Birthright Macedonia was inaugurated in 2015 with the objective of offering Macedonian youth from around the world the opportunity to connect with their Macedonian heritage. For three weeks in the summer, participants are assigned an internship work program that is consistent with their academic and career goals and general interests. They also live with a host family, which provides them with room and board and has at least one child the age of our participants.
Birthright Macedonia immerses its participants in the social fabric of the country for three exciting weeks. They live and work side by side both with native Macedonian youth and other Macedonian youth from around the globe. During free time, they are offered an opportunity to socialize with one another and with native youth by experiencing various aspects of Macedonia’s rich traditions and savoring the Republic’s contemporary lifestyle.
Since its founding, Birthright has attracted a diverse group of young adults from Canada and the United States. This year, Australian and Latin American Macedonians are expected to participate, and we are offering two grants each to both Australian, and to Latin American Macedonians.
Birthright Macedonia is now accepting applications for the 2017 Summer Session, which starts on June 23 and ends on July.14, 2017. Because participation is limited, applications will be accepted on a first come basis. The last day to complete the application process is April 28, 2017.
Birthright’s Alumni are a diverse group of young women and men. All are second, third and fourth generation Macedonian-Americans and Canadian-Macedonians. Many have never been to Macedonia before and most do not have a command of the Macedonian language – Birthright Macedonia serves as a great immersion into the Macedonian language. But it is their common desire to connect to their ancestral roots and declare their Macedonian heritage that brings them together.
A sampling of the comments of some of our Alumni
Sonya Arrigo, Ontario
“My time in Macedonia on the Birthright trip was definitely an amazing experience. I met so many people that I still keep in touch with, I made many memories that will last me a lifetime, and most importantly, I connected with my Macedonian roots in ways I didn’t think were possible. Being with people who are from different places all over the world and the one thing you have in common is that you are all Macedonian is the thing that creates a bond between you and your fellow Birthright participants.”
“Experiencing the delicious food, the old folk music and the language is something I will hold with me forever. It is such a rich culture that I recommend everyone who is Macedonian to experience first hand. Traveling across Macedonia and seeing all the beautiful things that this untouched country has to offer will give any young Macedonian the courage and desire to stay in touch with their roots as it has done for me. It pushes you outside of your comfort zone, in the best way possible, while having so much fun everywhere you go”
Betsy Badders, Indiana
“I have always held a strong connection with my Macedonian roots, but, being a fourth generation Macedonian-American, I often find it difficult to fully embrace my culture. After hearing about the Birthright Macedonia program, I knew I had to apply. I thought it would be a great opportunity to explore my heritage. Little did I know that the trip would change my life.
The first in my family to travel back to Macedonia since my great-grandfather’s immigration, I felt a strong duty to absorb as much of the culture first-hand as I could. Living with an incredible host family and interning in a museum in the heart of Macedonia’s capitol enabled me to do just that.
Working and living in Skopje allowed me to explore all the great features unique to itself.
A fast-paced city with rich history and ancient landmarks, I found myself a new home.
Weekend getaways to the village of Galicnik and city of Ohrid allowed me to experience all that Macedonia has to offer. Dancing, drinking, and eating all while witnessing the famous Galicnik Wedding Festival with new friends is something I will never forget. Exploring Ohrid’s ancient churches and relaxing on Lake Ohrid’s beaches deepened my appreciation for Macedonia’s unsung beauty.
It is difficult to find the words to describe my appreciation for Birthright Macedonia. Never did I think that my connection to my heritage would deepen as much as it did. The people, places, and adventures I got to experience on my trip have truly changed me. I am forever grateful that I was given the opportunity to participate!”
Filip Jotevski, Ohio
“Truly an unforgettable summer and I can go even as far as saying life-changing. I’ve concluded that I want to spend as much time in this beautiful country as possible – and that’s thanks to this summer and the time I’ve spent with Birthright”.
Natasia Kalajdziovski, Ontario
“When I saw the opportunity emerge to participate in the inaugural year of Birthright Macedonia, I leapt at the chance to blaze a new trail like my ancestors before me. I saw Birthright as a chance to build bridges between not only myself and native Macedonians, but also my contemporaries in the diaspora as well – individuals who were born and raised in countries like Canada, the United States and Australia, but still held true to their Macedonian ethnic identity.“
“The idea of shared experience also played a significant role in shaping the connections I made with each and every native Macedonian I met throughout the course of the program.”
“Without question, the broad-reaching result was undeniable: once again, my heritage was playing a key role in my identity-formation, and – thanks to the immersive quality of the Birthright experience – will continue to do so throughout my life.”
Aaron Kimson, Ohio
Aaron is a second generation Macedonian American, had never been to Macedonia and does not speak the Macedonian language. He felt some trepidation about his trip. Aaron summed up his participation in Birthright Macedonia with the following:
“Birthright Macedonia has been one of the best experiences of my life. I have made lifelong friends, met long lost relatives, participated in a dream internship and had a blast while doing so. Most importantly, I learned more about my heritage in twenty one days than I did in my first twenty years.”
Aaron was so moved by his stay in the Republic, he now wants to take his father (a first generation American of Macedonian ancestry) to Macedonia. He said: “My father has never been to Macedonia and I want him to have his own Birthright experience”.
Click HERE to see Aaron’s interview with Peter Dallas, Founder of Birthright Macedonia, and UMD Advisory Council member.
Luke Strezos, Ontario
“Thank you for creating this opportunity! I had a great time and met some amazing people. My host family was so relaxed and made me feel so welcome. My internship was tailored to my field of interest. All of the excursions were fun and informative. I will recommend Birthright to many of my peers”.
Want to experience your own Birthright Macedonia? Click HERE to apply to go to Macedonia this summer.