Why Slovenia Part 2—Final Day

I started my blog entries with a bit of history that explains the events that inspired our program in Slovenia.  At our farewell dinner last night, the question of why Slovenia was resoundingly answered by the 23 business and engineering students.  A tradition of the SELF/BLP international program is a farewell dinner at which each student makes a toast to the group at the end of our meal.  Several themes emerged in the toasts last night.  One, a successful integration of the business and engineering students that will likely result in lifelong friendships.  Two, an appreciation of the services provided by our tour company, Luxury Slovenia, and our world’s best guide, Petra Lubej.  Three, a genuine “love” of Slovenia, a country that was completely unknown to them before our 10 days here.  Finally, a pride in being “Ready for Business” at each step of the journey in the only country with LOVE in its name, sLOVEnia!

Our final company visit, Elan–famous makers of skis.  The flag of Slovenia at the Bled Castle.  Amanda Hornick in love with Slovenia.

3 Visits and Lunch at a Castle

Jayhawks in Slovenia visited University of Ljubljana, a new exchange partner of  the University of Kansas, to start another remarkable day.  Our next stop Trimo manufactures envelopes that cover and insulate buildings.  The CEO spent much time with the group and gave cool Trimo hats.  Final business of day was Krka, a high tech pharmaceutical firm that supplies generic drugs to a central and eastern European market.  Thanks to our great travel partners in Slovenia, Luxury Slovenia, we were able to enjoy a late lunch at Otočec Castle which sits on a small island in the Krka River.  The food was stunning.  The setting elegant and historic.  The company, fellow Jayhawks, was perfect.

 

What Makes This Program So Special—Days 6 & 7

Within 24 hours, a large group of Jayhawks watched a spectacular sunset over the Adriatic Sea in Piran before an alfresco dinner of calamari, visited the world’s leader in light aircraft manufacture (Pipistrel), heard pitches from at ABC Accelerator in Ljubljana from aspiring entrepreneurs (including one from Hutchinson, Kansas), and attended at briefing by a diplomat at the US Embassy in Slovenia.  What a 24 hours!  No wonder students love this program.

Sunset at Piran, the world’s best calamari, Jayhawks at Pipistrel, and Jayhawks at ABC Accelerator.

A Wet Venice Brings Out the Best of KU Students—Day 5

The voyage from Piran, Slovenia to Venice, Italy only takes 2.5 hours thanks to a high speed catamaran.  It was on this day that Amanda Hornick and I were convinced we had a group of students who embraced the ideals of Energy, Optimism, and Enthusiasm.  Just after disembarking from our catamaran, thunder and heavy rain struck us.  We were soaked, knowing we still had 6 hours in Venice and little protection from the elements.  Instead of complaining, the students expressed the concept of “embracing” the situation and making the best of it.  Maybe the positive attitude was heard in the heavens because the rain lightened and then stopped for most of our day there.  Students had free time to explore Venice in small groups.  I took a group into Saint Mark’s Basilica to see the incredible 11th century mosaics.  One student remarked that the mosaics were more spectacular than Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel ceiling which led to a sophisticated conversation about the how art gets evaluated and how knowing who the artist is changes our view of the art.  It was another one of those moments when I realize how wonderful these international experiences are and how wonderful our students are.  Amanda and I were impressed again at 4 PM when the group was to meet between the Gateway Columns in the Piazza San Marco.  It is easy to get lost in Venice.   Easy to misjudge how long it gets to walk across the city.  However, every student was there on time and ready for the walk back to the catamaran.  The attention to time, attention to detail, and attention to the needs of one another have been impressive among this wonderful group of young men and women.

Group photo in Saint Mark’s Square, Venice.

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The Diversity of Slovenia—Day 4

In the morning, we traveled on very windy roads to an isolated valley and the town of Hidria—the lace capital of Slovenia.  In the 1960s, the Yugoslav government established a factory in Hidria to manufacture HVAC components as an economic development and employment opportunity for the region which previously had been dependent on mercury mining.  Today this relatively small factory is a leading manufacturer of sophisticated and advanced automotive technologies.  We had a chance to see the aluminum die casting function.  We were all impressed with the time, money, technical expertise needed to create a 7 euro part for an automobile.  Hidria, like many other Slovene companies, has found ways to compete in the global marketplace.  About an hour from the Alpine hills and valleys of Hidria, we entered into the Mediterranean world of the Slovene Coast.  The students were dazzled by the beauty of Piran, a former fishing port of the Venetian Republic.  You can feel the Italian influence and hear the Italian language on the Adriatic coast of Slovenia.  From lunch on the Tartini Square to the hilltop church from where we could see Italy, Slovenia, and Croatia in one glance, to watching the sunset over the Adriatic, we were in love with the diversity of Slovenia.

Group photo in Piran, group at Hidria, and Rex models at Piran harbor.

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Four Stops—Four Ways of Looking at the Global Marketplace—Day 3

Stop 1—Litostroj, a heavy machinery manufacturer based in Ljubljana, produces water turbines for hydroelectric power plants.  We saw an impressive modern, scientific, technological heavy industry in an industrial revolution setting.  Stop 2—KULT, a vocational school training the new generation of culinary, hospitality, and tourism professionals, represented a growing service industry in Slovenia where tourism is booming.  Stop 3—EY, a multinational professional services firm, is a significant partner to KU in promoting the globalization of student experiences.  We visited the EY office in Ljubljana where we witnessed the global nature of the workforce—the professionals presenting were from all over the world—including one from my home state of Maryland.  He wore socks of the colors of the Maryland flag.  Stop 4—American Chamber of Commerce, a non-profit organization representing US companies and individuals doing business in Slovenia by promoting networking and advocacy.  In one day, our business and engineering students witnessed heavy industry, service economy education, professional services, and an organization that attempts to connect those areas together.

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Finding a Place in the Global Market—Day 2

Visiting Gorenje (a leading European appliance manufacturer), Quadrofoil (a new company creating and selling personal hydrofoil, pleasure boats), and Grah Lighting (an innovative player in lighting public and private spaces indoors and outdoors) presented contrasting insights into Slovenia’s place in the global market.  Gorenje has been in operation for over 60 years and was forced to transform itself when Slovenia became independent in 1991 and entered the free market economy.  Quadrofoil is a hi-tech electrical engineering company with a mission to change the way society embraces water sports and transportation.  It is taking advantage of Slovenia’s mission to find green options.  Grah Lighting aims to be the global leader in ultra energy efficient LED lighting with special emphasis on reducing light pollution.  A consistent message in Slovenia is the desire to create a sustainable future for the environment and for Slovenes.

Group photos at Gorenje and Quadrofoil.  Emily and Miranda try out a new Quadrofoil boat.