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Summer 2009

Study Abroad Program

Stephen Mistoler:

Belgrade is amazing with the bustling personality of Europe with a touch of Eastern Europe ideology and architecture.  The city is split up into two parts, new and old Belgrade.  We are staying in old Belgrade which contains older and more historical buildings.

This trip has been a life changing experience and I mean that seriously.  It has opened up my eyes to a much larger world, one greater than just Florida, South Carolina, or even the entire U.S., while at the same time enlightening me to the fact that the world is much smaller than I ever actually realize.  When I say this I don't mean physically smaller, but smaller in the sense that human life, no matter where you go, is all interconnected.  Decisions made in all countries affect everyone in the world in some way, shape, or form.  It can be something as big as an election in the U.S. as we have seen with Obama or it can be something on a much smaller scale such as how much time and effort people in a country like Serbia have to spend in order to travel outside of the immediate region.  These actions affect people all over the world and I never fully appreciated this until arriving here.

Also, as much as I have enjoyed visiting this country, learning about the inner workings of the government and its policy, as well as meeting new and exciting people; I have also grown to appreciate the United States and its government more.  In the past month, we've talked so much about Serbo-centric, but before coming here, I was caught up in Amero-centristic behavior.  As much as we in America would like to think so, the world does not revolve around us.  This thought goes back to the interconnectivity that exists within the citizens of the world.  We are all on the same planet, deserve the same rights, and should be offered the same opportunities whether this is actually how the real world is or not.  Also, I appreciate Obama and his administration more.  A lot of people were given hope that if change could come to America, then it would also come to their countries.  This spark of hope should be harnessed and transformed into a flame in which the entire world can seek to better itself.

I have learned a lot while being here.  This learning process occurred without me ever even feeling it though, something that never happens in a classroom back home.  I know I will carry the lessons I learned here in Serbia and Montenegro with me for the rest of my life.  This trip has no doubt made me a better person, one aware of how fortunate I am with so many opportunities presented to me, but also someone who knows that there will always be goal in which we should strive to achieve for the betterment of humanity.

Jenna Dunay:

We are staying in Hotel Royal. The street our hotel is on is very quaint, I absolutely love it. I never realized how much I truly enjoy cobble stone streets along with beautiful old buildings. Also, Belgrade is a very outdoors type city in which individuals walk everywhere. It is fascinating to me how skinny everyone here is due to all the walking and also the amount of time individuals spend outdoors.

I truly do not even know how to began and also express in words how amazing, insightful, educational, and eye opening this trip has been for me. As I said earlier, before coming to Serbia I had no idea what I was in store for or what to expect. I truly believe this to be a blessing because I had the chance to form my own impressions and opinions without any outside help. Even from our first day in Belgrade, I have been constantly surprised and amazed in the best ways possible. The amount of history and culture that remains in one city/country is indescribable and makes me eager to learn more and more.  From every briefing, opera, ballet, restaurant to museum we have been to, I have learned about so much about Serbia and even more about myself, and I have realized how much the United States impacts the rest of the world and how important strong United States relations are worldwide.

Many individuals in the United States take for granted and do not understand how lucky they are to live in the U.S. Little things such as voting, contacting your government representative, traveling and even being about to buy tickets for an opera are things many individuals abroad do not have the luxury to experience and could only dream of having. When speaking to Milena, a student at the University in Montenegro, we got on the topic of the difference between the standard of living in a country and a high quality of life. I realized for the first time that there is a very strong difference between these two things. While many individuals in the United States have a much greater standard of living, they often lack a high quality of life. I explained to Milena, that while there are many more opportunities and chances for individuals within the United States , many of these people do not have a high quality of life because they do not appreciate how good they have it. I explained to her that I believe that people in Montenegro/Serbia and the United States have about the same quality of life even though many individuals abroad would believe the United States should have a much greater one.  Because of this, I strongly believe individuals in the United States, if they have the opportunity to do so, should travel abroad in order to break out of this comforting shell many Americans live in order to better understand themselves and appreciate all that they have.

Ashley Mills:

This trip has greatly affected my personal outlook on the world.  I feel that too often Americans get wrapped up in our own issues without realizing there are countries struggling in the beginning stages of what we have already accomplished. It is not often one is provided with an opportunity like this and I'm grateful I was able to come here.  The people here are nicer than many Americans (contrary to American stereotypes), the architecture is grand, the history is extensive, and the city stays on your heart.  I have realized how much there is to the world even after only living in Belgrade for three weeks, and I can't wait to improve my understanding of other nations even if it is only a quarter as extensive as what I learned of Serbia.

 

Tiffany Deleon:

This trip and the overall experience were more amazing than I could have imagined.  I did not think that I would have learned as much as I have in only a month.  The Balkan region has so much history and many political issues its mind blowing.

I learned a lot about Serbian and Montenegrin culture as well.  People here are so free and they live their lives to the fullest.  Their lifestyles here are so different; they do not have as much wealth and opportunities as Americans, but yet they make more out of what they have than Americans.  Americans take life and what they have been handed for granted.

From this trip, the meetings with government officials and Serbs and Montenegrins in their day to day lives, I have learned that you have to look at the bigger picture.  You cannot be so close-minded; instead, you have to look at life and situations from other people's perspectives.  It is important to understand events occurring around the world and to be informed and knowledgeable on issues.  I could not have asked for a better experience from this trip and I hope I will never forget what I have the learned and my fun times while being here.

Emnet Sebhatu:

I would say this was one of the best experiences of my life and I would recommend it to anyone. What made this Study Abroad special was a number of things. The geopolitics of the region, the breakup of former Yugoslavia, and the fact that Serbia and the other countries were all in this transition mode towards EU integration. We were able to meet with experts in the fields of analysis, human rights, diplomacy, and various government offices/NGOs.  Being able to take in all this information from different sources helped give me a deeper knowledge of the Balkans and the Serbian mind set.  The cultural excursions to the Opera and the monasteries were just as worth it as well. If we didn't understand the history and mindset of the region it would have been nearly impossible to explain what happened in the region.

Daniel Hotchkiss:

I feel that it was a great opportunity to be in a country that is in this kind of a transitional period.  I have now seen the EU and NATO from the perspective of a potential member, rather than just studying them.  I have also seen how hard it is to get a flourishing democracy up and running and how much we take ours for granted.

Michael Ursic:

I have become more interested overall in global politics, but I have always viewed operations from the American perspective.  Being in Serbia has given me a whole new perspective, how there are always two sides to every conflict; and it cannot always be seen as black and white.  The trip gave me not only a better understanding of the Balkans; but an even better understanding of my country as well.

Drew Clayton:

As I reflect on this trip and all that I have learned I cannot get over the simple fact that the world is much bigger than I ever knew. Serbia and Montenegro are but small states but they are vastly important and their landscapes are as vast as they are beautiful. I am forever changed by this experience and it will never leave my mind.

Wilson Sansbury:

I learned more about international politics and foreign relations than I have in a multiple semesters of normal classes. The structure of the meetings, the different motives of each organization and the consistent exposure to the people of Belgrade and Montenegro were probably the most important elements of the trip. I have formed a lot of personal relationships with the people here and I hold these experiences to a high esteem because political science is about the study of the people and if you don't know the people, you don't know the politics.

Alex Barnes:

I felt that the trip allowed me to see a wide spectrum of views that are present in Serbia and not just focused on a US view or the Serbian Government's official position.  Along with the meetings we also met students both in Serbia and Montenegro. I was so surprised how easy it was to befriend people that live so far from where I do, and also how easy it was to have a civil discussion on important issues.  We disagreed on some but it was very good to see the other perspectives and also why they believe the way they do.  I also found it interesting that just like the United States there are a variety of views and a variety of reasons for believing a certain view.  I found that many of the stereotypes of the Balkans and of the people of the Balkans is quickly destroyed when you visit and talk with these people and I feel the same happened with their view of Americans.  This trip opened my eyes to a very different world.

Ben Denison:

Overall, I feel this trip was an amazing experience I would never trade back for anything in the world.  The different political leaders and movers in Serbia and Montenegro we met could never be rivaled by any other program.  While we were students, the frankness and level of knowledge we got from our presentations made at least me feel like they were briefing me as a politician and it was almost like a foreign policy internship which is a great experience.  I feel I have grown as a student and as a global citizen in this trip to give me a greater tool box in operating in further schooling and the world, and feel this trip has even helped me get a head start on my future career options.  Not many people can say they were briefed by the kinds of people that we were able to get to brief us, and hearing information like that is invaluable.  This was a great experience and I only wish I could have experienced more.

Cody Hysell:

The study abroad trip to Serbia was the most enlightening cultural experience of my life.  I have learned so much throughout my time in Serbia, Montenegro and Croatia that I will take with me through the rest of my life.  This was a great opportunity to absorb and dive into a completely different and unique culture.  We had meetings with such influential individuals in Serbia and throughout the entire region.  Speaking with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Serbia and the U.S. Ambassador in Montenegro were experiences that I only dreamed about.  This is an amazing program that allows students to have direct experiences and dialogue with important individuals and organizations. Serbia has surprised me in many ways; including the friendliness of the people, the unique cuisine and the overall similarities between the American culture I know and Serbian culture.  This has been one of the best experiences of my life and I am so blessed and fortunate that I could have this great opportunity.

AnneMarie Haynsworth:

I don't think I can say enough to convey what a truly amazing time I've had this past month. I didn't know what to expect coming to Serbia but it has exceeded every expectation I could have had. Everyone I've met has been warm, open and friendly and I can honestly say I haven't had one bad encounter. I think my time there has taught me as much about myself as it has about the way of life and culture in this part of the world. This program was amazing. It provided us the opportunity to meet so many influential and well-respected people in society and government. I would recommend this program to anyone! I think stepping out of the box and doing something different can often end in the most rewarding experiences. All in all, the past month here has been the chance of a lifetime and I would not trade one minute of it!