Gina DiSanto
M. Ed. Program
North Central College


"Gina, glad to see you didn't get shot!" and comments similar to these were what I was greeted with upon my return from Macedonia. They just go to illustrate the American perspective on the Balkan region of the world. It was just these stereotypes that I wanted to confront when I signed up to take the trip to Macedonia. I knew that I held misconceptions about the region and wanted to attain a more accurate perspective.

My first surprise was the unbelievable beauty of the region. After seeing so much footage on the news, I was expecting to see a destitute land riddled with the effects of war and poverty. Although there were regions where the effects of generations of violence can be seen, what stood before me were beautiful wooded areas and waterfronts unlike any I had seen elsewhere.

The people that I encountered were not full of hatred and prejudice as I had anticipated, but were much more similar to myself than I would have thought. They had a fear of what was to come and about the future of their country. Unfortunately that was sometimes expressed in concerns of growing ethnic populations and they would to to their culture. The people I met were not unlike myself at all and saw many of the problems that their region faces and the need to come up with solutions to extremely complex issues.

Sharing the experience with a group of students who all looked at the issues from a different perspective only further illustrates how complicated the problems are. The are no easy answers or pat solutions. My hope is that with the instillation of mutual respect and tolerance Macedonia will have a future to look forward to.