Interview with Slavica Schuster, professional handball player and student of Graduate School

At the reception of the Mlinotest Ajdovščina WHC elite squad, taking place in May 2015 on the UNG premises in the Lanthieri Mansion I had the opportunity to meet Slavica Schuster, top handball player, member of the above mentioned club. This extremely likable and talkative young lady is also a student of the PhD study programme Environmental Sciences at the Postgraduate School.

Slavica, as you come from Croatia, I am of course eager to learn how come you have actual »ended up« here, decided to continue your sports career in the Vipava Valley and choose to study at our university.

Before coming to Slovenia I had been playing in a Croatian club, when one of my Croatian colleagues, who is also a handball player, advised me to play for the Mlinotest Ajdovščina WHC. She herself actually had very good experience with playing for a Slovenian club. The club from Ajdovščina welcomed me in the best possible way and I have now been playing and living here since the 2012/13 season. Although I have successfully completed the Integrated 5-year undergraduate and graduate study programme Primary Education and obtained the title Master in Primary Education, I wished to continue studying. As UNG and our handball club have been cooperating on a long-term basis, I attended some UNG events and at one of them I met Miss Andreja Leban, PR representative at UNG, and asked her about PhD studies at UNG. Andreja was actually the one to inspire me, and the Student Office helped me with arranging all the necessary documents for enrolment. And I was absolutely sure which field of studies I would choose – I am very interested in environmental issues and ecology, so I chose the PhD study programme Environmental Sciences. I am focusing on the area of waste management.

How do you manage to find enough time to study as your sports schedule is so tight and you have so many training sessions and other activities and because of the fact that you are also often absent because of your taking part in matches?

I have to admit that it is difficult indeed, and from time to time ask myself »Oh, Slavica, why are you doing that?«, especially when I have to learn in late evening or at night. But I enjoy studying and my handball club supports me, too. The adjustments of studies that UNG offers to me and other athletes will be of great help for me in the months to come, too, because my club won third place in the first national women’s handball league last season and will thus take part in the European championship called Challenge Cup this season. That means I will have even less time to study, so I am trying to fulfil certain study obligations as soon as possible, before the top season period.

What do you enjoy most in terms of your studies and what do you find most difficult?

I really liked the course Communication in Science, Prof. Dr. Samo Stanič is a great lecturer and we learned so much. About the things I find difficult … students usually point out the language of teaching, which is, in the case of my PhD programme, English. But luckily I have had no problems with English. Well, of course you come across certain problems related to studies now and then, but together with the university we have always solved them straight away.

What are your future ambitions in sports and in your occupational career?

Concerning sports – this season will be extremely important because we are taking part in the European Challenge Cup and I hope that we will meet our own expectations and realise our wishes, on the European level and at national championships. I have no idea for how long I will keep playing handball, it will be very difficult to quit doing the thing that has been the main priority throughout my life (handball). Speaking of my personal life, I hope I will complete my doctoral studies successfully. I see myself teaching courses in the area of environmental sciences at on university. This is my dream and I hope it comes true one day.

As a top handball player, what would you recommend to other athletes wishing to stert their studies yet during the course of their sports career?

UNG offers its students athletes adjusted manners of studies, taking into account their needs. The teaching staff at UNG are very kind and have a lot of understanding towards us athletes. So I invite all athletes who, despite their professional involvement in sports, wish to study, to enrol to the University of Nova Gorica.

We wish Slavica a lot of success in her sports career and in her studies. All UNG students are kindly invited to support Slavica and her handball club, Mlinotest Ajdovščina WHC, at handball matches or by following them on TV or the internet.

Veronika Piccinini, September 2015

Update 2020
In September 2019, Slavica completed her PhD studies of Environmental Sciences (Third Level) at the Graduate School of the University of Nova Gorica and successfully defended his PhD thesis titled Factors influencing collected quantities of municipal solid waste. During her whole PhD study period she was a professional handball player in renowned handball clubs across Europe – in Slovenia, Spain, Croatia and Hungary.

Access to Slavica Schuster’s PhD thesis in the Repository of the University of Nova Gorica


Slavica (top right, in red) playing in the first national women’s handball league
Photo: Primož Brecelj


Photoshooting at the presentation of the club’s new 2015/16 elite squad.
Photo: Archives of Slavica Schuster