Maia Villarica from Barrington, Rhode Island is a gap-year YES Abroad student at Gimnazija Josip Broz Tito in Skopje, North Macedonia.
On March 6, 2020, Maia had the opportunity to attend a forum at the Macedonian Parliament. This activity modeled the real life Macedonian law making processes. In this event, three groups were assigned to make resolutions to three topics relevant in N. Macedonia: stray dogs, bullying, and smoking. Students presented their resolutions about each topic and were then followed with a civil debate on the construct of their resolutions. Along with the event, students were given a tour of the parliament, were explained the different functions of the building, and the importance of different rooms.
This is Maia’s story:
“When my friend approached me with the opportunity to join their group to a legislative debate at the Assembly of North Macedonia, I was eager to say “yes”. However, then they told me that the event was entirely in Macedonian, so I became quite nervous. My friends were quick to comfort me with that they would be with me every step of the way. That if I were confused or did not understand what everyone was saying, they would be there to help.
Learning Macedonian has been one of the highlights of my exchange as I am able to communicate with locals in their local language. Many Macedonians appreciate the effort I put in into learning the language but it does not come without its setbacks.
When my group and I arrived at the Parliament, we were eager to get started. Our group had put in countless hours into making well thought out resolutions to our assigned topic – stray dogs. Through this activity I was able to learn about Macedonian law making process in the real life. The event contained thoughtful discussions about three topics relevant in Macedonian society today: stray dogs, smoking and bullying. I was able to discuss these topics through the perspective of Macedonians. I saw how passionate the Macedonian youth were about these topics by how passionate they were in voicing their opinions. When I first arrived in N. Macedonia, I was told that Macedonians are very friendly people. I have seen this everyday so far on my exchange but especially in this event. Everyone was helping me to understand, encouraging me to speak and listened to my opinion. Even though I was not Macedonian, many were appreciative that I took the time to participate, learn and understand more about N. Macedonia. The simple act of wanting to understand goes a long way to enhance cultural understanding through both sides.”