Back in the States

Ok, it’s been almost two months since I left Bosnia now. I’ve been reflecting, but not really intentionally. Every so often, something just reminds me of Bosnia. I’m trying to figure out how to relate the experience to my studies going forward. After leaving Sarajevo, I traveled for a week to Beirut, another post-conflict society. The conflict there occurred longer ago but like Sarajevo, there is still evidence everywhere. And like in Bosnia, Lebanon’s civil war was caused partially by religious tensions. I found myself boring my friend and her family (my travel companions) with random facts about the war in Bosnia because so many things in Lebanon reminded me of it! Of course, now that I am back and heavily immersed in my second year of grad school, I can’t think of anything in specific to write about as an example. Probably should have written a few things down…

 
I learned a little more about myself this summer. I learned that I process things internally and privately. Group discussions about difficult issues, in which we were encouraged to share our feelings, were exceptionally uncomfortable for me as I feel that my emotions are my private business. I suppose I was raised this way and also that I learned how to keep a strictly professional, emotionless look on my face when told personal, heart breaking stories while working with refugees and then briefly as a social worker. I stand by my internal processing of heavy material, such as stories of genocide, as I believe that when one hears a survivor’s story, the focus and attention should be on the survivor and the words they are saying, not on me. To be honest, I was quite relieved to come back to the US and be able to process my summer experience at my own pace and alone.

 

I’ve been trying to assess what skills I gained over the summer and it has been hard for me to put on paper. I did get a great perspective on the Bosnian conflict that I have been able to use in arguments with strangers. That’s always fun. I learned a lot about feminism and LBT rights that translates across cultures. I learned that fundraising is difficult and I really do not like it. But at this moment, I have a lot of regrets. I wish I had dug deeper into the world of the Roma. I wish I had been more active in making contacts and delving in to what I was really interested in. I wish I had known what I was really interested in. Lessons learned from this trip – have a plan going in. Life is short and I will only have so many opportunities to travel. I spent way too much time at the hostel. I should have crammed every day full of adventure. I should have found a way to volunteer somewhere else, since my internship did not require much time from me. I was lazy and unprepared, and I am ashamed of myself. Next time I move abroad, it will be for my career, and I know that I must be much more motivated and actively involve myself in the community. Lessons learned. Advice to next year’s group who may be reading this – take advantage of your time! Sarajevo is an incredible city with so much history and diversity. Explore and enjoy it to the max!

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