Loyola University Chicago

John Felice Rome Center

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Best of the Balkans: Not Your Average Spring Break

"As Student Life Assistant Ryan Bedell described, 'Even if this trip doesn’t change the course of your life, it will split it in two; you will have the life you lived before the trip and one that begins after”. No truer nor more eloquent words have been spoken. You might be one of the people that asks, 'What is the Balkans and is that a gelato flavor?' The Balkans is a region to Italy’s east. We made stops in Serbia, Bosnia, and Croatia. I can personally vouch that these places are so underrated by student travelers. Think, when is the last time you heard your friend say they were going to Bosnia for the weekend? It likely has not happened. These countries have the beauty of Greece, the war history of Germany, and the food of Italy. Each offers a new and unique experience, with highlights including fortresses, mountains, natural springs, beautiful markets/shopping, Turkish coffee, war torn buildings, various currencies, and the bread, WOW, the bread is amazing. Additionally, the Bosnia-Serbian war of the 1990’s, which many of us admittedly did not know much about, still presents fresh wounds, destroyed families, abandoned buildings, and mass graves that are still being uncovered to this day. The history and differing perspectives we experienced puts a lot of things on the front of your mind and made all of us appreciate more the safety and security we have in our lives. Go to these countries. Take a risk and experience eastern Europe in a way most students don’t. Ask any of the trip participants for recommendations and they will blab your head off for hours. Many thanks to our Student Life Assistants Ryan and Fran, as well as Dr. Anne Wingenter for a trip that did change the course of my life." -Aaron Carlson, Loyola University Chicago, 2017

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"I usually journal about my study abroad experience but for the Balkans trip, I felt that I didn’t have to because the experience was going to live with me forever. We started in Belgrade to learn about the many bombings and wars the city has been through and how it has impacted the culture. The Serbians are strong willed, love to enjoy life by going to night clubs and indulging in various meat dishes. Our tour guide explained that Serbians live in the moment because of their past. When a taxi driver some students and I had, pointed out bombed buildings and accused, 'Look what your people did'. It made me feel for them but also wrongly blamed. When we entered Bosnia we learned about the genocide that was committed against the Bosniac Muslims by the Orthodox Serbians. It now brought light to why NATO had bombed Belgrade. We felt welcomed in Sarajevo because the locals were appreciative we were learning about them so something like that doesn’t happen again. After all, it was an Olympic City in 1984 and a war zone by 1992. I walked away with a lot from this trip, the blind hate people can have, the importance of dropping grudges, and to enjoy life because you never know what turn it can take." -Lukas Gilius, Loyola University Chicago, 2018