and is full of wooden elements (walls, furniture, sidings). And every time I smell the warm ambery aroma of wood, I’m immediately transported back to childhood.

Wood truly has special charm and has the ability to transform any house into a home. It emanates such warmth, which no other material can conjure up. So, I adore wood. ?