I have noticed that in today’s society individuals are intimidated by the idea of studying abroad. The concept of placing yourself in a foreign place surrounded by the unknown causes college students to become apprehensive with the opportunity. That frightening concept is the exact reason why I wanted to study in the Balkans. I was excited to explore the unknown and widen my worldview.

Before my study abroad experience, I had never been outside the country. The Balkan trip was unlike anything I have ever done. I was spending every night in a new town and hotel! The constant movement was what I loved so much. The amount of traveling we encountered had us confronting different cultures multiple times in just one day. For instance, one morning we woke up in a lower-income area enjoying a traditional homemade breakfast made by the small hotel staff. Then having our evening spent in an Albanian college town savoring a high-class meal at a five star restaurant eating on the rooftop. Not only was the constant change exciting and interesting, it was also an undoubtedly character changing experience. I had to adapt to cultures I had not previously encountered numerous times in a day. I had to accept all forms of diversity in the world which in turn, helped me to better my perspective of diversity in America.

I also enjoyed the language barrier. It was empowering to get past the challenge of having the form of communication I use every day not at use to me. During our visit, there was no way to get around the need of interactions with locals with no English knowledge. I had to quickly adapt to using my body language as my communication style. This greatly improved my non-verbal communication skills. I thought it was exciting when I finally understood the person I was conversing with. These communication skills will follow me into my everyday life and even my future career. I often hear many recent college graduates lack efficient communication skills and confidence. This Balkan experience definitely enhanced these meaningful skills.

The beauty of the locations I visited cannot even be put into words. I had the opportunity to appreciate countrysides, beautiful architecture, mountains, lakes, rivers, oceans, snow, sand, and lots of green in just a couple of weeks. During the trip I could not get over how fascinating every place I visited was. I can genuinely say I saw the most beautiful scenery I will ever see on this trip.

The friendships I made on this trip will undoubtedly be lasting true relationships. I went on this trip being acquaintances with only three people. I left with four new best friends. Experiencing so many things in a small amount of time created lifelong relationships. My group consisted of many different types of individuals with varying personalities and viewpoints, yet we all connected and enjoyed each other!

Savanna Gifford is majoring in Management. She participated in a faculty-led trip to the Balkans through the College of Business in May, 2018. Savanna had the following to say about her time abroad, “I cannot thank UTC enough for this amazing experience that left me with many memories that will last a lifetime.”

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