Upon my return to the United States, I was in a sense jet lagged for a week (sorry mom, I know you thought I was just being lazy the whole time). I knew readjusting to having to be places at certain times and not being in such a lax environment would be extremely hard for me, and it was. I’ve been back in the United States two weeks today, and it still feels surreal that I spent an entire summer in Bosnia. I feel like just yesterday I was walking through Bascarsija with my friends, looking for a place to pop into for something small to eat and maybe a beer afterward. I feel like just yesterday I was laughing with Sladjana and Francis, my two roommates, about our squeaky beds and playing “bus karaoke”. How has it already been two weeks?
I’m currently spending a semester in Washington DC taking classes and interning, and whenever there’s an icebreaker, I use living in Bosnia for the summer as my fun fact. The reactions I get are such an interesting mixture of “Where’s Bosnia?” (I’m disgusted by this one considering all of the other students are studying international relations in some context…), “Why would anyone go to Bosnia…let alone for a whole summer?”, and a response of indifference. Looking back on my summer, I wouldn’t trade the experience I had for the world. Yes a war happened there, but it is not an active war zone; the war ended 22 years ago. People have a preconceived notion about places that have suffered from genocide and war, but look at Germany – they have millions of tourists every year. So why is the thought of me spending a whole summer in such a beautiful and accepting country so outlandish?
I made new friends this summer from the University of Denver, and got to know some of the people I already knew, better. I made a lifelong professional connection with my supervisor and look forward to maybe working with him again one day in the future. I learned so much about myself too, especially that I don’t always have to have such a harsh facade up…it is okay to let people in and trust them, which is something I have struggled with for such a long time. Sitting here writing this from my new bed in Washington DC, I miss everything about this summer. I miss running downstairs to Maison Coco for a chicken salad sandwich on some of the best bread I have ever tasted in my life. I miss being able to find a drinkable bottle of wine for 5KM (roughly $2.75). But most of all, I miss all of the people I got to surround myself with this summer. They all made me a better person. Whenever anything strange, unexpected, and just downright absurd happened, it became known as “Bosnian”. Like, a three hour drive down a winding dirt road back from Srebrenica to Sarajevo with Asa sitting on the floor of the van and the van stalling multiple times on the highway…so Bosnian.
It’s strange, being in a new city and not knowing anyone. There’s nobody to ask to go to the pekara with me, or just across the street for a drink. Reintegrating into the society which I was raised in and is all I have ever known has been so much harder than I expected it to be. Like I said before, I knew it would be hard having a structured, organized routine again, even though that is something I’m a fan of, but once you learn to live as part of another society as I did this summer, it’s a strange process coming home. Post-travel depression is something I always thought was a joke, but it’s definitely a real thing.
Thank you Ann for offering me the opportunity to participate in Global Practice Bosnia. Thank you mom for helping me overcome the financial burden that came with this adventure. Thank you to all of my peers for being amazing friends, housemates, and just great people all summer long. I wouldn’t have wanted to spend eight weeks crammed into a small living space with anyone else. But most of all, hvala Sarajevo. I’ll be back.