When I had initially heard of the experience, we were going to have in the Balkans states, I was only aware of the history and influence of Greece. Much of that was the pop cultural significance of the movie 300 and the video game series Rome total war. With the region of the world being much of a crossroads between Europe and Asia, the history of war for Greece. While I was in Greece on my own for a few days, I was allowed the opportunity to look at the more tourist attractions and the archaeological sites. I loved the experience and would recommend it to anyone. This part of the trip was what I was mostly expecting. Once most of the class group made it to Greece and we were visiting local business and the chamber of commerce of Greece, it became apparent to me why Greece had economic issues and monetary problems in the country.
During the chamber of commerce meeting, while the tech company was going over how they intended to keep and recruit talent to the country for tech jobs, the actual monitor in the room flickered heavily. When we as a class was asking questions on how they intended to keep improving the struggling economy of the country. None of the individuals involved with the government or tech company could provide a reasonable answer to these questions or provide evidence that they were improving the country’s economy. I bring this up, because our team’s paper had initially fallen under the impression the best course of action for shipping raw minerals from Albania to the rest of the world was through the ports of Greece. We felt this would be the best option due to the more developed infrastructure and deep ports of the country. Although I am biased, I felt it was obvious an Albania logistics company would lose out on money shipping their minerals out through Greece not just through border and money exchanges, but possibly through red tape and incompetence as well unfortunately.
I was surprised in the infrastructure of the country of Albania. Although having the influence of communism and the influence of the Soviet Union had held back some of the economy capability and infrastructure development for the country, it was not to a degree described when we were looking up this information on the internet. Also, it was very apparent that money in the primary cities of Macedonia and Albania had outside monetary influence flooding into the region. Because of this, I feel that a heavily reliance of using the means to transport though the country of Albania itself would be in the countries best interest as opposed to relying on outsourcing the movement of raw materials and minerals to Greece. Making this decision, however, would mean that it would be necessary to possibly have a warmer relationship with organized elements of the country not fully associated with the government themselves. To clarify, when we had a meeting with a banker in Albania, he did not explicitly say the quiet part out loud, however, he alluded to asking the United States students “how was Las Vegas developed?” To clarify, it sounds that powerful families will need to be cooperating with the government when it comes to further developing the infrastructure and growing the nation’s economy.
Another interesting aspect I did notice while in Albania was the hospitality. While I have visited other countries, South Korea, and Costa Rica in particular. I did experience hospitality; I also experienced and witnessed a fair amount of hostility and in some cases out right racism. These were not things I ever experienced in Albania. Granted, this view might have been skewed due to me spending a much shorter period in the country compared to Costa Rica and South Korea, but I felt it was interesting that the ease of communicating and walking around with locals went with what Dr. Asllani had mentioned in one of our bus rides. Because the region of the Balkans had been subjected to much warfare, it became customary for locals to help shield and protect people / soldiers in the nation that were outsiders. Armies moving in the region wanted to win over the locals to ensure successful campaigns. I felt history had transposed itself in the culture of the nation today. Although I might be biased, I was able to develop solid relationships with the students at the university in the country as well.
In conclusion, what I had learned and was exposed to while on this trip consisted of seeing that Greece may not be the best option of transporting raw materials out of the country of Albania. That the country has been able to pivot quickly after the removal of soviet influences, and that outside investment was alive and well in the region. Finally, I found Albania was one of the more friendly and hospitality inspired regions I had visited. I could absolutely continue to write more, however I have reached the limit and was able to touch on the high points of my experience.
Gary Oliver (MBA) spent spent part of May 2023 participating in a faculty-led trip to the Balkans through the Rollins College of Business. Gary had the following to say about studying abroad, “You will come back with a new outlook of yourself, UTC, and of the world.”
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