As part of our CR Interview Series, we are hosting Nina Kobal, the CR of Slovenia for the Med this year. She has been a passionate Rotaractor for years, as part of Rotaract Mediterranean and Rotary International, and she shares in this interview how she got here and everything she is still to do this year as well as in the years to come.
Nina has discovered Rotaract through the MEDICON, which is arguably one of the best ways to truly see the Mediterranean spirit. Let us hear her story alongside Maya Alawar, our Med Times journalist who has carried out the interview.
M: It’s a great chance to get to know you a little bit better. I’m going to kindly start off with asking a little bit of a background information about yourself if you can let me know just in general, what you do, who you are, how old you are, and your hobbies, and then we’ll go from there.
N: I’m Nina. I’m 26 years old and I’m from Slovenia. I finished studying medicine in February and since May I’ve been working as a junior doctor at the hospital. In my free time, I love to travel. I like reading, going out for walks, and doing some sports. Throughout primary school and high school, I was dancing and now I’m only dancing for fun if I have time. I also love being a Rotaractor in my free time as well.
M: What kind of dancing do you do?
N: I’ve done Latino American dances!
M: Do you feel the values of becoming a doctor and being a Rotaract are related?
N: Yes, definitely. Because as a doctor you mostly work for people and for their benefit. And I think this is what Rotaract is all about. We’re trying to help people and spread our knowledge and try to make someone’s life better.I think this is where I see the connection between my work and also Rotaract. Helping people with what you can do and what you know is the common area in my opinion.
M: So what are your top three most important values in life?
N: I would say family, friendships and honesty, definitely because those are like the base for everything. And also, we’re all looking for true love.
We asked Nina to tell us about her Rotaract journey to this moment, how long she has been in Rotaract, and her experience and positions. What she told us was very interesting!
N: Actually it’s really funny because my very, very first contact with Rotaract was with Rotaract Mediterranean.It was in 2017 and one of my friends was a CR of Slovenia for MED at that time and he was just looking for someone to join him to attend MEDICON. He presented me with the idea and I thought “that sounds fun and sounds like something that would be worth doing”. So I joined him and we went together to MEDICON in Croatia five years ago and I loved everything about it from the first minute. People were so warm and welcoming and we felt like we had known each other forever. So when I came back I started gathering more information about what Rotaract really is and what the possibilities are in my city. Then I joined Rotaract Club Ljubljana, which is in the capital of Slovenia and that was a very exciting period to join Rotaract, because we were hosting REM in Ljubljana that autumn. So, it was overwhelming with all of the Rotaractors from everywhere coming to Slovenia. Since then I’ve been a member of Rotaract Ljubljana. My positions have been mostly international. Last year I was the CR in ERIC and this year I’m the CR for MED. And I’m thinking maybe about applying in the future for being the President of the club, but I am waiting to settle down a bit and be more present in Ljubljana to fulfil my role properly.
M: Five years ago and since then, is there anything that stuck out to you? Like the main event that has happened to you in Rotaract that you feel has impacted really who you are or your life?
N: I think it was not a single event but more like a whole series of events, but what really makes Rotaract very special for me is that I spent a lot of my time abroad during my studies ,I’ve been to exchanges in Mexico and in Lebanon as well as in Denmark and it feels sometimes scary to go to a country that you don’t really know a lot about without knowing anyone. So before I went to Mexico, I found out about a Facebook group called Rotaract Couch which enabled me to meet a lot of Rotaractors from every country that I visited. Everyone was very welcoming and willing to help if you needed anything. Suddenly you were not alone in the new country anymore, and you had a whole new family there,that has made it easier for me. So I think what’s really made me very proud about being a Rotaractor is the fact that no matter where you will go, you will always find your Rotaract family there. This was very inspiring, to see how different countries are dealing with different projects and what a big impact they have in their country as Rotaractors. So I think seeing different Rotaractors and different countries and how they operate has showed me the big picture about Rotaract and how important we are worldwide.
M: We have talked about Rotaract Mediterranean, but I would like to know specifically why you chose to be a Country Representative. I know that you have taken international positions in the past and did not choose to be the president of your club, so why did you choose to be the Country representative and not something else? What inspired you exactly for this position?
N: I think it was because of how everything started at the beginning. Because ever since I attended the MEDICON it was my wish to be the CR for Rotaract Mediterranean and now after five years I’m fulfilling that dream. I was not present in the country all the time and I didn’t want to take on the presidency just for the name of it. I knew that if I’m not present personally, I cannot really do it as I would wish to. So that’s why I saved that opportunity for another time and decided to utilize my time as a student to travel and become more internationally active.
M: Is there any specific projects in your head that you are adamant about having this year or a vision that you have in mind?
N: Last year when I was in ERIC, I realized that Slovenian Rotaractors are very involved in the European part of Rotaract, and they attend the events, but I think that they don’t feel yet that much sense of belonging to the Mediterranean. So what I really want to do is to help them to get to know the MED better and help them see their opportunities in the Rotaract Mediterranean, and how active it actually is, because a lot of them don’t know much about the activities and challenges that we are taking on. So the answer is yes, so that I can show them how they can be part of it. I see that my biggest and most difficult task will be to bring Rotaract MED closer to Slovenian Rotaractors and to encourage them to join and be active in it. That is also why after being in ERIC I decided that I wanted to be in MED too. So, this will be my biggest task as the CR of Slovenia concerning Slovenian Rotaractors this year.
M: Do you feel like there is a certain quote or motto that you might be following this year or taking inspiration from for the next coming year?
N: Umm, actually I haven’t really thought about it yet. But yes, maybe I would say “together we are stronger” because by exchanging ideas, I think we can learn a lot about your ideas, and so far all the challenges I’ve seen are very innovative. We are learning from each other and we can come up with better projects while connecting with each other. I think this is the first thing that pops into my mind right now.
M: Do you think you will have an advantage to strengthen the connection between the clubs of Slovenia among themselves?
N: We are trying to get personal. When you know someone in person, it helps you and it motivates you to make bigger connections. In Slovenia, we have a good advantage which is that the country is really small, so it’s easy to go everywhere by car. So we are trying to encourage and motivate members to go to other club events and support them and get to know people there. When you know each other you get to do more joint projects. We have a Facebook group, most of the members are from Slovenia and we’re trying to regularly update it with all the projects. I suggested creating a Google Calendar in which every member would have access to , so every time the club has an event or project or anything they want to talk about, they can just put it into the calendar and you will have a better view about everything that is going on. Right now what is in process in Slovenia is creating a Rotary House which would actually be the physical place for Rotaractors and Rotarians to meet and share ideas there. It will hopefully be a place to host people who wish to learn about us as well. I will try to visit as many different club meetings also to share more about Rotaract Mediterranean and our projects and to invite them to join our events. This is how I will try to connect clubs between each other and also on an international scope.
M: What do you feel makes Rotaract special? How can you show other people what it’s worth?
N: What was the most special and was the biggest impact for me was the existence of Rotaract all around the world and how we can have an impact worldwide. As many people from so many different countries with so many different cultures and languages and backstories we can still connect for the same purpose and I think this is what makes Rotaract really special. In other words, how we can connect in one place with the same ideas and the same priorities with the same goal. Having this Rotaract family in every country is very special. And also we are young, motivated and are trying to help and make a change in the world. So I think it connects a lot of young people with so much knowledge, but most importantly with motivation to do something good. The feeling of warmth and hospitality is in every event, every meeting, in every country. I think this is what makes Rotaractors different from other people. I didn’t have an experience of going somewhere and felt like I didn’t belong there. You always belong there.
M: What do you think, or what do you expect to be the biggest obstacle that you might face during this year?
N: It will be the task of encouraging people to join the Mediterranean events more actively. Because most of them know about EUCO, about REM, and are likely to attend them. However, we have MEDICON and Med Events as well. And of course, time management is always a difficult thing to do, and an efficient manner of planning is needed, no procrastination. That will be a difficult task. But yeah, we will make it.
M: What’s something that you would like to be remembered by as a CR for later years?
N: I would like to do a health-related project,concerning the problems or the issues of Mediterranean countries ,and connecting different clubs from different countries to achieve that. So, connecting my professional field with Rotaract in an international setting is a goal and, my plan for the fall period is to come up with an idea about what we could do. I hope to dig a bit further into the problems that are current and explore how we could help to solve the issues. To do something with an impact, about something that is current and important right now for people from the Mediterranean countries and connect different CRs, different members to do something together. This is what is in my plan and I really hope that I will be able to make it happen.
We love how Nina’s Rotaract journey has brought her back from where it all started for her, Rotaract Mediterranean. Her energy for her job and her position this year is inspiring and we hope to get to know more about her journey soon!
Written by: Carlota Buznego, Maya Alawar