Though I have participated in various study abroad, the International Business Experience Course: Doing Business in the Balkans, one of UTC’s faculty led trips, was incomparable to any other experience I am aware of. I was in the region for two weeks, and felt comfortable from the beginning, as many locals speak English and are welcoming. Despite the ambitious itinerary, the schedule was well organized, and the travels went smoothly. We saw five countries – Croatia, Montenegro, Kosovo, Macedonia, and Tirana-, three times as many cities, and enjoyed too many delicious meals to count! We were in different lodging nearly every night and spent a significant amount of time in the bus, constantly traveling from one destination to the next. Every view is picture perfect, from the clear, blue waters, to the snow-covered alps. The locals were both curious and hospitable, due to the low tourism-traffic as a result of the region’s current unfamiliarity, though increasing, and the positive relationship between the U.S. and the Balkans region, respectively. Through this experience, not only did I became familiar with how one lives and conducts business in the Balkans, I was even able to connect with various individuals I had met through study abroad experiences in the past, who are able to provide personal experiences!
As a vegetarian, I have discovered the trend is not as common outside of the U.S. Over time, I have chosen to be flexible in my preferred diet, especially when I am abroad, for ease and to avoid missing out on local taste, assuming I may not have another opportunity to try! In my opinion, a large aspect of traveling is experiencing the food. Due to the Balkans geographical location, the seafood is plentiful, thus popular; and more cost-friendly than what we are used to. Additionally, there was not a shortage of meat and the wine was omnipresent. The menu options are not necessarily foreign from what we are accustomed to – pizza, pasta, vegetables, etc. but the preparation is, resulting in the distinctiveness. Our meals were mostly family-style, where the table ordered various dishes to share.
I find this course to be unique, because not only were we exposed to a number of nations in a short amount of time, the region is largely unknown by many, specifically referring to those in the U.S. Had I not previously met people from Croatia or this course not offered, I don’t know if I would ever know much about the Balkan nations, much less visit there! Despite knowing little about the Balkans, I still wanted to partake in the course to discover the region myself without preconceived notions influenced by others. Though we visited multiple countries, the lifestyle did not appear to vary widely. The relaxed mentality accompanied by the coffee breaks pervades throughout. Between the tourist attractions, including the Game of Thrones tour in Dubrovnik, Croatia, to the educational aspects of the trip from the university lectures, and the cultural experiences such as lodging in a guest house to the ongoing task of conducting our group project research, I gained a breadth of knowledge about the region that I hope to educate others.
Lynna Nguyen is a graduate student in Accounting. She participated in a College of Business faculty led trip to the Balkans in May, 2018 (check out her blog regarding a COB faculty led trip to Argentina from December, 2017 as well!). Lynna had the following to say about her time in the Balkans, “Though provided with an itinerary, each day arrived as a surprise for what was in store, challenging my preparedness and testing my ability to adapt to unforeseen circumstances. Venturing out of our comfort space creates opportunity to encounter situations we are not familiar with and may not know how to handle. What we take away from these occurrences shape us.”
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