For those of you who don’t know, I came back from Bosnia and immediately had to start back at school, internships, and organization planning as well as preparing to move and starting a new job. It was really intense to come back to a place that hadn’t changed at all when I had changed so much. Over the last two weeks I have been reflecting on my time in Bosnia and lessons that I have learned that I don’t want to forget.
1. Taking time out to learn about people. It is easy to get caught back up in getting stuck in the busy hustle and bustle back in the states. Work is always a priority. In fact, my cousin picked me up and told me about a new rule passed at her law firm where employees were not allowed to talk unless they booked one of the conference rooms to discuss case related information. (Did I mention this was a law firm that specializes in employment law?) For me, it is easy to get caught up in school work and getting work done for my organizations, internship, and job while never really taking the time to talk to people about themselves. While in Bosnia, I began to truly appreciate the time I spent getting to know others and building incredible relationships. I will never forget the people I got to know and this lessen this has taught me.
2. Respecting different cultures. So many people have these different stereotypes built up in their mind about how people from different nationalities, religions, and political affiliations (and sometimes even different U.S. states) may act, dress, eat, or spend their free time. It is incredibly frustrating. To those who have traveled more than the average American, you realize that no stereotypes hold true for every person. I have always stood by while many people made insulting jokes about different stereotypes and not really said anything because their jokes, typically in private, were not hurting anyone. After this summer in Bosnia seeing how some people are treated differently based on their ethnicity or nationality, I understand more and more how these stereotypes, even when “just joking” cause others to treat people different. I think it is important to not let stereotypes cloud your perceptions and not just stand by while others are “joking” at another’s expense based on these stereotypes.
3. Slow Down!! Again, it is easy to get back into a super busy schedule, and getting stuck in traffic and letting all the little things in life build up. It isn’t just about building relationships but also about taking time out to be yourself, to do what makes you happy, and to cool down rather than getting frustrated with unimportant things. Traffic is a big example for me. Getting stuck in jam packed traffic on 25 can be so frustrating and I used to just be in completely terrible mood by the time I got anywhere. In Bosnia, I had to get used to the idea that you can’t always just hurry on to the next thing you had to do but instead calm down and enjoy your time where you are so that you can really take it in and appreciate it for what it is worth. I am not sure what you really get out of sitting in traffic but I have been better about just accepting the fact that no matter what I do all of these cars are going to be in my way so I can either get really frustrated and be in a bad mood, or I can calm down, turn on the radio or take the time to call a friend (using a hands-free system of course) and have a relaxing time to myself rather than stressing about something I can’t do anything about.
While I was in Bosnia, I learned a great deal about the culture and history as well but for me the most important things I learned were these lessons that I know will help me to be a better, happier person in my future.