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.

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Journal: Internship at CURE

This week we are supposed to write about our internship. This summer I worked with Foundation CURE, a feminist organization here in Sarajevo. Foundation CURE is a powerhouse of talent and activism. I am blown away by what this organization has accomplished with such little funding and support.

 

I spent the bulk of my internship researching artists and funding sources for the 2019 PitchWise festival. PitchWise is an annual feminist festival that brings artists and performers from all over the world to join together in a weekend of art and activism. It was interesting to learn about the women’s networks here in the Balkans. I knew of organizations in the South Pacific from my past work, so it was interesting connecting the dots in another area of the world. I also spent time researching, editing, and writing grant proposals for submission. I picked up grant writing as a skill randomly some years back, and haven’t looked back. Political Science and grant writing seems like a weird combination, but it somehow works. Anyways. I enjoy grant writing because I’m afforded the opportunity to learn all about an organization, and hopefully help create projects that benefit many people and communities. The moral of that short tale is that i’m extremely grateful for all of my internships and jobs that allow me to develop my grant writing skills and learn from others in the field.

 

During my short time with CURE i’ve learned many things. I’ve learned the importance of sharing a meal with coworkers and taking time to simply talk and build relationships with others. I’ve learned about the power of research… how projects and proposals are rarely funded without properly vetted research. I’ve had the privilege of attending a book launch in Tuzla (Tuzla round 3 for those keeping score) where members from CURE and the leading researcher presented their findings to the women’s group gathered there. Although I could not understand much, my coworker helped translate some, I could see that this research and event was important to many people in BiH. Being exposed to this much research has really impacted my plans for after GPB, in a positive way.

 

I’m grateful to the organization for taking me under their wing and sharing their stories and creative space with me. Feeling grateful for the coffee and tea time over cookies and other assorted snacks. I’m grateful to the people i’ve met at my internship, and the connections i’ve made here. I’m glad I trusted the system.

A Heartfelt Thank You: An account of student’s thoughts about the privilege of traveling

I grew up with some amazing opportunities. We traveled all around the West Coast visiting family, traveling on a few international trips within North and Central America, and spending weekends sailing around the Washington coast with family friends. I lived a wonderful childhood and was taught to always try something at least once. However, it really wasn’t until my senior year of high school that I got the ‘wanderlust’ bug. Even then, Bosnia-Herzegovina didn’t make it on that list. As a person with Slovenian roots this region had always interested me, but it seemed too far, too unknown to ever consider going to. Many years and a crazy journey later, I am privileged to say I have spent almost seven weeks in this wonderful country.

 

Within my master’s program, we are required to go on an international internship between our first and second years. We are privileged to have the opportunity for such a program and for so many organizations to have accepted us into their workspace. I had previously considered how surreal and lucky it was for me to be so easily walking around in a foreign-to-me land. However, those thoughts surrounded the marvels of modern aerospace technology and my employment that had allowed for such an experience. However, these were short vacations, ones taken with friends to go see predominately tourist sites. The feelings that I have in Bosnia, especially surrounding privilege, are so much deeper than that. Not only was I here, but I also learned so much more than a mere two weeks vacation could have provided. I spoke with more people than I would have simply walking around town, perhaps speaking to a shop owner or a waiter. I firmly believe Bosnia has proved to be the most generous and hospital country that I have been too.

 

I had had the honor of traveling to many countries prior to this trip, and this summer alone I have been to five countries that were new to me. This past weekend, I went to Korčula, a small island off Croatia. It was beautiful, peaceful, and relatively quiet. As a normally active traveler, I was excited to have the experience of just sitting on the beach and enjoying a book. However, more than that, the Balkans have a rich, integrative history. Having had the chance to experience more of that has been a huge treat. There is diverse knowledge that can create a larger understanding, but having the opportunity to hear multiple perspectives have been something I didn’t even expect when I started this adventure. Including the impact that Bosnia would have as I experienced these other cultures.

 

This is my first time in Europe, but I know it will not be my last. I have loved every minute of this experience; even the lowest lows have brought me insight and perspective. Spending eight weeks in one place changes how one experiences a new environment. You get to build a routine in a new home, but it also can leave room for taking for granted the time you have there. I know there were times when I would come home from work and go straight to my room. I didn’t spend the afternoon in the city but instead on the Internet. But that was also the simple joys; I am comfortable and able to have time to myself. Needless to say, I plan on spending my next 1.5 weeks here in the city living it to the fullest. I plan to enjoy the simple present moments and the larger ones. I will hold onto these memories for the rest of my life and want to ensure I make as many as I can before departing.

Reflecting on my privilege as an American

For the past several weeks, I have had the immense privilege of being able to travel to various cities and countries. According to the U.S. Department of State, as of 2018, individuals with a valid United States passport are able to travel to 177 countries without a visa. This number is increased to 186 countries if we include destinations that provide visas upon arrival. Considering that there are only 38 countries that are eligible to visit the U.S. visa-free under the Visa Waiver Program, we cannot deny the privilege of having a U.S. passport in our hands. Furthermore, with the current political climate back home surrounding immigration, I recognize the sheer luck I’ve had in holding U.S. citizenship and being able to travel freely without any qualms. And I say luck because I’m no different from the individuals who I have had the greatest fortune of meeting this summer in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

I am a child of Vietnam War refugees who received asylum in the United States more than 30 years ago. They too survived a war and were forced to become refugees in their own country. Like most of the younger generations of Bosnians, they made the difficult decision to leave behind their beloved home with all its familiarities, memories, and heartaches in exchange for a better life for themselves and their children. My identity as an American was granted to me on the sole premise that I was born within U.S. borders. I didn’t do anything special to earn this identity; I don’t hold a degree in engineering or medicine, I haven’t won a Nobel Peace prize, I don’t have the IQ level of a genius. But yet, I hold American citizenship. I have had access to top American universities. I have visited world famous destinations.

It has been more than 20 years after the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, but despite the peace that the Dayton Agreement has brought to this region, there continues to be so many obstacles that prevent true healing. There is the concept of the “two schools under one roof” where Bosniak and Croat children attend school in the same buildings but are physically segregated and taught different curriculum. From a first-hand experience, I have met so many people either my age or a few years older who are having trouble finding employment due to nepotism and the lack of available jobs. Additionally, many Bosnians have expressed how difficult it has been for them to apply for visas to enter the United States and visit their families. I find the American immigration system to be completely biased, if not egregious. I have had multiple Bosnian friends tell me that they have made numerous attempts at applying for visas, but there are just too many hoops to jump through and obstacles to cross. I remember that when my mother was sponsoring my uncle and his family’s immigration to the United States, the entire process took 11 years. I understand the need to screen individuals who are entering a country’s borders, but I am outraged by the disparities in immigration and visa protocols based on a person’s country of residence. Why does the narrative of the “illegal immigrant” only apply to brown bodies primarily from Central America? Why does a Bosnian have more obstacles than a German or Dutch person in terms of visa requirements?

It’s time for Americans to take a hard look at the privilege we hold for simply being born within the border of the United States. We have benefited from fortunate circumstances and different periods of time that have allowed for more free-flowing migration. It’s crucial to reflect on the fact that many individuals would not need to enter the United States if there weren’t conditions (that were out of their control) that led to forced displacement and separation of family members.

Preparation for Impending ‘Reverse Culture Shock’ [A different approach]

The human mind is programed to see differences. Tall, short, black, white. Without meaning to we’ve already analyzed situations and environments based on visual differences and past experiences. This ‘judgement’ served us well when discerning the differences from someone in your village and someone from a village that might attack yours, but in this day and age these differences pose only the threat that we create. ‘Culture shock’, as defined by Merriam-Webster, is “a sense of confusion and uncertainty sometimes with feelings of anxiety that may affect people exposed to an alien culture or environment without adequate preparation”. It is interesting to me that as humans we created this term and still use it, even though those of us fortunate to have access to the internet should really not be so surprised that differences exist and that when traveling you might be exposed to them. This being said, I experienced anxiety when ordering food for the first time, or speaking with someone whom I had little language in common with. We cannot fully prepare, and as such we have this term: Culture Shock. I pose the question however, that rather than experiencing reverse culture shock upon returning home, why not incorporate the things you’ll miss and the things that you currently enjoy into your everyday life? Some things are impossible to not have get used to again, like driving on the opposite side of the road, but smaller things like not rushing, being blunt or honest, and finding ways to laugh even when all you want to do is cry are possible to bring home with you. I may be the only one in my circle or family doing so, but just because one returns to their primary culture does not mean they must abide by every socially constructed rule (laws-yes, you still must abide by those). As such, I want to share a couple things I want to bring home with me.

Before even arriving to Bosnia, our director Ann told me as she placed me at Wings of Hope that our supervisor there was one of a kind and some could not handle her blunt honesty. She wasn’t kidding, but this was the kind of person I always wanted to be. I notice that many persons living in Bosnia reflect this blunt demeanor and even though some speak with a sarcastic undertone, the truth is obvious. At home I have a wonderful boyfriend who is always honest, even brutally so sometimes, but I never wonder if he is bending the truth or lying. Ironically his heritage is Balkan. It’s hard for me to lie to make someone feel better, even though they might ask for it, because I don’t think the world needs more dishonesty. We already can’t trust the media, or persons in power. Perhaps the dishonesty and betrayal of the Yugoslav army, who swore to protect and broke that promise, along with many other factors, contributed to this cultural honesty. No matter the reason for the existence of it, the knowledge that other people choose to live this way gives me hope and comfort in my way of life as something I plan to continue to carry out.

Another such custom I wish to bring home with me is the ability for people to slow down and enjoy. This is a skill I didn’t come to Bosnia with and still struggle to accept. I am used to a fully packed schedule and don’t do well when I don’t know what to expect. Nevertheless, I was raised to believe that patience is an important skill. If anyone knows the famous psychology experiment using marshmallows, you’ll know that delayed gratification is correlated with success in all things. One aspect of Bosnian culture I do not understand is that people seem to be in such a rush while driving, but take their time if they see a friend on the road or stop for coffee along the road for hours. In the States, there is no patience and it shows in all aspects of our culture. I find I am most at peace when I practice patience while waiting for a doctor’s appointment or for traffic to move. Letting go of that urge to go, go, go is liberating and I thoroughly suggest practicing it, even if it’s hard. There is so much to learn from other cultures and although it might be hard to apply in other cultures, sometimes it’s worth the struggle and hard work.

Week 7: Writer’s Choice “I’m on a boat”

 

This week I chose to write about my rafting adventure in Konjic, on the Neretva River. Konjic is roughly an hour away from Mostar, and the location of Tito’s top secret bunker back in the day. It feels like yesterday we were touring the bunker, and here we are nearing the end of our program. We started the day off with a breakfast of fluffy donuts and the best cheese. After I consumed my fair share we scrambled off to find the rest of our tour group. We changed into our wetsuits (that was a struggle bus) and carried the boat down to the water (at this point the boat carried me… oh well) and we set off on our rafting adventure.

The water was beautiful. I know that sounds trite, but it was. I could see all the way to the bottom of the lake. The guide tried his best to explain the “rules of the water”, mostly in Bosnian. We figured if it was really important he would say something in English. We quickly discovered that when something was coming up when the guide said “big”, and nothing else. The best way I can describe our rafting adventure is a cross between a peaceful lazy river and bracing for the possibility of running into a rock, or flying out of the boat. The Neretva is very popular this time of year, and I enjoyed people watching. It was cool seeing people and children of all ages outside exploring nature. I was amazed at how the guides would just chill at the front of the boat side saddle, with nothing but a rope around their waist for support. We eventually took a break and feasted on chocolates, bananas, and assorted snacks. I think the funniest part of the day was approaching a rapid with a man just straight chillin in the water, and us trying to dodge him, the seagulls, and not fly out of the boat.

Once we approached shore I was pretty happy. We said goodbye to our new Bosnian friends and waited for the guide to take us to the bus station. We were on a time crunch, and i was getting nervous that we would miss our bus. One of the themes I keep finding here during my time in Bosnia-Herzegovina is that things end up working out one way or another-that I should focus more on what is happening now and less about 623 months from now. Surprise- we ended up making the bus and headed back to Sarajevo.

Although I was apprehensive about rafting (hello, flying out of the boat), i’m glad I went. Here’s to trying new things and going on more adventures. Sorry there are no photos, I couldn’t risk my phone flying out of the boat too.

The Privilege of Travel

In addition to seeing Bosnia during this brief internship, I’ve been fortunate to go to Turkey, Serbia, & Croatia and plan to go to Slovenia, Austria, the Czech Republic and Germany. Some of these are repeat locations for me and some of them are new. And as I fill in spaces on a map of the places I’ve been I can’t help but think how lucky I am to have these experiences. I come from a town of 6,000 people in rural Indiana. There’s people from my hometown who have never left the state or even the county. And all of this raises the question of how did I get here? Why should I have this many soul-changing travel experiences when so many people I grew up around didn’t get these chances? Why me? I’d like to believe that I am somehow special–that on some level I have earned the experiences I have had and continue to have, but that’s not true.

So much of what I have done and continue to do comes down to some sort of fate. Yes, I’ve jumped at a lot of opportunities and there’s work and determination in that, but without some sort of destiny I would not be able to travel, let alone to the extent I have. Whether it has been my ability to finance trips, have places to stay, earn entry into programs, build relationships or just possessing a US passport, so many things have been out of my control. It’s sudbina, Bosnian fate.

When I worked in refugee resettlement, one of our clients was in hospice care and wanted to say goodbye to her family. She had about 5 years from diagnosis to passing and even with an “expedited” visa process, we needed about 7 years to get her family through the visa process to say goodbye due to where they lived. In the end we ran out of time and my heart breaks every time I think about that case. It just seems so unfair that something so simple could take so long and be so sad in addition to all the other heartbreak that predated and filled their refugee status. I have this same feeling here in Bosnia. Especially as refugees are starting to get stuck in the Bosnian city of Bihać on the border with Croatia that is currently locking people out of the EU.

Without taking away from all the things I love about Bosnia such as the sense of community, the welcome of the people, the moments when we get to really see other people and know them, the work I’ve done for my internship, the relationships Ann has with locals, meeting Hasan and other people, the beautiful land and a thousand other things, Bosnia has real problems like a stumbling economy that disproportionately impacts young people, growing and ongoing nationalism in the RS and existing as a country irrevocably changed and scarred by war. In addition to blocking Bosnia from progress in a variety of senses, it makes it more difficult for Bosnians to travel. They need visas to get to the states and it’s an expensive, demanding, long process. This means that while I can come to Bosnia for an entire summer with little effort, Bosnians could not do the same in the states. And more than that, I think about how much I would love to take a class taught by Hasan and how far that prospect seems at this time. When we live in a globalized war and power is often concentrated to the governments of a few specific arbitrarily drawn lines on a map, it severely limits the opportunities available to people for no good reason.

And so again I’d like to thank all the people who allow me to be here, and recognize what a tremendous privilege it is to be here. I am falling in love with this place and I am so thankful for being here.

Experiential learning

For this week’s blog post I decided to cover the opportunities that this trip has afforded to me. While I have always been hesitant to enroll in study abroad programs – they’re expensive, and often seem to be simply an opportunity for students to party their way around Europe for a few months at a high cost – I thought that this experience in Bosnia would not mimic this. As I predicted, it did not. Of course, all study abroad programs are not like this, but I wanted to be sure that this program was worth the high cost of travelling abroad and the program expenses that accompany it. For a number of reasons, it was very much worth it.

There are several experiences here that I am especially happy with. First of all, the program did not contain the educational component that study abroad programs have and prioritized both the internship and cultural experiences. Not only has this program checked the internship box on my degree requirement but has provided me with a valuable set of skills and a series of papers that I am proud of. Too many times I have heard of people either not appreciating their internship as it was not a good fit for them or having had a typical intern experience where it revolves around filing papers, responding to e-mails, and even sometimes the somewhat mythical task of getting coffee for superiors. In my time here as an intern, my experience could not be more unlike those noted above. I felt like part of the team, and each task I was given seemed like it carried actual weight, and my research findings were read and appreciated by the higher-ups at the thinktank. In addition, I learned from everything that I did. Each project was new to me and while I certainly am not an expert on any of the topics (read: Russia, Saudi Arabia, and other international players), I am much better versed on topics that I would not have so much as considered researching outside of the context provided by my internship. It was a perfect fit for me and continues to provide learning opportunities each day – most importantly, I am proud that I was able to assist my team in various realms of research.

Second, regarding the cultural aspect of this program, I am grateful that I was given a number of opportunities of immersion into the Bosnian culture. More importantly than the bobsled track, the gondola ride, the exploration of old town and other neighborhoods in Sarajevo and elsewhere, we were given the opportunity to meet so many people and hear their experiences. While these experiences have been elaborated on in earlier posts, more broadly it was amazing to meet these people that a typical tourist would not have any idea about. We were truly graced with their presence, and it was these experiences that each of us will remember. It is by far one of the most valuable components that this program has provided.

Thirdly, I appreciate that this program has given me the opportunity to discover Bosnia, and neighboring (and less neighboring) countries on my own. It has allowed each of us to choose our own adventure and I believe that this component of the program is not the case in every international program offered through higher education. Combined with the fact that my internship allowed me to work during the hours of my choosing, I was able to explore new parts of the country almost every day. Bringing a bike here gave me a degree of mobility that many others to not have. I’ve seen beautiful roads, stunning overlooks, and more livestock on the road than I was prepared for. I’ve gained more elevation in my time here than I ever have in the same amount of time elsewhere in the country. And with that, I feel as though I know the land here. I appreciate the people, the animals, the views, the roads, and each café where I was able to re-energize four hours into a ride (I’ve never been offered a plum from a tree out back of a restaurant until yesterday, that was pretty cool). I’ve experienced the food both in Sarajevo and as far as Bihac and Olovo, and just about everywhere in between – not the mention the seafood of the Croatian coast or the coffee of gas stations everywhere, ranging from delicious to really quite bad. As an aside, I love gas station convenience stores – and I’ve enjoyed sampling the wares of the best that Bosnia has to offer. Cycling as gifted me the opportunity to befriend a number of people in the country, many of whom I intend to stay in touch with. The same can be said for those at my internship – our relationship has grown beyond security research and we have bonded over lunch and coffee. It’s truly been amazing to see a region and meet its people; especially considering that the Balkans are a region that I never had any intention of visiting. I am so glad that I was able to have this experience, with my University of Denver cohort, with friends made since arrival, and on my own.

 

Living in the Moment

Since arriving in Bosnia I have experienced a plethora of emotions. I have been happy, excited, sad, and angry. I feel like I have learned an incredible amount while getting to meet some amazing people! Through all of these emotions, I was beginning to feel bogged down and going through the motions of day to day life. This frustrated me because my time left is quickly dwindling down. I was not sure what to do with my time, but I knew I needed to stay present with what I had left. Thankfully, I had the chance to go to Croatia this past weekend which has helped me reset.

This was the first time I had ever been to Croatia and I cannot describe the beauty that I was surrounded by all weekend. Though it was a frustrating start getting the rental car and missing out on some beautiful waterfalls, the weekend was worth it! Once we got the car Friday, some friends and I began the 4-hour road trip to Orebić, Croatia. As we drove, I was struck with the beauty that is Bosnia and Herzegovina. Mountains sprouted up around us and before we knew it we were on the top of a mountain, look down on a beautiful lake and landscape. The photos are magnificent and did not even capture all of the beauty. As we continued to drive more water, greenery, rocks, and mountains surrounded us. It was impossible to ignore what was happening around us because it was so incredibly amazing! Finally, we arrived in Orebić and drove onto the car ferry which would take us to our final destination of Korčula. I had never been on a ferry or an island so I was extremely excited! Though it was dark, and I could not see much, being on a boat in the Adriatic Sea was beyond something I imagined I would ever do.

The next day we woke up and got breakfast. Our Air Bnb was overlooking old town so the city was a short walk away. I felt like such a tourist but that did not stop me from taking hundreds of photos. After breakfast we headed to the beach. It was incredibly hot and humid so I immediately went into the water. It was the most amazing water I have ever been in! I could see the bottom the entire time, no matter how deep I went! It was beautifully blue and calm. There were a few rocks as we entered but they were not hard to move around. I tanned, swam, floated, and had the most incredible time. I usually cannot stay at the beach for more than two to three hours, but we ended up staying for six! At one point a friend and I floated and chatted for an hour in the water! I was ecstatic. Looking out to the Adriatic Sea I could not think about anything other than the privilege I had to be able to look at such beauty. My surroundings were something I had seen on the internet not something I thought I would ever be able to view personally!

Arriving back in Sarajevo last night, I feel relaxed and excited for my last two weeks. I have experienced such incredible things this summer. Things I do not even understand how I am going to tell my family and friends back home. Thankfully, I have plenty of time to figure that out. All I do know is that I plan to live fully in the moment and enjoy as much of Sarajevo and Bosnia-Herzegovina as much as I can!

 

Final Bosnia Reflections

Following the two weeks in Bosnia, I spent an additional three weeks traveling. With the stories of survivors in mind and transitioning to recreational travel, I was considering the different purposes of travel. While off in new countries with freedom to choose my activities and next destinations, the purpose of those explorations was for my own enjoyment, or wonder, or sense of adventure. Travel for me. Bosnia feels different. While I am affected and changed by my experiences in Bosnia, there is more responsibilities to others. These others include the people we met, and to those I may share what I have learned and witnessed with. The act of sharing survivors’ stories is the one request each made. Further, in a time where my own country is storming with acts of dehumanization, othering, and violence, understanding the horror that was the war and genocide, and the still open wounds from those, gives us the unique perspective of seeing what we will lose if the United States continues this path.

Perhaps this sounds like sensationalism, but when it a country starts to feel currents of violence, when is the moment to say that this is really happening? No one can know how events will unfold, but we should be listening to the histories and stories of those who have lived through when the currents did not subside.

In my last days in Bosnia I went to the Children’s War Museum and a gallery of photographs depicting moments following the Srebrenica genocide. Both these exhibits strove to give their visitors insights into the experiences of Bosnians during the war but went about them in very different ways, one with items shared or created by people who lived through it and the other images created by someone who did not. When art is created around war, what are the ethics and how do these choices inform what the viewer takes away? Seeing the photographs of bodies uncovered from mass graves and grieving women hoping to identify their loved ones are jarring subject matter. In the context of just being with people who had survived, the images did not stand alone for me, but stood as visual representations of small parts of the stories I had heard. Unable to know how the strangers at this exhibit had come to be here, I wonder how these images impacted them. Was the artist’s goal achieved? Did seeing these images make them witnesses? As for the artist, is he the one to tell this story? If he is, did he tell it in a way that does not harm the owners of these experiences?

Visiting the Children’s War Museum was a different experience, as everything was contributed by those who had lived through the war. For me, this exhibit built the feeling of connection, as many of the objects were from people who are similar in age to me. One sticks out in my mind because of how it reminded me a childhood experience of my own, a barbie with cut of hair. It’s striking to think about meeting this person and discussing the similarities and differences of our childhoods, or to think of my young self, safe in my neighborhood while across the world other children were under siege in their own.

It is difficult to summarize the major takeaways of my trip to Bosnia. In this moment, I feel focused on how I can use this experience to better my own community, the stories of survivors of the Srebrenica genocide, and happy memories of good tea, conversations, and the country.