The decision to enroll in Business in the Balkans was both easy and difficult. I knew I wanted to participate in a travel course, but couldn’t decide which offered course to select. I knew I wanted to study abroad, but didn’t know how I was going to afford it. I am so grateful that UTC offered opportunities to learn about the course offerings in advance and to help finance the trip with scholarships.
I decided to enroll in the Balkans course after attending a webinar offered by RCOB and the instructor to detail the program and answer questions. After attending a few other pre-travel sessions for other trips I had an idea of what to expect but learned that this professor really amped the expectations for graduate level students and was a native of one of the countries on the itinerary, so I knew there was no way I could pass on the opportunity. To travel with a native is a golden ticket to some of the best cultural insights and restaurants, plus the opportunity to really push myself in my graduate program was a welcome challenge.
The pre-travel activities left a bit to be desired, but once we arrived the group quickly came together and bonded into a great travel family without the family drama. Our first days of jetlag were some of the toughest physically and mentally, but also offered some of the most rewarding views: the Parthenon, Delphi (as in the “Oracle of…”), and the monasteries at Meteora. Even though the weather throughout the trip was pretty dreary, the views were spectacular. Even our rainy visits in North Macedonia, Kosovo, and the majestic Albanian Alps were breathtakingly gorgeous and full of cultural education.
Both in Greece and in Albania, we got to learn from different businesses on organized visits about their business model, marketing, personnel, and other topics relevant to our interests. Students were encouraged to ask questions of the representatives and gained a lot of insight into pressure points as well as strengths of doing business in the region. As we’d completed a research project prior to departure students already had a base knowledge of industry and economy, but we were able to ask pointed questions and obtain direct feedback from individuals living and working in many of the industries we had researched; some perspectives shifted during the course of the trip while others were reinforced, as is the nature of travel.
Some of the best and most memorable aspects of the trip were the unplanned parts. Students used a group chat to start sharing memes and create camaraderie, a student fell ill on a curvy road so we pulled off to allow a moment of respite but everyone chipped in to support them, we used Turkish toilets that some students learned about for the first time, and students hired a local DJ to entertain during the guesthouse stay and we were able to both learn folkdances from the professor and locals as well as sing karaoke together. Those parts that can only be captured in sentiment and a few videos or pictures are the ones that I will carry forward.
Jessi Bodenhamer (MBA) spent spent part of May 2023 participating in a faculty-led trip to the Balkans through the Rollins College of Business. Jessi had the following to say about studying abroad, “I have and will always encourage people to travel, especially to another country – even better if English isn’t widely spoken in the destination. What you learn about yourself is absolutely life-changing & cannot be replicated through any other means. Whether for a semester abroad like I completed in undergrad or a faculty-led program like this one, I highly recommend taking advantage of study abroad opportunities. And UTC offers scholarships to help make it more affordable! I was struggling to figure out how to budget for the trip, but their scholarships helped me to make it happen.”
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