When I first applied for this trip, I was excited to see and experience new things. I have traveled in the past and had a great appreciation for the remarkable sight I have seen and the cultures I had experienced. However, with this excitement came some apprehension of what to expect. I worried that I would not adjust to the customs and culture around me. In addition, besides being able to point it out on a map, I had difficulty imagining what countries, such as Albania, Kosovo, and North Macedonia would be like.
Greece offered many beautiful, ancient sights and popular cities. It felt very much like the other countries that I had been to, like France and Italy with it being known for its tourist attractions. Of the three companies that we visited, I found that Mariana’s Vine leaves was the most interesting of all. I thought that it was unique to have a vineyard that produces everything from stuffed leaves to grape spirits, except the wine. This is a different business approach because it is not something that is expected from a vineyard. It would make sense to produce wine in a vineyard in Greece. It was very clear that they listened to their customers when deciding to expand their product line. I also liked that the business was family run and employed individuals from the community. The visit was more interactive than the others in Greece and the speaker answered the questions the group had very clearly.
While Greece is a very beautiful and popular tourist destination, I valued my time more in the other countries of the Balkans. It did not feel as if the countries had been overexploited like Greece. I favored North Macedonia and Albania over the other countries. North Macedonia stuck out to me because of the various types of architecture from neoclassical to gothic to modern that has been built. Upon looking at it, you get the impression that the buildings are several centuries old. However, we later found out that the buildings could not be more than a few decades old. This architecture shows the resilience of the area after the earthquake in 1963 and the most recent global Covid-19 pandemic. The tour guide made the visit to this country very enjoyable. He freely shared his views on the debate of if North Macedonia will ever join the European Union (EU) and the conflicting architecture throughout the city. It was very refreshing to hear an honest and open opinion. He went into depth about the history of the city without spending too much time on a topic. In addition, I was in awe how well several different religions could live together without conflict. This is something I hope will spread to our corner of the world and others.
While I did not know what to expect from Albania besides what I had been told, it was by far my favorite part of the trip. It especially stuck out to me over the other countries because we had the opportunity to meet other students from Albania. While talking with the other students, it was clear that we had many things in common, such as hobbies and the dedication to making a better tomorrow for future generations. Apart from the students, I found the business visit to the bank exciting as a finance and accounting major. The presentation on the banking system was very in depth. I was particularly very interested in the talk of corruption and construction between the speaker and the group.
Over the past thirteen days, we have seen the unique region of the Balkans and the differences that vary amongst the countries of this region. One of my favorite things about this trip was listening to the testimonies of the tour guides and other individuals about their country’s role in the European Union and how the political system operates. I enjoyed seeing how religions coexist and hope that this is a model that other countries will adopt. The United States can be very geocentric, in the sense, that Americans focus on their own problems. While in the Balkans, it was clear by the people and the news that the citizens were knowledgeable about the events of their own country and others.
This trip made me want to work harder for a better world where we coexist. Although I saw and learned a lot about other countries and cultures from this experience, it made me appreciate the country I call home, despite the flaws it has.
Amal Abazid (BS Finance and Accounting) spent spent part of May 2023 participating in a faculty-led trip to the Balkans through the Rollins College of Business. Amal had the following to say about studying abroad, “This was an once in a lifetime experience! It opened my eyes to new cultures and new places. I have learned so much more about both myself and the world around me.”
Share this post: