By: Matt Gallagher
“Dober dan” from Ljubljana, Slovenia! My name is Matt Gallagher, and I am studying economics at the University of Ljubljana (loo-blee-ah-nah), with my good friend and fellow Oklahoma State student, Trey Gilbertson. We are about to celebrate six weeks in Slovenia, and we have enjoyed every second of it.
Like many others, you may be interested in how a couple of true Okies ended up in a small, seemingly obscure, somewhat non-traditional location like Slovenia. We entered the application process with an extremely open mind, and chose to take every potential location into account while making our decision. We searched all over the world for a relatively inexpensive university in an ideal location for travel and adventure. So naturally we settled on, you guessed it: Valencia, Spain. Of course, the University of Ljubljana was a close second choice, and we found out nearly a year ago to date that we would be spending six months in a little Central European country we knew even less about.
As we have learned over the past six weeks, there was an awesome purpose to this selection. Slovenia is a beautiful country delicately situated between the towering peaks of the Julian Alps and the deep blue waters of the Adriatic Sea. Bordering Italy, Austria, Hungary, and Croatia, Slovenia is the ultimate location for travel all over Europe. Having a history in which it continually changed hands from the Romans to the Franks, and the Austro-Hungarian Empire to former Yugoslavia, Slovenia has a fantastic mix of cultures. Ljubljana itself sees architectural and artistic influences from the Franciscans, ancient Venetians, and the Viennese. Traditional Slovenian culinary tastes consist of sausage and goulash dishes similar to that of the Germans and the Austrians, and Italian pizzerias and trattorias can be found on nearly every street corner.
After a two-week tour of England and Scotland to kick off our study abroad experience, we found ourselves in a hostel where we spent day-after-day searching for an apartment. We had chosen to wait until we arrived in Ljubljana to find a residence because we wanted to be acclimated and familiarized with the city we hardly knew anything about. While at times it was somewhat stressful living out of a suitcase in a room with twelve other people, we have no regrets and finally found a nice studio apartment that overlooks the Ljubljanica River in the city center.
While we are both pursuing an engineering degree at Oklahoma State, we are currently studying economics in order to complete separate business minors. Our faculty consists of 6000 undergraduate students and around 150 international students. Our classes are entirely taught in English and we are able to interact with students from all over the world. Lectures are largely discussion-based and allow students to hear and discuss different cultural ideals and national issues related to economics. We have made friends from Slovenia, Turkey, Germany, England, Portugal, and many other countries. Coming from strict, objective engineering classes, we are exceptionally intrigued by this classroom environment and it makes going to class almost easy.
As mentioned earlier, Slovenia is an ideal location for travel. Since we arrived in early February, we have toured northern Italy and Tuscany, the Austrian Alps, and Zagreb, the capital and largest city in Croatia. We have also planned many more trips from Turkey to Morocco and from Belgium to Poland to be completed over the course of the semester. Slovenia is also home to some of the world’s most spectacular natural marvels. The Karst region holds the largest cave system in the world and the gorgeous Lake Bled attracts tourists and locals alike with its pristine waters at the base of an immense cliff-dwelling castle. The Julian Alps, while not exceptionally tall (around 2000m), provide immaculate views and excellent skiing, hiking, and even paragliding.
While many may not know much about Slovenia and may question our choice in coming to this outwardly unconventional location, we feel tremendously thankful for the opportunity to live here. As we have learned, the people are just as beautiful as the landscape and have been extremely hospitable and gracious toward us. Most citizens speak excellent English and have a strong desire to see that we enjoy our time in Slovenia. Like most other Europeans, they have a strong love for food, football (not the American kind), and family.
We would like to encourage all of you who are seeking study abroad opportunities to keep an open-mind. For those that may be considering that peculiar location that your parents frown upon and that may not seem as comfortable as your home in Stillwater: go for it. We are continuously learning to take each day one at a time, and enjoy the small, unusual quirks that set this culture apart. Our journey this semester has little to do with school; it is all about finding ourselves in a vastly different culture and taking advantage of every day to sharpen our character and outlook toward others. Every day in Slovenia is a brilliant collision of adventure and challenge, and we hope to indulge in every beauty this small, seemingly obscure country has to offer.