Hvala, Slovenia

Sitting here in Dulles Airport for about 18 hours waiting to get to Kansas City, I’ve had a lot of time to reflect on this experience as a whole. I can honestly say that Slovenia exceeded my already lofty expectations. Every single area of the country that we travelled to was special in its own way. Whether it was the charm of Ljubljana, or the sunny shores of the Adriatic in Piran, or the grandness of the forests and Lake Bled, Slovenia never failed to make me smile.

I’m thankful to have had the opportunities to see the presentations and company tours as well. Each business showcased the tenacity and work ethic of Slovenia. They showed that a business from a smaller area can be a player in the global market of today. The businesses almost all had environmental goals, which I found very admirable and I hope to see similar practices more often in the United States.

Finally, I’m grateful for getting the chance to create and build relationships with my fellow students, especially the SELF students. I came into this trip not really having met any of the engineers and I’m ending this trip with a bunch of new friends. I also got to know a lot of the BLPs better. Everyone always had a great attitude during the trip and I really admired that. I can’t wait to see what we all achieve in the future.

This experience enriching in many ways and when I come back to Europe to study next Spring, Slovenia will definitely be at the top of my list of places to visit.

Till next time, Slovenia. Hvala.

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Bled

I don’t think there was a more appropriate stop on our last day than going to Bled. It represents some of the best things about Slovenia, its environment, history, and the general peaceful nature of the country and its people.

I’ve never seen a lake with water as beautiful as Lake Bled’s. Couple that with the forests surrounding each side of the lake, and you see a fantastic example of nature in Slovenia. Throughout the duration of this trip, I’ve learned how important the environment is in Slovenia, and looking at Lake Bled, you can see why.

I also learned how important Slovenia’s history is to its people during my time here. The first thing we saw when we arrived at Bled Castle was a printing press workshop. This shop stressed the importance of Trubar’s first printed book in Slovene. Since Slovenia is such a small country, its distinct language is a source of pride.

Lastly, Bled reflected how peaceful and nice Slovenia is in general. I felt at peace the entire time we were at Bled. Throughout the trip, I noticed how peaceful and kind the people in Slovenia were. I never noticed any citizen acting particularly angry or stressed during our time here, and I’m sure I could never go ten days without observing such an occurrence in the US. However, I feel like Kansans are very similar to Slovenians in that respect. In both places people are just good people in general and it’s yet another reason why taking KU students to this country was such a good idea.

Unfortunately we are heading home tomorrow, but like I said earlier, I think this was the best place to end our journey.

Ljubljana Faculty of Economics

Our first stop today was the University of Ljubljana Faculty of Economics. I really enjoyed this visit because it was interesting to compare this school to the B-School at KU, both the academic side and the physical building. The school in Ljubljana reminded me of Capitol Federal Hall slightly because there were various pieces of art scattered around the building. It also seemed to have a lot of collaboration space for students, which is one of my favorite things about Capitol Federal Hall.

It was fun to here about the opportunity to study abroad in Ljubljana for a three week period during the summer. I wish I had known about it sooner! I think it would be an amazing experience to do the dual program with the school in Toulouse, France. Hearing the speaker talk about the study abroad experience at Ljubljana made me even more excited for my semester in Italy next Spring. And after the experience I’ve had this past week, I’ll make sure to return to Ljubljana in my free time!

Back to Business

Although our time in Piran ended today, I was pleasantly surprised with a day of three extremely interesting tours and presentations. First, we started out learning about Pipistrel, a small aircraft manufacturer. This company stood out to me over other aircraft businesses because, in true Slovenian fashion, it had a big emphasis on energy efficiency. When we walked to the runway area and saw some of the planes take off and fly around, it was almost unbelievable how quiet the planes were. I can’t wait to see what kinds of planes Pipistrel will develop in the future.

Next we went to Acceleration Business City in Ljubljana. This company helps startups both financially and by setting them up with a team. We got to hear about some of the products that people were working on at ABC. One woman, originally from Hutchinson, was working on a shoe that could wireless charge a cellphone with kinetic energy from walking. The most interesting thing about the ABC, weren’t the products, but was the company culture. ABC seemed like a very relaxing place to work, even though there was a lot of hard work to do. It reminded me of how I’ve seen the Google work environment portrayed: with pool tables, unconventional seating and an overall fun space.

Finally, at the hotel, we learned a bit about the US embassy in Ljubljana. Earlier in the day we drove past the embassy and it was clearly the most highly secure place I have seen so far on this trip. I also noted that it was directly next to the Russian embassy, apparently the only such embassies to neighbor each other in the world. After listening to the representative talk about the embassy, I had a much better idea of what they did. I didn’t realize how much the embassy did within the community, especially with school children, so that they would hopefully have a positive impression of the United States and potentially go to school or work in our country at some point.

I hope tomorrow’s visits are as great as today’s were!

A Short Ride to Croatia

Today was our day to do whatever we wanted on the Piran peninsula. Many of us decided to head over to Croatia so that we could check another country off of our list and get a new passport stamp. We rented bikes in Portorož and started the five mile trek to the border. The views on the ride were breathtaking. On the right was the clear Adriatic Sea, and the left side gave us views of houses on the hills and vineyards reminiscent of Northern California. We stopped a few times just to take in our surroundings.

When it was finally time to cross the Croatian border, we encountered a little trouble. We didn’t exactly know which lane to get in for customs and then we realized we needed to get in the same lane as all of the cars. After a little more confusion in the second customs area, a Slovene bike rider offered to help us. The man was from Ljubljana and appeared to be a pretty serious biker. Once we officially crossed the boarder, he showed us a special and slightly hidden bike pathwhich we later were even more grateful for after hearing about another group taking the main road.

This experienced really showed me how courteous the people in Slovenia can be and also grave me another example of the beauty of the Slovenian landscape.

Rain in Venice

Today we took a high speed boat to Venice. Unfortunately the first thing to greet us in Venice was rain. I immediately thought that the day would be ruined, however after about an hour, the rain began to let up and we could see more of the beauty of Venice. The one place that I really wanted to see, thanks to Dr. Hedeman’s recommendation, was Saint Mark’s Basilica. Once I set foot inside the basilica, the initial view of the ceiling took my breath away. I spent the rest of my time inside the church pondering how it was possible that something so architecturally intricate and complex could be made almost 1000 years ago and could still be as awe inspiring today.

The rest of the day was spent walking around Venice, which sounds much easier than it actually is. While trying to find a place to eat, and later trying to find the Rialto Bridge, the group I was with got fairly lost. But this actually turned out to be a pretty nice thing because we ended up in a part of Venice that was not very tourist heavy. This also made me appreciate how Ljubljana, Slovenia’s largest city, was not even close to as crowded as Venice, yet still was beautiful and full of history.

After the day was over and we were talking to Dr. Hedeman, he said “Getting lost in Venice is something everyone should do”. After the day I had, I can wholeheartedly agree.

Piran and Portorož

Today we left Ljubljana and headed to the Adriatic Coast and our hotel in Portorož. Before we came to the hotel however, we explored the stunning city of Piran. Piran truly reflects the Slavic and Italian influences that have shaped the history of the costal town. In fact, you can even see three countries: Italy, Croatia and, obviously, Slovenia from Piran. Walking through the small streets between buildings in Piran made me feel like I was in Verona during the times of Romeo and Juliet. The view from the church overlooking the peninsula resembled a Greek Island town but with Italian rooftops.  I’m excited to head back tonight to hopefully watch the sun set over the Adriatic Sea.

We had one company tour today, at Hidria, before we arrived in the coast. Hidria produces various parts to help cars function. It was very interesting to see how much detail went into each of these parts. Almost all of the measurements had to be precise down to 1/1000 of a millimeter. However, after seeing the tedious process of making these parts, it came as a surprise to me that many of the parts would sell for less than 10 euros to the different automotive companies.

Tomorrow we head to Venice!