I couldn’t imagine saying this four weeks ago, but leaving Sarajevo was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. I’m having trouble putting into words what exactly my experience on the W&M Bosnia Project was, but I do know without a doubt that it was the most educational and enjoyable experience of my life. I’m writing this now from Dubrovnik (which is nice, but definitely a Balkan Disneyworld), and my one consolation is that I’ll (hopefully) see some of my friends next weekend when I’m in Sarajevo for one last time.
It sounds cliched to say that going to Bosnia was a lifechanging experience, but it really was. Before I applied to the Bosnia Project, I couldn’t even find BiH on a map–all I knew about it was that it had been in Yugoslavia under Tito, and that things there went really wrong in the 1990s. The only reason why I even applied is because I wanted to experience teaching English abroad for a summer before I committed myself to teaching abroad for a longer period of time. I never imagined for one second that I’d actually be accepted, and I’d never imagined that I would end up enjoying it as much as I did. I don’t have an exact plan for returning yet, but I know that I am going to return to Sarajevo for at least a few months at some point after graduation. Without the Bosnia Project, I never would have even considered going to Eastern Europe.
First, I want to start with a huge hvala (thank you!) to my team from William & Mary. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed getting to know everybody involved in the Bosnia Project–whether from my own team or past BP alumni–and I think that Bosnia Project people are really the best that W&M has to offer. I’m so grateful that the four members of my team were the wonderful people that they are–as Boba and Naida pointed out, we match each other so well! I am going to miss them all so much next year, and it blows my mind that there will be no one here at W&M that understands what happened over the last four weeks. Dana, Alex, Patrick– I’m saving my pennies to visit you all in Europe, and Jill–expect me in DC soon!
My second huge hvala (thank you!) goes to our Bosnian coteachers. Nirvana, Ana, Esma and Alma–you are four of the nicest and most wonderful girls that I’ve ever met, and I’ve enjoyed getting to know your city with you. You are all wonderful teachers, and I’ve learned so much from watching each of you with the kids at our camp.Thank you for teaching me how to be a better teacher, where the best places to go out in Sarajevo are, and how to sing ‘90s songs and curse in Bosnian (Ya sam Britney, kutcko!). Without you, the Project will be absolutely nothing. I’m going to miss you all so much as well–let me know if you’re ever anywhere in America, I’m coming to visit (even if you’re in Hawaii or Alaska!)
My third, equally big hvala (thank you!) goes to all the “adults” involved–my host family, the teachers at our partner NGO Creativus, and of course, our professor at W&M. My host family was utterly amazing, and I can’t repeat enough how much I enjoyed staying with them. I learned so much from all the founders and teachers at Creativus and I’ve developed a new respect and interest in early childhood education, in addition to secondary education. Last but definitely not least, I learned an incredible amount from our coordinator at W&M, Professor Paula Pickering–she showed me what my (somewhat ridiculous) tuition is really worth.
I don’t know where I’m really going from here. I have three days in Dubrovnik, one more full day in Sarajevo, two and half weeks at home and then I return to Williamsburg to begin job training. For the first time, I’m not really excited about returning to Williamsburg–I feel that everything I do at school will seem shallow and artificial compared to life here in Sarajevo. I don’t know how I’ll feel when I’m back in WIlliamsburg without my team–I know I’ll be able to see other BP alumni who’ve had similar experiences, but it feels so weird to be going back without my own team. All I really know is that somehow, someday, I’m going to make my way back to Sarajevo with my team. When we were at Underground Pub on our last night (or really last morning) in Sarajevo as a team, Alex said, “For some reason, I have a weird feeling that we’ll all end up here together again” and against all odds, I believe him. I’ve drank enough water from that fountain at that mosque for this to come true.
This was so much fun. I love you all so much. Thank you for the best month I could ever imagine!