Junior, Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering
Athens, OH 21 March 2018 –
In early January, my Spring break plans were the same as every year preceding: I was going home to see my cat. By the third week of the semester, I had a plane ticket to go on a cultural exchange to Ljubljana, Slovenia (the first j is silent and the second j reads like a y).
I’m not sure if it was the beautiful architecture, the fresh, flaky croissants or the unbelievably blue Adriatic Sea, but in just one week I fell whole-heartedly in love with Slovenia.
There were students from both Cru at OU and RealLife at OSU on the cultural exchange. We partnered with an organization called Speak Out Slovenia, which works with high school students to practice English speaking through meaningful, relevant conversation with Americans. A lot of our time was spent in classrooms, giving a short presentation and quiz about school in the US, answering any questions, and learning about Slovene culture.
The quiz tested the Slovene high school students’ knowledge of American high school jargon like senioritis, dance chaperone and senior superlative. The Slovene students taught us (the Americans) about their college entrance exam, the Matura, and flaunted that detention does not exist in Slovenia, among many other things.
During that week, we (the Americans) were divided into groups and met at three different high schools. The school I went to was called Gimnazija Šentvid. One of the major differences between American and Slovene high schools is when it comes to sports. Unlike in America, Slovene sports clubs are not affiliated with a high school or district. However, there are schools like Gimnazija Šentvid that offer classes for student athletes where they can train and condition during their school day.
Another big difference is that in Slovene high school a student stays with the same group of people throughout their day class to class with few exceptions except during senior year. This is very different from how American high schools operate where we have our own individualized schedules.
In addition to speaking with English class students in the schools, we also had after-school activities. On Wednesday, all the teachers in Ljubljana went on strike, so we took a day trip with at least thirty Slovene students to Piran, a coast town on the Adriatic Sea. We were split into groups with both Slovenes and Americans and sent on a photo scavenger hunt to see all the sights the lovely town had to offer.
Piran was my personal favorite. Looking out across the sea, in one direction I saw Italy and in the other Croatia. We climbed to the highest point in the town, where we could look out at the point and snap a picture of the terracotta rooftops and breathtaking horizon.
Our last day in Slovenia was spent at Lake Bled. The lake was nestled majestically in the frosted mountains. From a castle that loomed over the lake to the small island church located in the middle of the lake, it was like something out of a fairy tale.
We hiked higher and higher to take the best pictures and to try to capture the beauty of the surrounding mountains. Lake Bled was also a prized destination thanks to its authentic dessert shop that supposedly has the best kremsnita (cream cake) in Slovenia.
Overall, there was a lot to love about Slovenia. I hope I have the opportunity to go back and visit this beautiful country and the friends I made through Speak Out. This trip had a tremendous impact on me through immersive learning about another culture. Even though it was a break from class, it definitely was not a break from learning. However, when you are gazing across the Adriatic or enjoying a delectable croissant, it’s not so bad.