Kristen Childs on her experience in Slovenia
Geography & International Relations major
University of Ljubljana, Slovenia
Boren Scholarship Recipient
Follow Kirsten’s adventure on her blog: https://300hairybears.wordpress.com/
Most of us go through life living within the limits that we set for ourselves. Others see life as boundless, whether to their benefit or detriment. My year in Slovenia was all about limits, both creating them and breaking them. Could I truly take on a geodetic study program in Slovene of which I had little prior knowledge? Could I become fluent in Slovene within a year with zero Slavic language experience? As time passed, I realized that my time there wasn’t just about perfectly completing those tasks just because I believed I was capable; there were other things to focus on such as meeting people, sharing stories and discovering cities, and interacting with locals without the worry of whether every word I said was the right one. I realized that I should not do things just because I think I can – I should do them because I feel invested in them. This is especially relevant to study abroad because within one year, time is precious.
I did tell you this was also about breaking limits, right? Having grown up in the relatively flat state of Michigan, Slovenia’s jagged limestone alpine peaks just 30 miles north of town looked intense and beautiful. Early on I found some great friends who were experienced at alpine mountaineering and invited me to join during their treks. From our first hike navigating our way through the snow to a mountain hut, to scaling the steep and considerably exposed peak of Skuta using metal spikes as anchor points to pull ourselves up, to finally climbing Triglav, the tallest mountain in Slovenia, my year in the mountains was a journey of continuous challenges to my notion of limits. Every time I thought I had gone beyond what I thought I was capable of climbing, another new and exciting challenge presented itself.
I suppose what I’d like to say is this: in some ways my time in Slovenia taught me how to recognize and accept my own limits, but in other ways I was continuously encouraged to go beyond what I originally thought was possible. Both led to a balanced and unforgettable experience.
My first time living abroad was about self-reflection and self-discovery. I was a more self-confident traveler the second time around and found myself focusing instead on other people’s stories while studying in Slovenia. Everyday life in Ljubljana and throughout Europe was filled with a great many people who were doing their part to leave their mark upon the world, big or small. By placing myself in a new environment I was able to see the extraordinary out of the ordinary.