“Wherever you go becomes a part of you somehow.”
― Anita Desai
Last year, when Dr. Hedeman and I took 14 engineering and business students to Slovenia, I had no idea what to expect. Yes, we had done a lot of preparation leading up to the trip, but I didn’t know anyone who had ever been to Slovenia and, unlike a lot of other destinations in Europe that I traveled to as a college student, it hadn’t been at the top of my bucket list for travel.
That all changed from the moment we landed in sLOVEnia (yes, the only country with love in its name). From our initial greeting with our lovely guide Petra, to our first walk around the main square in Ljubljana, I knew we had stumbled into a hidden gem of a country.
Our visits with engineering and business firms blew my mind. Everyone we met with was so welcoming, so proud of their country, and so generous with their time. We met with no less than 10 CEOs and Presidents while there. Our students were offered business cards and contact information for nearly every upper-level manager we met with, and our students were even afforded the opportunity to visit the US Embassy in Slovenia and meet with several the US Ambassadors there.
The country began to feel like home. We began walking around the city without maps (or smartphones!), and we knew where the best gelato at the best price was served. When it came time to leave, it truly felt like Slovenia had become part of us all. Several students even talked about looking into a full semester study abroad opportunity in Slovenia.
At the time, I had no idea Dr. Hedeman and I would be bringing a student group back the next year, and it felt very bittersweet to say goodbye to such a lovely place without plans to return. Luckily, upon our arrival back home, word began to spread that our trip to Slovenia was transformative, and our 14 students told all their friends and younger colleagues about this “hidden gem” that may not be a hidden gem for much longer. After thinking through a few changes we could make to improve the trip even more, Dr. Hedeman and I moved forward with planning our return to the “country of love”.
Now, as we prepare to take 23 students overseas, excitement starts in rise in me for the experience they are about to have in Slovenia. For more than a few of them, this is their first trip outside of the country. I cannot wait to watch them as they take in this country with fresh eyes; for me, it feels like a bit of a return to a place that never actually left my thoughts and dreams.
We can’t wait to share our adventures with you! Thank you for following along.