Seventeen TASIS Grade 10 students recently participated in a 12 day trip to the Balkans as part of the TASIS Leadership Academy (TLA). These students have been attending weekly seminar sessions since January as part of their leadership development, culminating in this unique tour designed to further their leadership skills. Students were engaged in a variety of experiences and will return in the fall to complete a capstone leadership project at TASIS in their Grade 11 year.
The first half of the trip was spent with a focus on the recent conflict in the Balkans, with the aim of exploring political and diplomatic leadership and conflict resolution. Upon arrival in Sarajevo, students learned first hand about the complicated history of the region, the devastating conflict of 1991-95 that included the siege of Sarajevo. First hand accounts of the experiences of the siege were offered, as well as perspectives on the challenges facing Bosnia in the 21st century as they continue to struggle to maintain a fragile peace. Before leaving Bosnia, students participated in a leadership workshop where they were asked to use their learning to develop present plans of action for future political development to a local Bosnian who lived through the conflict. Upon leaving Bosnia, students next headed to Croatia, where they continued to explore the period of conflict by learning about the bombardment of Dubrovnik. To conclude their political leadership portion of the trip, students each wrote and delivered speeches in which they described the kind of leader they wish to be, and how they have been influenced by what they've learned in Bosnia and Croatia.
The second half of the trip was spent in Albania, a dynamic developing country unique in Europe. The focus of the Albanian portion of the trip was to explore Service Leadership and Entrepreneurship. Students spent time learning about the history and culture of Albania through museum visits, walking tours, and spending time speaking with locals. A day was spent in a small mountain village in central Albania, where students played with and learned from local children and experiencing the hospitality of an authentic local Albanian feast, with traditional foods grown and made in the village. The aim was to develop a deep sense of empathy with the Albanian people, a foundation for effective service leadership. Students then developed a plan for a service project that was pitched to a representative of World Vision, and private service organisation that is working in Albania to serve the needs of Albanians in need. They received valuable feedback and were encouraged that the representative was eager to put their plans into action! Finally, students engaged in truly unique activities to explore entrepreneurship. As one of the most rapidly developing and dynamic economies in Europe, there is much potential for unbridled entrepreneurship, and along with that many challenges unique to Albania. Students spend half a day visiting with and learning from local entrepreneurs in observational and interactive internships. Students were able to visit an architectural and construction firm, an advertising agency, and a hotel/restaurant, gaining valuable insights! Using what they had learned in these visits, students created a rubric for successful entrepreneurship in Albania that would be instrumental in their next project. The final day of the tour was spent relaxing and enjoying the quickly developing beach town of Durres. After learning about the beach and tourism economy of Durres from the manager of one of the most successful hotel resorts on the beach, the set of the explore and find an area that they would like to develop as an entrepreneurial project. Students presented their pitches, using their previously designed rubric as a guide.
The students and teachers of the TLA returned back to London a bit tired, but full of great stories, great experiences, and an enthusiasm and readiness for the capstone projects they will develop in the fall!