By Emily Okrepkie, Lehigh Intership Program participant
On my second day in Macedonia, I took the wrong bus nine stops in the wrong direction. When the remaining passengers on the bus got off at the last stop, I followed their lead and hoped I was close to home. After a few phone calls with my host sister and a conversation with a stranger, I realized I was not anywhere near my host family’s house. Although I insisted that I could find my way back, my host sister and host father insisted that I stay put until they arrived in their car to take me home.
I was initially surprised that they were so willing to help me when I had made a mistake and needed help, and everyone I met in Macedonia over the pas two months continually surprised me with their hospitality and kindness.
I had the opportunity to meet amazing people while I was working as an intern in the American Councils office
helping to prepare for the pre-departure orientation and helping to manage the social media for the office, among other things. I had the chance to get to know my coworkers, who were always there to help me figure out the bus schedule or explain a cultural difference. I had the chance to interact with YES alumni who are working to make a positive change in the world. I had the chance to talk with individuals about Macedonia’s history and culture.
I also had the chance to eat burek and enjoy all of the cuisine that Macedonia has to offer, and I would be lying if I said that I didn’t eat some sort of pastry almost every day.
When I arrived at the airport in Skopje in May, I had my suitcase and no expectations. I didn’t know much about Macedonia or Skopje, and I didn’t know what to expect. My host sisters and coworkers met me at the airport with a sign that said my name, and I was grateful for their warm welcome when I had been traveling for almost a full day. My host sisters, Angela and Jovana, brought me back to their house, where I tried Nescafe for the first time. It now seems fitting that Nescafe was the first food item I tried in Macedonia because I drank it almost every day I was there.
The food I ate and the friendships I made were the highlight of my stay in Macedonia, and I also enjoyed seeing the sights in places such as Ohrid and climbing to the top of Vodno. I am thankful for the diverse experiences I had while in Macedonia interning with American Councils. I will forever be grateful to my host family for making sure that I made it home both the day I got lost and every day after that, and I will forever be grateful to everyone I met while in Macedonia who made my stay so incredible.