Best of the Balkans
Over the course of ten days in three different countries, JFRC students journeyed through the Balkans to learn about fundamental historical events, diplomatic relationships, and Balkan culture. This journey was as much one of self-discovery as it was discovering the culture and history, both ancient and modern, of these three countries. Beginning the journey in Serbia; seventeen students, Dr. Anne Wingenter (Assistant Professor of Modern History), and Chandni Patel (Student Life Assistant) were greeted by Belgrade’s best local expert, Jelena Zivkovic. Professor Zivkovic carried out historical tours throughout Belgrade and Novi Sad, lecturing on-site about Belgrade’s former status as the capital of the former Republic of Yugoslav and the formation of present day Serbia.
As an individual who lived through the communist era, Professor Zivkovic was able to share both a personal and historical account leading up to Serbia’s independence, inspiring students to develop a well-rounded impression about growing up in a communist state. Serbia is currently projected to join the European Union in year 2020. As part of the study trip, students met with U.S. Ambassador Michael Kirby to discuss American diplomatic initiatives to assist modern Serbia in attaining this goal. While in Belgrade, students also visited the Nikola Tesla Museum, the Yugoslav History Museum, and the Bajrakli Mosque – the only mosque in Belgrade.
Crossing over the border into the beautiful and snow-covered region of Bosnia-Herzegovina, students were immediately welcomed to the city of Sarajevo by a variety of impressions. In the catalyst city which sparked the First World War, students unknowingly stood in the exact location of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand before having one of the most grand and meat heavy meals of their lives. In Sarajevo, students were able to almost simultaneously touch and feel Catholicism, Orthodoxy, Judaism and Islam after visiting the Cathedral of Jesus’ Heart, Cathedral of the Nativity of the Theotokos, the Ashkenazi Synagogue and the Ferhadija Mosque – institutions that represent four of the most dominant religions in the world. Traveling towards the small town of Mostar, the journey stopped along the way to visit the quaint and magical Herzegovinian towns of Konjic, Pocitelj, and Blagaj, allowing students to rock climb, relax near waterfalls and embrace the genuine charm of each town.
The ten day journey ended on the sunny Dalmatian coast in Split, Croatia to allow students two days of independent adventure. Concluding in Split encouraged students to compare three very diverse countries in the Balkan region.