As I sit here on my very own living room couch with my wedding shoes sitting right next to me, it’s hard to remember that just a little over two weeks ago I was sharing a common living space with 13 people in Bosnia writing reflections on the genocide in Srebrenica. The Bosnian language skills have begun to fade a little, but still occasionally creep up on me when I respond to my grandfather with a “da” instead of a “si”, or continue to use the words “Ćao” and “super” for everything, and yet at the end of the day I feel 90% sure that the eight weeks I spent in Bosnia this summer were just a dream. That’s always the issue when you travel another place, isn’t it? You get so used to that place being your reality, you sometimes yearn to return home, and yet once you come back home you are faced with the decision to either change nothing about your life and just enjoy the memories, or to actually make a conscious effort to carry this experience with you everywhere you go. Not making that decision can also be a decision in itself as life’s responsibilities take over your energy. It was only today, when I finally had a second to look at the postcards that just arrived from Bosnia to my apartment today that I realized… this study abroad experience actually happened… there was a point in my life where I wasn’t freaking out about my wedding and I was just existing in the world and learning from it.
So, what happens now? That’s the question isn’t it? What do I do with the experiences, the knowledge, the breakthroughs, and the vast emotions that emerged from this trip? Is it about my knowledge or is it about what I contributed to the people at my internship? Do they feel more fulfilled from our shared experiences? Will my contributions amount to anything? Can I hang my hat knowing that I did everything I could have with the time I had and be proud? I wish I could answer these questions, but honestly I can’t. I think that I added value to my internship, but the experience I had in Bosnia definitely had the potential to add so much more value to my life than I could have possibly added to the lives of those around me.
So, now I’m charged with the responsibility of doing something with this knowledge without pretending to be an expert and without pretending to understand everything. I feel strengthened in my conviction to pursue a career that improves the human condition by promoting development and fostering a functional legal system to protect human rights. I feel blessed to be exposed to a new culture and a new language that has vastly expanded my linguistic abilities and my understanding of this diverse world. I feel more confident to fight for equity, dignity, and opportunity for all peoples. And I feel even more inquisitive and compassionate about my world and all of the events that have happened with in it. But even moreso, I feel empowered to embrace my true self – like the Bosnian people seem to be experts at – an life my life in a more fruitful and powerful way rather than a busy and hectic American way. This is what I can say I feel about this experience at this point. Perhaps as I continue to let the events soak in I will be further empowered. My goal is to make sure I don’t let this experience fade away into memory but rather actively keep the details alive in my mind and heart.
Vidimo se Bosna… at least in my heart and soul