West Windsor, N.J. – University St. Kliment Ohridski, located in the Balkan country of Macedonia, and Mercer County Community College in West Windsor, NJ, have established a bond that only promises to grow stronger. After a faculty exchange that took MCCC professors Laura Sosa and Doug Fee to Ohrid, Macedonia, last spring, the Macedonian professors completed a week of teaching and cultural activities in Central New Jersey Sept. 6-13.
According to Laura Sosa, MCCC Professor of Economics and Business, the visit was an enriching experience for all. Sosa was one of several faculty members and administrators to serve as guides for Macedonian Professors Ivanka Nestoroska, Ph.D., and Lidijia Simoncheska, Ph.D., who teach business and tourism.
“The Macedonian professors brought an added dimension to the classroom that we could not have experienced through the textbook or lectures,” Sosa said. The exchange was initiated by the college’s Study Abroad program, which also coordinates semester abroad and study tour opportunities for MCCC students.
In Sosa’s Global Environment of Business class, Nestoroska and Simoncheska discussed their country’s efforts to expand as a tourist destination for travelers from around the world. Students learned first-hand about globalization and the diffusion of American culture into Macedonia, as the professors noted their students’ favorite American television shows.
In the Macroeconomics class they visited, Nestoroska and Simoncheska described the difference between living under their former socialist system and their current evolving market economy. In a Management class, they explained the generational perspectives at work in their country, with Mercer students recognizing the common elements between the two cultures.
The Macedonian professors also participated in a panel discussion, moderated by Professor Sosa, based on the book Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg. They shared the stage with MCCC President Patricia C. Donohue; Carol Kivler, CEO of Kivler Communications; and Trenton Campus Provost Monica Weaver.
Their perspectives about working women were mostly positive. They noted that women in Macedonia enjoy solid employment opportunities. “There are more women in the workforce than men and more women earning college degrees,” Nestoroska noted. “While there are still issues of gender discrimination, the picture for women is improving.”
The balancing act for working women, however, is strikingly similar across both cultures. Simoncheska and Nestoroska addressed their multiple roles as mothers and working professionals and the need to strike a balance. “We all need to have a balance – a private life, professional life, material things and spirituality,” Nestoroska said. “I am satisfied with my profession, feel respected by my colleagues, and have two wonderful daughters.”
Nestoroska added that the starkest difference for families in the United States and Macedonia is the approach to child care. “Here you have only six weeks off. In Macedonia, we have nine months of maternity leave and can take up to one year at 80 percent pay,” she said.
She concluded by challenging the United States to address its child care issues more comprehensively. “Do it better,” she said with a smile.
During their stay, Nestoroska and Simoncheska also had the opportunity to visit New York City, the Grounds for Sculpture in Hamilton, Agricola Community Eatery in Princeton, and Blue Bottle Café in Hopewell. They enjoyed lunches at Wegman’s and the MCCC student-run restaurant. Their final stop was Quakerbridge Mall, where the professors shopped for gifts and souvenirs.
According to Sosa, the future looks bright for the “Mercerdonia” connection. “We will be doing a live streaming video session later this fall between my class and St. Kliment’s. We plan to continue the video streaming between the two schools on a regular basis. The ultimate goal is to create a student exchange between our countries.”