By Autumn Ochodnicky, YES Abroad PY2018-2019, Macedonia
One of the best things about being a part of an exchange program is having the opportunity of getting to know alumni. I hold a certain fascination for listening to them speak about their experiences. Of course every foreign exchange student will have their own perspective, but even so, we’ve all gone through the same problems, the same victories, and we all share a common passion. I consider myself very lucky to have met the YES program alumni from Macedonia. I’ve formed friendships with some of them that I know will last a lifetime.
I met two of my closest friends, Vesa and Sara, at an alumni meeting. One of them lives in a city called Kumanovo, not far from Skopje. The three of us met up this weekend and spent the day in Kumanovo.
Vesa showed us places around the city such as the mosque, her high school and middle school, and her favorite cafes. We had coffee before going to the school that she teaches at. Observing her teach English to a group of young kids was quite fun. It was astounding to me how much English they knew and how willing and enthused they were to learn more. During the lesson, they reviewed animals and learned members of the family.
Getting to know Vesa’s family was certainly one of many highlights of the trip for me. They were exceptionally hospitable. Her mother and grandmother prepared a beautiful dinner for us, including pite, a traditional Albanian pie which is flaky and usually has spinach or meat in the middle. A while after dinner, we all sat and had tea together, an activity that I found particularly pleasant. Though it is simple, and very typical for Vesa’s family, I love the concept of sitting down for tea together. It’s something that I’m very excited to share with my family back home when I return. Later that evening we had tea with Vesa’s grandparents at their house. They speak Albanian, Macedonian, and Turkish. Although I don’t know Albanian, I had fun picking up a few words in Turkish and sentences here and there in Macedonian. There’s nothing more satisfying to me than a room filled with people speaking four different languages, and drinking tea.
There’s a certain feel that Kumanovo has– it’s a city that’s very much its own, for lack of better words. It was quite different from any other city that I’ve been to in Macedonia (although I haven’t been to many). Perhaps it is so unique because of the coexisting presence of both Macedonian and Albanian culture. I had so much fun exploring the city and couldn’t ask for better friends than Sara and Vesa to explore it with.