I spoke to my father as I drove to the Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport. He proposed, “We learn in four ways, reading, talking to others, suffering, and traveling.” I am honored to have learned through traveling.

I would have chosen to study in the Balkans over other alternatives, because I experienced unique situations. Black stones jabbed my bare feet as I tottered toward the shore after I swam in the Adriatic Sea. I saw peaceful, sleeping dogs throughout the streets of Skopje, Macedonia amidst the crowds, fountains, and a puppeteer. Tres Leches (Milk Cake) tasted like caramel. I heard “bahh” as goats trailed my group higher toward a remote house in the Albanian Alps. I smelt incense burning inside the painted Mosque Sarena Dzamija. Although the tangible experiences fascinated me, the intangible experiences impacted me more profoundly.

Dr. Asllani, Dr. Wheatley, and the guest speakers taught professional, academic, and personal lessons. Professionally, I learned how to manage a business in the Balkans from Prof. Kuznin and Prof. Walker from Croatia. Academically, I learned how to write and collect data for a dissertation from Dr. Wheatley. Personally, I perceived the desperation in Prof. Besimi’s voice as he dreamed, “When we grow enough to join the European Union […].” I feel sympathetic for Prof. Besimi and his countrymen as I work in a stronger and more stable economy with higher wages and more purchasing power than he will ever imagine for Macedonia. I have tasted what he and his nation longs for. My discontentment morphs into gratitude as I view the United States’ benefits from the eyes of a Macedonian citizen.

Studying abroad exchanged my idealism of foreign nations for daily life. For example, instead of seeing Albania as a paradise for backpackers I learned about the habits of two aspiring young lawyers. In their free time, they socialize in restaurants or visit the beach. I was disappointed not to encounter the culture of locals in Dubrovnik, Croatia. On my trip, I was surprised to learn that nature, history, and customer service fills the minds of locals for decades as eighty percent of locals work in the tourism industry.

The friendships I formed enhanced the class and my ambitions. As a college student, hearing about the professional successes and failures of graduate level students motivates me to search more fervently for a successful, fulfilling professional path. Also, reflecting on my peers’ diverse adventurous travels stirs my desire to explore God’s creation more freely and without prejudices. Also, I enjoyed having company as I learned and explored the unknown.

After a month of being back in the United States, I still see the repercussions of growth in bravery, knowledge, compassion, and teamwork. I hope someday you too will discover more about yourself and your future as you study abroad.

Claudia Craig is majoring in Marketing. She participated in a faculty-led trip to the Balkans through the College of Business in May, 2018. Claudia had the following to say about her study abroad experience, “Doing Business in the Balkans shaped me into a more adventurous, informed, compassionate, and connected global citizen. If you want to learn and enhance your life, you need to study abroad.”

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