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The Sun Is Hot and the People Are Warm
Hikaru H., YES Abroad 2019-2020, North Macedonia
For the YES Abroad North Macedonia Cohort, Monday, November 25, 2019 will be our 100th day on exchange. While it is a milestone, it is also sad for me as time flies. Throughout my first three months in Skopje, North Macedonia, I’ve experienced several instances of kindness, genuine interest, and a desire to show Skopje to the outside world.
While abroad, many ask me, “Why North Macedonia?” Truthfully, when I was first placed in North Macedonia, I did not know what to expect. North Macedonia was a country I had not had an opportunity to learn much about before, and so I decided to step out of my comfort zone. And throughout my time in Skopje, I have discovered home is not a physical location—it’s where you’re most comfortable, and I am proud to call Skopje my second home.
I find that Macedonian culture emphasize social relationships and savoring the moment. My life in America could sometimes be busy, and in Skopje, I have learned to savor every moment. I will always remember the laughter from my first night in Skopje, as my host family brought me into their home and family, and we sat and played Monopoly and I tried my first Nescafé. And the weeks afterwards, when my too-intelligent-for-her-age host sister, Jana, showed me the city and my open-minded and open-hearted host family opened my eyes to another world.
The first day of school, I did not know what to expect. In North Macedonia, there has been a long-standing tradition that exchange students attend either Nova International School or Gimnazija Josip Broz Tito. This year, I was the first student to attend Gimnazija Orce Nikolov, and on the first day of school, two of my classmates offered to be my class buddies. Rather than feeling nervous or scared as the school year started to begin, as I did when I first began high school in the U.S., after five hours of coffee and chatting with classmates, I had found friends that I felt I had known for years.
Truthfully, for a New Jerseyan who lives in the suburbs of New York I have not always been comfortable sitting down for any moment. While I tend to be easy-going, in Skopje, I have a truly incredible host family and welcoming friends. Every time someone offers me “to go for coffee,” I say yes with a smile.
For us YES Abroad-ers, we often say, “say YES,” and to be open to all safe and positive opportunities. For me, I am thankful that I said “YES” almost six months ago. Whenever people ask me “Why North Macedonia?”, I think of what my host mom (majka mi vo Makedonija) once told me about this beautiful country, “The sun is hot, and therefore the people are warm.”