A Dream Come True

Before I even knew about this study abroad program, I had seen pictures of Lake Bled. I always told myself I would go there and I was so excited when I learned I would get the opportunity through the program. 

It truly is a place that does not feel real. It is situated in the Julian mountains, with a view of Slovenia’s most iconic mountain formation: Triglav. It also has the most beautiful blue water lined with trees and old buildings. Bled Castle is situated on top of a rock formation along one side of the lake, and it gives a spectacular view of the island and the lake.

Then, we got to see Tito’s Palace on our way to get on our boat ride. The drivers of these boats can only come from the Pletna family lineage, which makes them so special. We were taken to the island to visit the church, wishing bell, and clock tower. The entire experience was completely surreal.

And that was not the first time I had this feeling in the past ten days. So many times during the week, I would turn to the person next to me and say, “Is this real?” We had so many unique experiences in Slovenia that not everybody gets when they visit, from meeting with top companies to dining in the finest restaurants. While I will never know everything about Slovenia, I learned so much and I am looking forward to convincing all my peers to visit as well.

Meredith Rivas


An Interesting Perspective at Krka

While it seems a little strange, I was most excited to visit Krka, a generic pharmaceutical manufacturer. I was primarily interested because both of my parents work in the industry and I felt like I had an above average knowledge of those types of companies.

We were not allowed to take pictures inside of the factory, which made more sense to me once we saw their production chain. They have such a complex, high tech process for making their product. We got to tour their manufacturing area by standing in a panoramic elevator that moved throughout the various floors while explaining each part of production.

It was such a huge, high tech company and it really blew my mind. Getting to see more in depth a company similar to that of my parents was truly special, especially since it was in Slovenia too. 

After visiting Krka, we had a 5 star meal at a castle. So I’d say, it was a pretty good day.

Slovenian Drive and Determination

Today, we visited Pipistrel, a small plane manufacturer that has dominated its industry. It makes a wide variety of gliders, which vary on shape, size and propulsion style. 

While the product itself was impressive, I was most interested in the passion exuded by the employees. Pipistrel’s founder Ivo Boscarol made gliders during the time of communism in Slovenia. He made such a great product that he went to register it with the government, however he was laughed at.

Now, they are leaders in their industry even being based in a such small, young country. They told us about their individual products, but I was also expressed by the two things they hold most important to them: motivated employees and environmental awareness. They motivate their employees by giving them the opportunities to innovate and work on a project that they care about. They also contribute to their environment through having electric and hybrid gliders while also running their facility that is 100% self sufficient.

This company has so much passion for their product, which embodies how all the other businesses we visited feel as well. Being such a successful company in a country that is 26 years old is truly inspiring, making this visit my favorite of the trip thus far.

The Happiest Dogs Ever

This entire week, the other students on this trip have probably heard me say, “WOW that dog looks so happy!” If they were lucky enough, they heard me say it about 10 times each day. These animals, while inherently happy by nature, have a good reason to be smiling.

They are so happy because they live in Slovenia. Today, I took a few photos of dogs I saw around Piran. Before going to Piran, Koree and I rented bikes with the goal of riding them to Croatia. Instead of getting all the way there, we turned around after about 45 minutes of cycling. We rode through a beautiful park that gave us yet another stunning view of the Adriatic. We biked back to Portorož, and then proceeded to bike to Piran.

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We stopped in Piran and waited to meet up with Bailey and Grace. Koree and I found a cafe along the coast, where we got to enjoy our Sunday morning and watch the locals walk their happy dogs and bring their children to the sea. After our tea, orange juice, and toast, we walked around Piran to local shops. Koree and I bought postcards made by a woman in a small shop near Tartini Square.

Our lunch with Bailey and Grace was fantastic. We ate at a restaurant right on the coast of Piran, and had great pasta for a low price. Although we were very full from our lunch, Koree and I hopped back on our bikes to return them in Portorož, with a lovely coastal path on the way back.

After lounging (and napping) at the pool, we got ready for dinner and headed back to Piran. We walked up the seemingly infinite number of stairs to the city walls, which definitely gives you the best view of Piran. After soaking in the city’s beauty, we walked down to find the seafood restaurant that John raved about. We each ordered the squid (or calamari) and devoured every bite.

Just as we finished dinner we walked out to the coast and were welcomed with a beautiful sunset. Photos cannot do it justice, but I tried my best to capture it all. Piran was definitely my favorite place thus far, and all I can think about is when I could come back. Luckily for the dogs, they get to stay.

Meredith Rivas

Venice is Meant to Be Explored

Today, we took a high speed boat from Piran to Venice. I was so excited to visit, since I had never visited before and I knew it was a very special city. We learned about Venice before our visit, and I was intrigued by its long history. As we pulled up to the Port San Basilio, I realized that it was raining outside and that it was going to be quite a long day.

We walked to the Piazza San Marco and, of course, I was dumbfounded by its beauty. I was also overwhelmed by all the people. Even though it was raining, there were still hundreds of tourists. As we started to get hungry, a group of me and three others decided to grab a quick bite to eat before exploring. We discussed the sights we wanted to see, but also a desire to just roam the streets of Venice.

We made it a goal to visit each church we walked past, which was definitely a good idea. Instead of being caught up on the most popular sights, we just went wherever we felt. It was really nice to happen on a beautiful canal, building, or church. We even made our way over to the military arsenal at one point. Of course, we got to se the Rialto Bridge, San Marco Basilica, and the Campanile too, but there is a hidden beauty in the seemingly undiscovered paths of Venice. Even though my jacket was often soaked through, I still started to understand and appreciate the enchanting nature of Venice.

Meredith Rivas

Tartini Square

After visiting Hidria, an automotive parts manufacturer, in the beautiful town of Idrija, we took a long bus ride to Piran. I had been waiting eagerly this entire trip to visit Piran, since the photos are what initially enticed me to come on this trip. As we arrived, I saw the sights that were shown to me through photos, which was definitely exciting.

We got to eat lunch at La Bottega Dei Sapori, a fine dining experience complete with my first eating experience where I ate nearly all parts of the fish we were served. It was beautifully situated on Tartini Square. While we were enjoying our excellent meal, the owner began to talk to us about the building where the restaurant was. He explained how Giuseppe Tartini lived in that building. Giuseppe Tartini was a famous composer and violinist from Slovenia. I could not help but notice the pride with which this main proclaimed this information. Just like any other Slovene, he was extremely proud of Tartini and wanted to share his excitement with us.

After our meal, our tour guide Petra told us about how the square used to be a harbor, but it was later filled up with concrete. The Slovenes decided to put the statue of Tartini in the square to demonstrate their pride in that part of their history.

This was one of the many times I have felt pride radiate from the Slovenian people. They are so proud of everything they have done and everything they are doing, justifiably so. As a country with a rich history yet only 26 years of independence, it is truly amazing. Not to mention the stunning views as well.

Meredith Rivas

Lunch at Kult 316

Today we visited Litostroj Power, an industrial manufacturing company located in the city of Ljubljana. After this visit, we were left feeling a little hungry and tired from some residual jet lag. We visited the Kult 3016 Culinary and Tourism Center of Ljubljana. While we were here, we got to tour the facilities and learn about what the students study. They cover a range of topics, from hotel rooms to beer brewing to fine dining. After being warmly greeted with champagne in the cellar, we headed up to their restaurant to be served their lunch special for the day.

And it was amazing. First, we had a salad with asparagus, strawberries, young cheese, and balsamic vinegar dressing. Then, we were served tomato soup with croutons. For the third course, we had a pork filet with roasted potatoes and dried fruits, topped with crispy prosciutto. For our fourth and final course, we had a chocolate coconut slice with mango dressing, marinated grapes, and mascarpone cream with mint. While all the courses were extremely decadent, they were also extremely well balanced. Paired with the beautiful weather, this meal was definitely one of my favorites.

One of the lessons I have learned, and learned very quickly: Slovenia has great food.

Meredith Rivas