Chao | Week 7 in Skopje

Time flew by here in Skopje, and it’s hard for me to believe that I’m typing this on my last full day! Because this blog entry would be far too long if I discussed everything about Macedonia that I want to, I’ll limit myself to reflecting on a few things.

My Internship

Last weekend, Subversive Front had a 2-day Strategic Planning Summit, where the entire design of the organization was assessed and modified. We went through 4 “phases” to do so: analysis, development, planning, and implementation. It was insightful to see the behind-the-scenes details of how a NGO maintains itself and functions.

Working with Subversive Front was productive not only because of the tasks we completed in the office, but also because there were long-term actions taken to protect human rights in Macedonia. Recently, I wrapped up developing physician guidelines for sensitivity towards LGBTI+ patients, and now Subversive Front is working to implement them into healthcare institutions! And this is only the project that I was working on; the staff is working hard to take all sorts of measures to protect marginalized groups. I feel lucky to have played even a small role in making positive social change in this country.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Living in Skopje

Charmed by the Uncharming

Macedonia is less developed than other European countries, but it’s definitely on the rise. When I tell people that Skopje is charming to me, this isn’t typically what they expect:

But, this more run down looking city is charming in that it captures the country’s ongoing development and shows remarkable progress in its re-building! I bet in 10 years Skopje will be a lot more popular and renovated.

Slowing Down

One of the first things that happened when I landed in Skopje was that I headed to a coffee shop, went up to the counter, ordered, and pulled out my money. I was told that I should sit, wait for someone to take my order, and then wait for them to come back and pay then. Eventually I learned that was the case for every coffee shop; they’re not in a rush like we are in the states! It was odd to me because I was so used to grabbing my coffee and darting whenever I needed to. I have to admit that at first, it threw me off a lot, and I sat impatiently wanting to leave as quickly as possible. But over time, I began wondering why I was in such a hurry with nowhere to be, and learned to slow down. This is just one small example of this cultural difference – I also learned to sit down for dinner with Macedonians and expect to stay for 3-4 hours!

Immersion

My friend, who I mentioned in an earlier blog, is a major reason I was able to feel comfortable and immerse well into Skopje. She was the first of many kind, hospitable Macedonians I met. We met her on my very first day (she was my waitress at a coffee shop), and we’ve come far since then – she brought me to the movies, to restaurant downtown for a holiday, and to her house for a dinner with her family and friends. Our friendship makes saying goodbye to Skopje even harder, but I know I’ll be back someday – especially since she said that when I come back to Skopje, I’ll already have a place to stay and a travel buddy 🙂

 

Leaving immersion definitely pulls at your heart strings because you have to leave what feels like an established home. It’s a bittersweet goodbye, though, because I’m excited to take everything I learned back to the states with me!

One thought on “Chao | Week 7 in Skopje

  • August 14, 2018 at 4:51 pm
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    Halle,

    I’ve really enjoyed reading about your internship experience throughout the summer. Your reflections have been so thoughtful, and it’s clear that this has been a wonderful learning experience for you. That does not happen if you aren’t willing to step out of your comfort zone and fully invest yourself in the experience of living and working abroad, so major kudos to you for doing so!

    What I’m gleaning from your reflection is that while learning the on-the-job skills and building up your experience was wonderful, the most significant learning that you seem to have experienced is cultural. You talked a lot about the pace of life, and how the community of Skopje seems to value quite different things from what we do here in the States. Culture not only drives how we interact with and perceive the world, but it also drives our professional practice. What are some elements of Macedonian culture that really resonated with you that you’d like to incorporate into your life here? Do you foresee some moments of reverse culture shock as you transition back into the States? In moments of cultural dissonance, I really encourage you to take some time to reflect on where those conflicts are coming from, and think about how you can take the best of your experiences in both cultures to create a truly unique personal brand that you can leverage again and again.

    Once again, I have so enjoyed reading your blog this summer. If you’d like to unpack some more of your learning, or figure out how to articulate this experience on a résumé, cover letter, or future interviews, please stop by the Hub! I’d also love to get your advice on how to take really stunning photos!

    -Josh

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