The Macedonia Experience
By Whitney Crum
Being a student at UC continues to provide me with countless opportunities to grow and experience new things. In the middle of the spring semester, I was presented with the possibility of traveling to Macedonia for a cultural experience that could also help the University establish connections for students. After two seconds of consideration, I knew that I wanted to go. So on May 7, Mina Pham, a UC pharmacy student, and I were off on a trip of a lifetime.
Macedonia is a small country in the Balkan region of Europe bordered by Greece, Albania, Kosovo, Serbia and Bulgaria. The country was formerly a part of Yugoslavia until they gained independence in 1991. They speak the Macedonian language, which uses the Cyrillic alphabet. Part of the cultural experience for Mina and me was language lessons taught every morning by our wonderful Macedonian trip coordinator Valentina. By the end of the trip, I knew all of the colors, numbers to 1,000, and I could form complete sentences. Learning the language was a fun experience, but a very difficult one because the alphabet is so different from ours. Some of the letters even look the same, but the sound associated with the letter is completely different. After completing lessons in the morning, the afternoon was reserved for sight seeing. During this time we visited monasteries, the center of the capital city Skopje, a tribute to Mother Teresa’s home and the Millennium cross, which overlooks all of Skopje.
To fully experience Macedonia, Valentina took us on a trip around the country. We stopped in the lake towns of Ohrid, Bitola and Kavadarci. In Bitola and Kavadarci, we had the opportunity to visit some archaeological sites. One of the sites was the ancient city of Stobi, which is almost an entire city they have found preserved from thousands of years ago. Some of the pictures provided are from that visit.
We did not only learn the language and visit the many beautiful sights in Macedonia, but we experienced the culture in a much more rewarding way through staying with Macedonian families in their homes. My family made traditional Macedonian food for our meals, which included a lot of cheese, fresh vegetables, and bread. By the end of the trip, my family and I had become so close that it was hard to leave them, but I know if I return to Macedonia I will definitely have a place to stay.
As part of the trip to Macedonia, I was able to make connections for the Education department at the Nova school in Skopje. This is a private elementary, middle and high school that teaches American curriculum in the English language. I had a meeting with the principal of the high school, and one of the most fascinating things about the school is that in one classroom there could be students from twelve different nations, creating a vast culturally diverse environment. Hopefully in the future, students in the education department will be able to travel to Macedonia for their student teaching and experience this international school of students.
I am so proud to be part of a University that provides opportunities for their students to travel out of their own environment and experience different cultures. A big thank you to Audrey Pitonak-Goff for making this trip happen!