Slovenia in Summary

I just want to start by saying that these have been the best consecutive 10 days of my life. 
No matter how much I try, I can’t wrap my mind around how the stars had to perfectly align for us all to be here. John always tells companies about how we got here, because KU has the only complete Slovene program and the ambassador visited the business school, but it is really crazy to think about. Kansas is small and Slovenia is apparently “right-sized,” so for the two to connect in this way is awesome. Plus, I came to KU and somehow got into SELF… I feel so lucky. I love Slovenia and know I will come back. 

One of my favorite things to do was noticing the small differences between the US and Slovenia: they don’t cut your pizza for you in Slovenia and sometimes you have to pay for water, but tax is always included in the prices. Toilets have two buttons and the cars here are way cuter & smaller. Paper euros are different sizes and colors and having euro coins in your wallet isn’t annoying like having American ones because they’re actually worth something.

Before this trip, I didn’t know John at all and while Amanda was my mentor, I don’t think I knew her well enough. John is one of the most eloquent, hilarious, and well-traveled people I’ve ever met. I got to know Amanda a lot better and I feel like this trip has definitely strengthened our relationship, which I’m extremely happy about.Freshman year, I was always a little annoyed that SELF and BLP were so connected. We are very different people and I have absolutely no interest in business. While business still bores me, this trip has showed me how important it is and especially that the BLPs are better than I ever imagined. I’ve made some BLP friendships that I hope last much longer than these 10 days and even gotten to know some SELF Fellows way better.In conclusion, I’ve learned about culture, business & engineering, and people in general, so this trip exceeded all expectations. As I head to Italy for a short week before I head back to Kansas to start my full-time internship, I believe this trip has sparked a passion for travel I’ll carry with me for the rest of my life.

Always ready for business,

Sydney Gard


The Final Countdown

First of all: Petra is the most amazing tour guide, and not only because she let us sleep in today. She is interesting, knowledgeable, and hilarious, and I feel so lucky to have met her on this trip.

Anyway, after the aforementioned sleeping in, we went to Elan. Elan makes skis, and though their products are very high-tech, their factory consisted of a lot of workers instead of robots.

Next we went to Bled Castle, a truly amazing view with a replica Gutenberg’s printing press. Lunch was at a glamping location. Basically, I know where I want to stay for part of the next time I come to Slovenia: a treehouse by Lake Bled. 

Our next stop was a management school, then we rode a flat-bottomed boat to Bled Island. The boats are paddled by men from the same families who originally received the rights to row on Bled hundreds of years ago, and our rower was actually in the Olympics for rowing in the 60s. Bled Island was beautiful and we all got to ring the Wishing Bell. 

Dinner was at a hotel, and we had the famous Bled Cream Cake and celebrated our last night as a group. I feel so lucky to have been able to go on this trip.

-Sydney Gard

Food and a Factory

Today, our second to last day of the trip, we went to the Faculty of Economics at Ljubljana University; I’ve never seen a foreign university before and it was very fancy and actually a little similar to the KU business school. 

We then visited Trimo, a company that manufactures building panels for companies like IKEA. They also make modular housing, which I wish we could have learned more about, and gave us Trimo hats. We then visited Krka, which manufactures generic medicines. Their high-tech facility was the coolest we’ve visited so far.

After the visits, we ate an extremely fancy & delicious meal at Otočec Castle. This castle was very beautiful and old, creating a perfect place for such a memorable lunch. 

Our last true free night of the trip was well spent by picking up souvenirs and eating gelato. I can’t wait to see Lake Bled tomorrow!

-Sydney Gard

Back in Ljubljana

Trying two new types of food, seeing really cool personal airplanes and fulfilling my dreams of being on Shark Tank made today very exciting.

I tried Argentine and Serbian food; Argentine food included an incredible omelette and Serbian food was an amazing salad with roasted cheese. These were two of my best meals for the trip so far.

Pipistrel was created by a man who smuggled in aircraft parts and flew in secret during the Communist regime. He built his company until he became basically the Slovenian Bill Gates, and seeing the planes fly was super cool! 

We then went to an accelerator for business startups which I thought would be extremely boring, but was essentially Shark Tank, one of my favorite shows, and we even got to hear some pitches. A man from the US Embassy came and talked to us afterward, which was really interesting because I never even knew that sort of career path existed.

Here is a picture of a hideous shoe ad we saw that combines Crocs, clogs, and springs (???). Despite this, I promise most of the people here are very stylish.

-Sydney Gard

Bye coast!

I was very sad to leave Piran behind, as I think I like it even more than I like Ljubljana. It’s quaint but has amazing views and so many things to do.

I packed my free day with a long bike ride to Croatia through a beautiful Slovene national park, some time at the hotel pool, and finally dinner and a great view of the sunset in Piran.

During this trip, I’ve asked myself many times how Slovenia could be real and how it’s possible I could be here. Becoming close with people I would have barely met in this beautiful country I’m only visiting due to ties to KU makes me feel extremely lucky that all the stars crossed the right way to get me here. I’ve felt true bliss more times on this trip than I have in years, and I’m so grateful I was able to come.

-Sydney Gard

A Day of Firsts

Venice has amazing architecture, food, and shopping, as well as providing me with some new experiences:

  • My first nap on this trip occurred on the boat ride to Venice… and luckily the second took place on the way back. I can’t nap unless I’m massively sleep deprived, so that’s great.
  • My first time in Italy did not disappoint despite the heavy downpours that left my shoes & socks soaked long after we got back to our hotel. I loved the views, food, and people, especially the historic architecture.
  • My first visit to a basilica was amazing. St. Mark’s Basilica was awe-inspiring and by far the coolest church I’ve ever seen. I loved the gothic cathedral in San Francisco I saw last summer, but it was pretty weak in comparison to the 1000 year old basilica filled with mosaics and relics (we couldn’t take pictures inside, but you can see an outside selfie below).
  • I’m studying to be a civil engineer, so naturally I love bridges, and we got to see plenty of them today. My very unoriginal favorite was the famous Rialto. I think it was the first bridge I’ve seen that actually held shops on it and it was so impressive.

I am so excited to go to bed early and hopefully enjoy the area to its fullest during our free day tomorrow. Ciao!

-Sydney Gard

Piran & Portoroz

A winding bus ride through beautiful landscapes took us to Hidria, where we looked at molds for parts for cars and donned Hidria coats that made us look even more #readyforbusiness than usual (see below: me, Abby, and Renee). 

Hidria makes a part to help Diesel engines be more efficient that’s currently in testing, and our guide mentioned the VW diesel scandal since Hidria makes these parts for VW. This is something I’ve been wondering about since we got here and I noticed so many people drive VWs, and the scandal definitely changed my opinion of the brand. 

The molds were really interesting, especially since my grandparents started a tool and die company but I haven’t seen it since I became interested in engineering, so it was cool to make that connection.

Also: look up the Renault TWINGO. It is the cutest car I’ve ever seen. I am a fan.

-Sydney Gard