My experience abroad was unlike anything I’ve ever or most likely will ever experience again. The easy going nature of the trip while also being able to visit so many places and learn so many things about each city was the perfect combination. For example, our first full day in Athens, we took a walking tour that lasted almost six hours. We visited the Panathenaic Stadium, the Museum of Acropolis, and the Parthenon. It was a surreal experience to visit the Parthenon where people have visited for over two thousand years. This busy day was followed with a day traveling where we could simply sit and enjoy the scenery of Greece.
The trip was also perfectly designed to balance scheduled tours with time to explore the city freely. I felt as though I could make the most of the trip by learning from the tours while also picking which extra things to visit that interested me specifically.
Our first business visit was in Athens. We had the opportunity to visit Würth, which is a wholesaler for certain tools used by professionals in mostly the carpentry business. There, we learned a lot about their infrastructure as a business and how they market themselves as being a business for professionals.
One of my favorite parts of the trip was visiting the monasteries in Meteora. I loved seeing the depictions of the Saints on the walls and ceilings as well as seeing how they would get people and items up to the monasteries before the steps were built. It was surreal to imagine all of the generations of people that have visited and lived in the monasteries.
We then traveled to Thessaloniki where we visited a vineyard that mainly produced grape leaves but also sold maple syrup, vine stems, and certain packaged meals. They once only sold grape leaves and decided to begin selling the others to reduce waste and increase their profit. It was interesting to learn about the different challenges they face in terms of climate when growing crops in Greece as opposed to in Tennessee.
After leaving Greece, we traveled to Skopje, Macedonia, which suffered a massive earthquake 60 years ago that left about 80% of Skopje in ruins. Since then, they’ve rebuilt the capital significantly. The buildings of the city were rebuilt in the same style of architecture as before to preserve the history of the city. The tour offered much information about the country’s history, specifically dictatorship and their relationship with the European Union and NATO today. For example, they recently renamed their country from Macedonia to North Macedonia because there were problems with some people in Greece also identifying themselves as Macedonians. While on the walking tour, we also got to visit a Mosque, which has always been something that I’ve wanted to do. I took a Religions of the East class my freshman year, so it was very interesting to see some of the things in person that I learned about in class.
After Skopje, we briefly stopped in Prizren, Kosovo for lunch and had the opportunity to explore around their town square. From there, we went to Albania! By far, my favorite part of the trip was staying in the guesthouse in Valbona. The guesthouse was in the middle of a mountain range, was very secluded, and we didn’t have any plans while there except for a guided hike, which was cancelled because of rain. This offered the perfect opportunity for us to relax for a couple days. One morning, a small group of us woke up early and did sunrise yoga. A large group of us went on a hike along a riverbed through the Albanian Alps, which is an experience I’ll never forget, and, later on, we went back to the river and did a cold plunge. I feel as though this part of the trip was where we all really bonded as a group. We spent the last portion of our trip in Tirana exploring, taking a tour in one of the bunkers, and Dr. Asllani even let us take a little tour of his apartment that he keeps there. There, we also took our last business visit at a bank in Tirana where we learned about their financial goals and movements that they’ve made over the years in flow with Albania’s markets. Overall, I made memories and relationships on this trip that I will never forget, and have learned much about their business aspects that I can bring with me in my future career!
Bella Patton (BS Accounting) spent spent part of May 2023 participating in a faculty-led trip to the Balkans through the Rollins College of Business. Bella had the following to say about studying abroad, “I’m so glad I took this trip to the Balkans. It not only taught me so much about the countries, but also what it means to do business in countries that don’t have the same infrastructure or resources as the United States. It was truly a great experience with great friends that I’ll never forget!”
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