Studying abroad is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that allows you to explore different cultures, meet new people, and learn new things. In this whirlwind of an experience, though, I think a lot of people make the mistake of not connecting with the people closest to these cultures we are visiting.

For my study abroad course, I’m taking macroeconomics, which examines measures like GDP and how it’s affected by different factors such as tourism. During my course we were lucky enough to attend a lecture on the effects of tourism by a local Croatian economist that provided a lot of insight into the negative impacts and how we, as tourists, can try to minimize those impacts the best we can. One of the things I learned is that a huge problem in Croatia is that wages are really low. The cost of living is also lower but with the increase in tourism they have seen in recent years the cost of living has gone up significantly without any corresponding increase in wages. This has left the housing market vulnerable because people from nearby countries with higher wages will buy Croatian homes just to rent them out. This takes money away from actual Croatians and doesn’t let them reap any of the monetary benefits of tourism while having to deal with all the negative impacts like crowds, strained infrastructure, and just a general lack of respect for their culture.

The best way to reduce these negative impacts are by buying from local businesses, finding accommodations from actual Croatian citizens, and being respectful of the culture. Croatia is an incredibly beautiful country with very kind people, making an effort to talk to locals and learn more about them enhances the study abroad experience and makes you a better global citizen.