Have you ever been to one of those really small towns? You know the type of town that is so small that you would miss it if you simply blinked. The one with only a single gas station, a family grocery store, and a post office. The town that you see on the road signs as you drive by, but never actually imagine people live there.
Believe me when I say, people do actually live there.
My name is Ashley, and I am from that type of town.
I was born and raised in Inkom, Idaho aka ‘Inkom Stinkom.’ Most people don’t use that name much anymore, but as a child I remember hearing it a lot. Now it just comes as a habit to chime in, “Yep, I’m from Inkom, Inkom Stinkom. I’m sure you’ve never heard of it.” The conversation always ends up with me naming the closest ‘big’ town to Inkom just to provide some sort of context.
Shortly after graduating high school, I moved to the big city of Logan, Utah to attend Utah State University (USU).
(Disclaimer: Logan is actually a really small city, but compared to Inkom it felt huge to me).
After three declared majors, a two year break, and a new job as a bicycle mechanic I realized that basically everything had changed since I moved to Logan. Well, almost everything. The one thing that remained the same through those 4 years, was that I new I wanted to study abroad. I didn’t care where or when, but I wanted to do it.
By the end of 2015 I was finally settled on a major – Landscape Architecture. This was a huge change from my previous three majors (psychology, international studies, and pre-law and constitutional studies), but this time I was sure.
(Note: I know that many people think that landscape architecture is just mowing lawns, and I’m here to tell you that is not the case! If you were under that impression, that is okay, but from now on you’ll know better. Watch the following video for a short intro to what landscape architecture is: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zbx3FDDNeQM
Fast forward two years. I am in love with my program! It’s that type of thing where I love to wake up and go to school, and I’m willing to stay up all night. Not because I have to, but because I genuinely enjoy it. (Yes, I’m a nerd). So I was faced with a dilemma. Do I leave this place that I love to fulfill my dream of studying abroad or do I stay?
I won’t lie. It was a really hard decision for me.
My department at Utah State has had a long standing relationship with the University of Ljubljana in Ljubljana, Slovenia so I knew that study abroad was possible for me, and it wouldn’t delay my graduation. The struggle in deciding for me was simply the thought of leaving a place that I was really comfortable. A place I had worked really hard to network in, where I had made lasting relationships, and became involved with student leadership. The department of Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning (LAEP) at USU had become my new home. How could I leave it?
With an outpouring of love and support from my close friends, family, and faculty members at USU, I decided to do it.
“I’m going to Slovenia!” I said it a lot after I made my decision, but it really never seemed real. I spent the entire fall semester of 2017 applying, preparing, and saving. It was the most difficult semester I think I have ever had. My class load was difficult, and there was so much to figure out between transportation, lodging, vaccinations, visas, classes, etc. I know that it was meant to be though, because everything just fell in to place.
I’ll save you the details of the planning, because of there are many. Just take it from me when I say that all of the hard work is worth it.
As I write this, I am sitting on my bed in Ljubljana, Slovenia. It is my second night here, and I already feel at home. Don’t get me wrong, culture shock is real. Currently I feel a mix of emotions – excited, nervous, happy, uncomfortable, and yet completely comfortable. It’s like all my emotions are in a big mixing bowl, and I’m trying to figure out which one is going to surface next.
I’m okay with that reality though. Being in a new country without my family for the first time is hard, but I’ve done hard things before and survived. So bring on all of the emotions! These next few months are going to be amazing!
I do have a few goals that I want to accomplish while I am here.
- Visit at least 13 new countries (which will bring my total to 20)
- Learn how to understand the basics of Slovene
- Go to Kurentovanje in Ptuj (this is a traditional holiday in Slovenia known throughout the country as Pust, and Ptuj is the old village where the grand celebration kurentovanje takes place. The easiest way it has been explained to me is to compare it to Halloween, everyone dresses up as some type of monster to scare away winter)
I’m excited to accomplish all of these goals, and many more, but the third one is happening soon! Kurentovanje is on Tuesday (2.13.18), so I will definitely be attending that. I can’t wait to experience is, and learn more about what the holiday is.
I know that as I continue on this crazy adventure my eyes will be opened to a lot of things. I will probably continue to have a mixing bowl full of emotions, and I know things will be hard. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
From one small town in Idaho, to a little bigger town in Utah, to a really big city in Slovenia (even though most Europeans consider it to be a small town in comparison to other capital cities), I feel confident that I will be okay.
-Ashley in Ljubljana-