Final thoughts

Arriving home has been a strange adjustment. I have been trouble explaining everything I experienced and saw during my time in Bosnia. There are just so many descriptions and details I want to tell. I wish I could sit down with every person I’ve encountered and tell them what I experienced day by day, but that is not realistic. So, I settled on explaining my souvenirs and went from there. Some of the most frequent questions I received pertained to the Peace March. It is such a strange feeling thinking back to the end of June/July and the life changing experience I had the ability to participate in. The Peace March is something I cannot explain. Small memories are all I can speak on because there were so many internal battles and epiphanies I experiences in just three days.

The other activities were amazing in their own way! Having the opportunity to travel as a cohort was also an awesome experience. Getting to explore Bosnia and have guides or individuals who live their daily lives in Bosnia, explain things during the excursions, made the activities more personal. The activities we did as a cohort were not just touristic things that any person could do. The activities we did were unique and allowed, at least myself, to be put into another’s shoes. Listening to first hand stories of daily life during and after the war was unexpected but extremely treasured.

Life changing is something that frequently comes into my mind when I think about this past summer. Every adventure I had the privilege to participate in was so impact in its own unique way. I made friendships with not only my cohort members but also with individuals that have experienced loss and tragedy. I got to see with my own eyes the steps that individuals take to deal with their own trauma as well as not let that trauma define them. They are more than a war. They are people who love and hurt. I experienced a sense of hospitality that I never have before in my life. Even thinking back now I cannot put into words the experience I had.

Without this experience, I do not know how I would be looking at my future career. It definitely made me more confused on my future just through the activities we participated in, but I would not change it for the world. Being home I feel extremely privileged, in every way. I think that is why explaining everything I did has been so difficult. I was able to walk into a world that is so different than mine and then I got to come home. I heard stories that made me angry and devastated but they did not truly happen to me. The privilege I possess is something that I have to use as a resource. I cannot ignore the way life is and the injustices within the world but I can use every platform I possess to speak out on these injustices.

When I remember this summer, I will remember all the emotions I experienced every day. I will remember the relationships Ann has developed which allowed us to do all of these activities. I will remember the University of Denver because without being here, I would never have gone to Bosnia or anything like this trip. I will remember the love I felt there and the love I have for my family and friends at home. This summer was an experience I cannot put into words because it was extremely monumental in my life. I am incredibly thankful to Ann and every person who we met along the way who made this summer so unforgettable.

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Final thoughts

This summer was certainly one for the books. I made many friends, both those from the university and those from Bosnia. I read countless articles on varying topics for my internship, and wrote six papers in response to them. I saw many cities and towns around the country and was lucky enough to interact with people at many of them. I experienced the food of the country – which was one of my favorite parts – and how it differed from region to region (I’m looking at you, lamb of Jablanica). I had highs and lows, many of which were shared between my program-mates and created a collective identity having shared those experiences. In short, I learned a great deal this summer, and it’s truly hard to sum up easily.

This is by far the biggest part of the summer in Bosnia aftermath that I have struggled with; I find it difficult to put into words how this summer went. Of course it was positive, but it wasn’t all positive – the discussions of and time spent around genocide sites are not exactly something I found enlightening. The reality of the situation that occurred there in the 1990s and the legacy that continues today is dark, and cannot be excluded from a discussion of my summer. However, I also feel that to focus only on the negative parts of the country is an injustice to what it really was like. Every day was not genocide, was not war, was not sadness. In fact, none of them were. The discussions of genocide were of or by the people who were there, and while of course their stories were troubling, they were not describing life in Bosnia today. Life in Bosnia today, from my interactions, seems to be troubled at times, but is a wonderful thing as well. The country is beautiful, the people are happy – though like any other group, there is internal strife and struggle.

In the same way that I struggle when people ask me “what was it like?”, I’m finding it difficult to put into words here what it was like. While many of my social media posts revolved around seeing the beautiful geography and historical sites of the country, that doesn’t cover it. And as noted above, the problems the country faces do not cover it. While I do not think that anyone expects me to describe two months in a matter of minutes or hours, to even encapsulate one week there in a sensible way is no easy task.

One of the somewhat alarming things that I have experienced since my return is how little people know about Bosnia. Really, I did not know much about it either, before living there for two months. However, it creates a situation where I feel as though my words are extremely important – I have to be somewhat precarious in my articulation of the country, as it may be the only perspective they have of Bosnia. For example, I do not want to focus wholly on the genocide, nor do I want to exclude it – both sides of the country are important in its definition. One of the most difficult questions to answer comes from when people call it a “developing country”, which I have found to be a very common adjective used. It is of course not a developing country, but again I hesitate to normalize the heinous acts of the 1990s and the rebuilding that it continues to work on. It was under attack by all definitions, and these attacks need to be remembered. But where does that leave Bosnia now? I’m not sure. Not developing by any means, but I have found it very difficult to describe, probably stemming from the fact that it was very much a developed nation before the war, and this status has not left it.

I assume that after struggling to explain my summer these people will likely not go and research the country on their own, so I try to do my best – though, as mentioned repeatedly, two months is a long time to try to summarize. Like any country, Bosnia has its ups and downs. Hopefully for the sake of the beautiful country and the amazing people that live there, the downs will fade away and the ups will be what people know, of course, while ensuring that the history of the country is not forgotten.

Final Thoughts: Transitions

I’m writing this final blog post from the comforts of my apartment in Denver. It’s been a week since I arrived back in the states and I will say that it has been a whirlwind adjusting to the American lifestyle. My journey back to the United States wasn’t exactly the smoothest sailing. My flight from Istanbul to Chicago was delayed by 4 hours, which meant that I would be missing my connecting flight in Chicago to Denver. As I was surrounded by dozens of my fellow passengers who were angry about the predicament that we were in, I was strangely very calm and relaxed. Albeit, after a whole summer of being abroad, I wanted to be home in my own bed as soon as possible, but the easy-going Bosnian lifestyle definitely rubbed off on me. I knew that it doesn’t help my situation if I were to respond angrily towards the people working at the airline transfer desk. So instead, I did what I imagined most Bosnians would’ve done – found the nearest café, ordered a cappuccino, and waited.  

I never would’ve imagined how much of an impact Sarajevo (as well as the rest of Bosnia) would have on me in such a short period of time. I remember telling a friend on my last day that I couldn’t clearly remember what life was like before living in Sarajevo. I grew used to the simplicity of being able to walk or take public transportation to my internship and to most other places. Since being back in Denver, I’ve had to drive to complete all my errands as no stores are in walking distance and taking public transportation isn’t feasible. I grew to love the frequent cups of Bosnian coffee and I was dismayed when I came to realize that the American coffee was not as delicious as I remembered it to be. I miss seeing the abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables at various stands and the mesmerizing smells of the numerous pekaras (bakeries) that I would pass on my way to my internship. I miss my daily walks past the nearby cathedral and through Bašcaršija. 

At the risk of sounding like a cliché, my time in Sarajevo and Bosnia in general has been both life-changing and eye-opening. Before this year, I barely even knew anything about Bosnia aside that it was a part of the former Yugoslavia and that Sarajevo was the site of Archduke Franz Ferdinand’s assassination. As I learned more about the war and the genocide that took place, I also learned how strong and resilient the people of Bosnia are. What amazes me the most is the non-aggressive manner in which the survivors spoke of their ordeals. I feel that if I was in their shoes, I wouldn’t know if I would be able to reach a point where I can recall my trauma in the same calm and collected state. What has stuck with me the most is when one of the survivors I met mentioned that there has not been a reported incident of revenge. Instead, countless survivors disclosed that their children and grandchildren have been their ultimate revenge because it is a visual demonstration of their continued existence and the furtherance of future generations.  

As a side project for this summer, I interviewed individuals at my internship about something they are proud of. My idea behind this was to highlight the positives because in my own opinion, most of my peers and the people I have met along my travels are only aware of the war and genocide in Bosnia. They don’t know much else about Bosnia. But after spending two months living in Sarajevo, I know that there is so much more to Bosnia than just the pain, tragedy, and violence. As a result, I believe that the least I could do to pay back the generosity that I have received is to show the rest of the world the Bosnia that I had the privilege of seeing.  

Reflections on a Summer in BiH

So many of this summer’s blogs I’ve focused on Bih and how I see the country. I started writing this reflection after seeing a symphony/ classical music in an old Czech church in Prague and decided that Bosnia is like Bach’s Toccata in D Minor  played by a crowd measured through history and performed into a valley without an audience. This is possibly the most pretentious comparison I’ve ever written down. And I guess the point of sharing this with you is to say that in addition to being pretentious in my snooty cultured corner, Sarajevo and BiH as a whole transcend my vocabulary. Bosnia to me will forever be music not words.

Music is emotion and history written in a language that is universal. In some ways Bosnia is tragic in a common way. Ethnoreligious wars are not unique to Bosnia or Europe or even this century or millennium. But, like Bach’s piece, Bosnia is not common. Bosnia is anger and relief and chords that are complicated and sound a bit sour. To play his piece you have to be athletic. I play piano not organ but to play it on the original organ one must constantly move hands and feet like a hyperactive octopus-human. Bosnia does not roll over, Bosnia fights. Bosnia is not forgotten. Bosnia is bold. Bosnia is kind and beautiful. Bosnia is subtle and also obvious. Bosnia is an epicenter, and so rarely the center of attention. I guess the comparison means that I am not and never will be a composer or a player in a metaphorical Bosnian symphony, but I will be listening. Bosnia’s music made me dance and sway and understand, and I am richer for it.

I am impacted by listening to Bosnia and like I said, so much of this summer has been about me thinking of comparisons and writing about how I see Bosnia, I think for this final reflection I’d like to think about how Bosnia really changed me. On the surface I learned a lot in the obvious categories. When I first came to Bosnia in 2016, I knew there was a war in the 1990s and that it was a terrible war. I didn’t know who fought who. I didn’t know that it was former Yugoslavia. I didn’t know the events that took place in Bosnia. I had never heard of Vučko, the lovable wolf mascot of the 1984 Olympics who I now love. I could not have pronounced Baščaršija to save my life. And I couldn’t have written 500 words on BiH let alone the thousands I have this summer via blogs and reports for my internship. I know a lot more about the ins and outs of the war, though I’m still missing a lot of the specifics. I can identify the key players in the war and I can recognize how devastating this war was and how the U.S. failed and continues to fail Bosnia. I can talk coherently about where things are and the events that happened. I know Bosnia like a new friend. But this knowledge is easy to come by, its the deeper stuff that I am thankful for.

This summer was not an easy couple months in Europe. It was difficult on several levels and it forever changed all of us. I think the best thing BiH does is let you fall in love with the country. I don’t know why. I have traveled to a lot of countries and seen a lot of cities and I can find things to talk about in many of them, but BiH really stole my heart. It is an old soul of a place. Bosnia is not like other places where you have to work to know it. There aren’t tourist attractions to present you with a facade. You know it because it is like a classical music piece. You know it because it is honest in all its glory, horror and complexity. It’s an old story that sounds familiar. It is a place that is heavy with what humanity has done there. It is simple and straight forward despite endless complications. Bosnia is a country living in each moment. Unfortunately I think this comes from knowing war, but I want to be a person the way Sarajevo is a city.

Here is where I want to end my blog, but it feels unfinished. Bosnia is not a place I can forget. I cannot finish with it and move on. Bosnia has become a growing living piece of how I see the world. I don’t know how else to say or reflect on our summer other than to say thanks to everyone we met (especially Hasan) and to continue to listen to the music.

Wrapping Up the Summer

Blog post: Internship Overview

This summer I was placed at Wings of Hope, a mental health organization that began in the 90’s. I knew little about the organization prior to starting, except what I had read on their website, but didn’t know what to expect as an intern. I remember our director telling me that she thought I would fit in well, but that not everyone could withstand the kind of humor our supervisor at Wings of Hope had. Confused, I entered my initial meeting with my supervisor eager to figure out what she meant. I quickly realized the type of person that would not get along with or like my supervisor and I also realized that I was not that kind of person. Maja, our supervisor and the director at Wings of Hope, is full of energy, incredibly smart, and calls it as she sees it. In other words, she’s incredibly honest and open minded, not leaving room for people who arrive with preconceived notions about the world and how it should be. My fellow intern and I were adopted almost immediately by her, partially for our Balkan descent and partially because we reminded her of her. Maja not only gave us guidance for our work at Wings of Hope, but she gave us a different side of Bosnia that we couldn’t have gotten anywhere else. Because of her honesty, she spoke from the heart, taking responsibility for her actions/non-actions during the war (which no one is able to do) and showing us a less pretty and glorified side. Maja also taught us about how therapy is done in Bosnia, what the mental health system is like, and so many other parts of Bosnian culture we could not have dreamed of finding out. She also welcomed us into her home, giving us the opportunity to see what real life looks like living in Bosnia.

Maja wasn’t the only kind soul at Wings of Hope who opened her arms to us. Throughout the summer, we spoke with and worked alongside many other persons working for Wings of Hope, some part-time and some full-time. We met a woman who does psychodrama, a lawyer, many other interns from other countries, and a diverse number of others. I felt like each person I spoke with gave me another little piece of the Bosnian puzzle. I don’t think I was every ready to be welcomed so warmly into an environment, but every day we were met with smiles and questions. We would commune to drink coffee before starting work and some would tell us stories about Wings of Hope, some about their theoretical orientation, and some about Bosnia in general. They were always curious of our weekend travel, and us of theirs. We shared these stories at the beginning of the week, and finished the weeks by comparing weekend plans.

My fellow intern and I did a number of diverse projects for wings of hope, ranging from research, to 6-month report help, to program development. We ended the summer with two workshops on stress management and coping, one for teens and one for adults. We also were able to give part of the adult workshop to other interns that were working alongside Wings of Hope at the time. Although we did not get to do a full run through of either workshop, we still ended the summer proud of the work we accomplished and especially the friends and relationships we made.

Saying Good-Bye: An account of one student’s thoughts about her summer internship

I truly got lucky by landing at Wings of Hope. To be honest, it sounded like the only option when I first started this summer, I was a psychology student and it was at a psychotherapy center. However, as the summer progressed it became obvious that I was right where I was supposed to be. The first week was slightly overwhelming, not only coming into a new culture; we were sprung into a new workplace style. When it seemed that every individual from every department came to ask us for assistance I felt honored and unprepared. I did not feel qualified to do even half of what was requested. I had barely finished my first year of graduate school; they had been in the field for years. Who was I to give any input on anything?

 

However, here we are eight weeks later. I feel like I have been able to provide adequate feedback and development to the projects that are beneficial to Wings of Hope. I may not have several papers or documents to showcase the work I did, but I feel like I made an impact. I have learned many lessons about what it means to be working internationally, especially at a relatively small and underfunded organization, working with a multicultural team, and working in an area that is still on the road to recovery. I learned more about Bosnia and Herzegovina as a country and as a home. I heard testimonies from those in the war. It felt almost like I did as much talking over coffee as actual work. This would never pass as acceptable in the United States. I also took something more away from the internship, I learned more about my values, my hopes, and my dreams. Talking to individuals about different career paths has a way of influencing your own. I loved my internship and would highly recommend Wings of Hope to any prospective interns.

 

As we reach our final days at our internship site I am starting to think about how to say goodbye to those who have made my eight weeks so meaningful. However, I have realized that it truly isn’t goodbye, rather “until I next time.” All of these individuals have changed me; they were crucial parts of me falling in love with Sarajevo.

 

I have to give many thanks to my supervisor, Maja, without her my experience would have been incredibly different. She gave so much of herself to us, her generosity, dark humor, and support was offered freely daily. She trusted and respected us completely. It was amazing to be thrown in as an intern with such appreciation for our knowledge. I have never experienced this in the states.

 

Wings of Hope is a nonprofit psychotherapy and psycho-education organization. But that description does not fully fit the large capacity that this small center has. Continuously it creates new programs that are challenging social norms and helping one person at a time. Today it was the first place that I have to say goodbye to in Sarajevo. Not goodbye but until next time. The lessons that I have learned from this organization have had an incredible influence on me. It has informed my opinion of Bosnia and Herzegovina. It gifted me with the perspective of life in Sarajevo during the siege. But most importantly it showed me how mental health is treated and perceived in Bosnia and Herzegovina. It has changed where I want my career to go.

I will be completely honest and say that I had no idea of what to expect from my internship placement at the Centers for Healthy Aging. I do remember asking my professor if I could be placed at a site that had the most in-person and direct contact with the community. Before this summer, I didn’t know much about Bosnia and Herzegovina, aside from there being a war, but I knew that if opportunities arose, I would learn more about the impacts of the war from interacting with actual human beings rather than reading a history textbook.  

What I also didn’t anticipate was having the opportunity to make such good friends in the short time I would be in Sarajevo. I always felt safe and comfortable with the staff members of the Centers. Even if there was a language barrier and some of the staff members felt that their English wasn’t great, (in actuality, their English was great. I can’t even speak Bosnian so who am I to judge?) they always asked if I wanted coffee or if I was hungry. Even if I didn’t want coffee initially, I would always end up having a cup of coffee anyways because someone would genuinely be confused and ask why not? Too much caffeine can give me headaches, but what I’ve grown to realize is that a coffee break is less about consuming coffee and more about spending quality time together without distractions. Often, the Centers can be so overwhelming with the hustle and bustle of various activities and members coming and going that we might not all have a chance to sit down together. And that was the second instance where I felt such unbelievable hospitality. I was always included in activities; whether it was asking if I wanted to take a quick walk outside or translating conversations with members, so I would feel included. What I loved most was that I was immediately introduced to the sarcastic and dark sense of humor that I have grown to learn that most Bosnians have. I interpreted it as having the privilege of being a part of their inner circle because I was treated as one of them, rather than just a random intern from the United States.  

39077942_10212274494198635_2163305830777094144_nIn addition to allowing me to make such amazing friends, the Centers have also given me multiple pseudo-grandparents. I grew up without any living grandparents, so my only awareness around what the dynamics of a grandparent/grandchild relationship was from movies and TV shows. But interning at the Centers have given me a taste of all the grandparent clichés. I consistently have plates of food pushed towards me, while simultaneously having the occasional comment to be cautious of my weight. I have my cheeks pinched quite frequently and there are fervent requests to be in photos. Personally, I don’t mind any of this. I know that it might be different if this was happening on a more regular basis with my actual grandparents, but with these members, I often find myself wondering if they lost a child and the reason why they are so excited to talk to me is that I remind them of their children. If not their children, I wonder if I remind them of an innocence that has not encountered life during a siege. My interactions with the members have been the most humbling and memorable experiences as language barriers have led me to numerous occasions of impromptu charades and vigorous hand gestures, but it taught me that I can still build meaningful relationships without needing to rely on spoken language. Up until today, I have always wondered what the members thought of me – the strange American who looks like the people who teach their tai chi classes and who smiles too much as a way to over-compensate for not being able to hold a conversation. Today during the Bosnian-American party, I received my answer in the funniest and most unusual way possible. I had won a round of musical chairs and it felt like the whole crowd of members were cheering for me as I was met with several hugs and handshakes. It doesn’t sound like much but try having several Bosnian men and women trying to congratulate you all at once. It’s overwhelming, but oh so amazing to be a part of such a welcoming circle.  

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Research Assistant

This summer I had the honor of working for Enis Omerović a local human rights attorney working on a book about the genocide in Bosnia. More specifically he is writing about the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and the implications of the court decisions on genocide case law moving forward. There are a few other international courts who have issued judgements on the genocide, but the ICTY holds the most power. While I would have loved to spend more time with Enis and learn the lens through which he approaches his work, the research itself has been fascinating and I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity.

To summarize the research, the only official genocide in the war in Bosnia in the 1990s was in Srebrenica. The Peace March many of my colleagues participated in commemorates the events that took place there. Briefly, Srebrenica is located near the Drina River which forms the border between BiH and Serbia. As the Republika Srpska (RS) forces took land in Eastern Bosnia, the UN declared Srebrenica a “safe zone.” The town of approximately 6,000 people grew to 40,000 people in early 1995. The UN was able to transfer some people to Muslim-controlled areas, but tens of thousands of people remained in Srebrenica in July of 1995. For strategic reasons, the RS wanted to take Srebrenica. Even though it was a UN “safe zone,” RS troops under direct orders from RS President Radovan Karadzić and under command of Ratko Mladić (the #2 in command behind the president) and Radislav Kristić (commander of the Drina Corp) began shelling and attacking Srebrenica. On July 10th, 1995 Srebrenica fell and the tens of thousands of refugees fled to the Dutch UN base in Potočari or chose to run on foot over the mountains to Tuzla which was under BiH control.

Approximately 10,000-15,000 men, boys and a few women chose to flee to Tuzla. The rest who went to the Dutch base were ultimately denied protection and the women and children were deported to Muslim-held territory while men and teenage boys were detained. Mladić and the RS forces realized that most of the men had fled over the mountains and began ambushing the group of men. Some were captured, others were killed on sight and some survived. The RS soldiers were able to severe the column of men and boys fleeing to Tuzla by blocking a road. Only about a third of those in the column made it across and the others were captured. Over the next week the captured men and boys as well as those separated from the women and children in Potočari were transported to detention centers that were schools, warehouses, and other buildings before being transported to mass execution sites where they were systematically murdered by RS troops. In total over 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men were murdered. Most of them were civilians.

The ICTY found that genocide had been committed in Srebrenica, and drew charges against several members involved in the events of Srebrenica. The 3 most note worthy cases are those of Karadzić, Mladić and Kristić. Kristić was the first to be convicted under the 1948 Genocide Convention that codified genocide in international law. As a crime genocide differs from most other crimes as the actus rea of the crime, that is the actions that took place, could vary. Genocide could be forced deportation, murder, mass rape all of which are crimes in their own right. For a genocide conviction, it must be established that a person not only willfully and knowingly did an action, but that they did so with the intent to “destroy in part or in whole” a protected demographic. This means that it is not as important what a perpetrator of genocide did, but the spirit in which he or she did it. Since mental status during war and even specifically the perpetrating of the crime is difficult to determine, the ICTY was tasked with deciphering whether and how this could be proven.

The prosecutors submitted hundreds of witnesses and thousands of pieces of evidence to establish not only the timeline of events, but the mentality of those involved in carrying out the crimes. Since Rwanda and Bosnia were the first two major cases to be tried in a tribunal since the genocide convention was signed into effect, they created the first case law in trying and convicting genocide. Much of the evidence were photos and videos taken by journalists, and the troops themselves as well as leaked written orders and the testimonies of RS officers who bled guilty and agreed to testify against commanders. Survivors of the execution sites were also instrumental in establishing a historical record of what happened. Each case has its particulars and contributed to the legal understanding of genocide in their own ways, but I will need a longer blog post for all that.

And so at the end of the summer preparing my personal statements for law school and thinking really intently about my future I have to wonder if this is the best course of seeking justice. At a dinner with 3 survivors of the genocide, Nedžad Avdić, Hasan Hasanović and Saliha Osmanović I asked a question about the ICTY and justice. Basically I asked, “how do the court decision make you feel?” Some of them had testified in various trials, but none of them reported feeling anything close to justice. Nedžad said that no earthly punishment could balance the tide for what was done to his family. He had lost so many people. His loss and his unlikely survival from an execution site near a dam were to the degree that President Bill Clinton met him. That is to say his loss was profound and his existence amazing in its own right. And if justice is beyond our realm, to what end does the time and money of the ICTY serve? While none of the survivors thought the court decisions could ever be justice, they said it brought light to what happened and created a reliable unimpeachable narrative of what happened in Srebrenica. And for me, who started in journalism to shine light on the corners of our reality, I found it comforting to know the work I did this summer and the career I am pursuing can still accomplish that goal.

Internship: Post-Conflict Research Center

This summer I have been privileged enough to work with the Post-Conflict Research Center here in Sarajevo. When I first applied to this internship, I did not believe I was qualified or that they would choose me to intern for them. It was sincerely a surprise when they sent the first email! Immediately after being offered the position I was hesitant, but I was not sure why. I spoke with my mom and the director of our program, Ann about what I was feeling. I knew I did not want just a stereotypical internship with an NGO doing social media and gaining no experience. I wanted to do something special with my time here in Bosnia and Herzegovina. After accepting the position, I was excited and nervous for what the summer had coming. Look back now I could not have prepared myself for the amazing experience and contacts I would gain.

When I first arrived in Sarajevo, I was immediately thrown into one of the many events PCRC cosponsors. This event is called the WARM Festival and it has the mission of bringing people together through art, reporting, and memory. This was a major event interns assist with every year. As I was the new intern, I was thrown into a group who had already been together for a month and a half. Along with assisting with WARM activities, I decided I needed to jump in head first, with the group and the event. I had the opportunity to guide participants and speakers in their days along with attend amazing films and art exhibits. I was tasked with making sure PCRC followers knew what the event was and what was upcoming for the next day. It was incredibly interesting because I had never been a part of a festival that was focused on the arts and reporting war through those outlets.

After working on the WARM festival, myself and the other interns were cued in to a social media campaign that was in partnership with the International Organization for Migration. Having the ability to work on a social media campaign, from start to finish, in partnership with IOM was sincerely a dream come true. I was able to work alongside individuals from Bosnia and Herzegovina on this campaign. It was incredibly interesting and exciting to see how this type of grant and project are completed and implemented in the NGO world. Lastly, I have been able to attend the Sarajevo Film Festival and write reports on the films from the category, Dealing with the Past. These films were documentary type films that sparked my interest immensely. Also, just having the opportunity to attend the film festival is a task and event I never imagined I would be able to attend!

To sum up this summer, I could not be more grateful to have had the privilege of internship with the Post-Conflict Research Center. Not only my fellow interns but the staff were incredibly welcoming to me from day one. I never felt uncomfortable or unsure of my place within the organization. For example, while attending an industry event during the Sarajevo Film Festival the founder of PCRC introduced me as her colleague. I was incredibly honored to be standing alongside such an accomplished woman but also to be introduced as her colleague. This organization is doing amazing things. Even when I was confused or lost, I could easily find someone to assist me. This organization enhanced my Bosnia experience immensely and I could not be more grateful!

Internship

Having touched on my internship in last week’s blog I will expand on my experiences there for this week. My internship was with a security think tank called Atlantic Initiative. This group is hired by a number of groups from around the world to conduct research and analyze information on a variety of topics. This year their projects have ranged from Russian interference in the Balkans to gender violence in international bodies such as the European Union. My assigned tasks have primarily worked with the former of these, having researched Russian involvement in the Republika Srpska, Montenegro, Macedonia, and most recently the interesting relationship between Russia and Turkey. Stepping away from Russia, I have also done some research on the increasing presence of Saudi Arabia in Bosnia and what the Gulf state’s interest here may be. In sum, I have been given a number of research topics each of which relate to Bosnia and Herzegovina either directly or indirectly; each has been of increasing relevance with the upcoming elections in October of this year in BiH. Different from many other research projects I have taken on over the years, this one emphasizes the importance of my sources being much more recent than in more academic contexts, which makes sense considering the rapid development of international relations.

As far as the structure of my internship it was typically as follows. I would meet once a week with my supervisors where we would discuss my work over the previous week and assign a new topic, as well as discuss my personal opinions and theirs as well. The rest of the week I would work from the hostel conducting research and formulating a paper based on my findings. Initially I was unsure what the expectations of my research were, but I essentially aimed to exhaust the content available on the task at hand. While this is ultimately impossible, there is a point where each article I found would begin to be repetitive, at which point I would consider the research stage complete and begin writing my paper. I found this process to work quite well for me and appreciated having freedom on what the papers would look like and how to work on them but was still given however many days to figure it out. Having a hard deadline but flexibility in the working process proved to be a really positive experience for me.

One part of my internship that I really appreciated was that I feel as though I learned at least as much as I was able to provide. Each topic covered was new information to me, and hopefully to Atlantic Initiative as well. While I did not come to Bosnia expecting to become an expert on Russian relations in the region (and I certainly am far from an expert), I feel as though I was able to go on a self-guided journey through the history and modern state of foreign affairs here in the Balkans and benefitted greatly from this. Every source I found provided new information that I will take away and bring back to my studies and potentially a future career. There was nothing repetitive about my internship and I really appreciated that as well; I’ve had internships before where each day was monotonous and provided little for me other than a bullet point on a resume and perhaps a free lunch once in a while. At Atlantic Initiative I felt like part of the team and appreciated that I was trusted with tasks that required a high degree of focus and dedication, and not once did I feel as though I was any less than an equal and therefore prescribed “easy” tasks. Ultimately, this was by far the most beneficial internship I have had, and I am excited to see how the skills and knowledge learned this summer translate to the second year of my master’s program and beyond.