Learning My Way around Belgrade

After a quarter long departure seminar, packing, and a very long flight, I can’t believe that I’m actually here in Belgrade! I’ve been here for about three days, and it has been exciting taking in the new sites, meeting new people, and trying new food. I especially love the nice weather. Today it’s about 90 degrees and beautiful outside. It’s so uplifting to wake up in the morning and to see a clear blue sky through your window.


So far we’ve had two lectures. One of them given was given by a faculty member from the University of Belgrade’s political science department. He spoke extensively about the current history of the Balkans with a focus on Serbia. He was extremely knowledgeable and had a great sense of humor. One story stuck out to me during that lecture. While we were busing to the department, we saw the ruins of a building which used to house the Yugoslav Ministry of Defense. In 1999, NATO bombed Belgrade, and the building was hit by a tomahawk missile. During the lecturer said during his presentation that NATO was very precise during the bombing, and that closest encounter he had to the bombing was that a post office that was really close to his house was reduced to rubble while he was reading in his home. For me seeing the destroyed building and hearing the faculty’s story really made the history I had learned about in class more real and personal. I feel that I will have a lot of moments like that during the rest of the seminar, especially when we go to Srebrenica.


The second lecture we had was at the office of the Helsinki Committee in Belgrade. A lady who is a very high ranking official came and talked to us. She was very nice and knowledgeable. The Helsinki Committee is a major NGO in Serbia and does extensive work with education and human rights. It is also prints out a number of reports about the state of human rights and other topics in the region. The main thing that stuck out to me about her talk was the status of minorities in Serbia, especially in regards to Albanians.
Belgrade is quite different from Seattle. There is a mixture of old architecture which is hundreds and hundreds years old, architecture from the communist era, and modern architecture. There are so many people walking around everywhere, and the city seems to be built around the pedestrian which I love.


My favorite part of being in Serbia though is the language. Since I am very interested in Slavic languages, I get really excited whenever I hear or read a word I recognize in Serbian.


My main worry during this seminar was communication with friends and family back home. Near the dorms we are staying at in Belgrade, there is a very hip café run by an American couple. They serve tasty drinks, and have great internet. Even though I’m having a lot of fun here, it is nice that I am able to keep in touch with people back home.


I can’t wait until our literature class tomorrow and CHID classes tomorrow!