Before leaving to Bosnia, students who had previously participated in the program warned me to go into my internship with an open mind. “Don’t expect an American internship” they all said, but I didn’t understand what that was supposed to mean until I started my internship. In the States I would never sing and dance to traditional Bosnian songs or sit down to have coffee three times a day, or try and communicate with elderly Bosnians using hand gestures and broken English. Honestly, who expects an internship to be so much fun, to make you smile all day?
Moreover, people here are very focused on developing strong relationships. Work is not just about getting as much done as you can in as little time as possible, as I feel it often is in the States. Tasks are accomplished, but relationships are not sacrificed for the sake of efficiency. One particular detail I noticed while wandering around Sarajevo is that no one really wears headphones while walking (which was especially surprising since everyone seems to walk everywhere). Wearing headphones is a very clear sign that one wants to be left alone, so I thought it was interesting how people seem to be very open because they never wear headphones.
Adjusting to the way time works here takes a while. For example, how and when people take their meals is very different compared to home. Breakfast is not the most important meal of the day, lunch can happen anywhere between two and four, and dinner is so late! (the restaurants fill up at around 8pm and usually remain full till around 9:30pm).
No doubt, the culture of Sarajevo is very different from everything I am used to, but no matter where you go some things about people never change. A smile is still a sign of friendship, people still like to make others laugh, and shopping is still a form of leisure.