By Carlie Pearson
You walk from the airplane and onto the landing, feeling both exhausted from the trip, and exhilarated for the next few hours of discovering your new home country. Once you get your luggage and move towards the exit, the first thing you are likely to see are flags, maps, books, t-shirts, hats, and key chains all displaying the name or shape of the country in which you have just landed. Although you may wait until later in your trip to pick up a less expensive t-shirt to bring home, you are likely to take something home with which to remember your experience. They key is to be smart about what you choose, and also, to remember the real reason for going abroad.
My favorite souvenir is a little golden ring. It isn’t fancy, and sure wasn’t expensive, but it was hand- made and holds a story that represents my adventure in Slovenia more than a tacky t-shirt ever could. While abroad, I frequently explored the city center of Ljubljana in search of excitement. There always seemed to be a craft show or wine tasting happening in the thriving city center.
One day, while exploring on foot, I came across a small shop facing the river. It was near the very end of the semester, and I could not believe I had missed it until that point. It contained handmade jewelry and gifts, perfect for bringing home a taste of Slovenia to my friends and family. But for me, I saw a metal ring made from a pipe, on it stamped in Slovenian, “Ti si moje sonce,” or You are my sun.
Now when I wear the ring, it is a gentle reminder of my time abroad, and of my home in Slovenia. It was light to pack, and isn’t touristy or tacky like so much of the tourist apparel. Additionally, it was handmade by a Slovenian artist in the heart of the city in which I lived. It may not clearly advertise my time abroad to others, but that’s what makes it so special. Once you return home, the experience is yours alone, and it is those memories and experiences that mean more than any souvenir.