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Let’s Talk About Bosnia [SURE Stories]

The following blog post was written by UHP student and SURE Award winner Sarah Freeman-Woolpert.

Screen Shot 2015-04-23 at 12.27.23 PMThis past winter, I traveled to Bosnia and Herzegovina to conduct interviews for my senior thesis on how divided ethno-national identity affects collective youth activism and civic engagement in Bosnia today. With funding from the Sigelman Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE) Award, I spent two weeks interviewing young activists and university students about methods of youth engagement with the country’s current socio-political problems, like a 60% recorded youth unemployment rate and the corrupt, ineffective political system divided along ethno-national lines.

Sarah Freeman-WoolpertTraveling during the holidays gave me an intimate lens into the lives of local people who hosted me during my stay. I was welcomed warmly into the homes of many families who treated me as a member of their family during their holiday celebrations. I spent New Year’s Eve in the divided city of Mostar, in an unheated house with an older couple. Together, we huddled under blankets and had a long, wonderful conversation despite not speaking more than a few words of each others’ language. A week later, I spent Orthodox Christmas with a family in East Sarajevo. We ate roast lamb for breakfast, then I lay around watching the Kardashians with the family’s two teenage daughters.

Screen Shot 2015-04-23 at 12.28.35 PMAt the end of my trip, I had recorded 16 hours of interviews and gained a more nuanced understanding of the issues facing young people in Bosnia today, and the ways youth engage with these problems—or choose not to engage at all. But I also left with a deep appreciation for the local culture and customs, which has influenced my desire to return to the region after graduation. I plan to continue researching inter-ethnic youth relations in post-conflict societies to get at the heart of how conflicts perpetuate between generations, addressing the roots of disagreement to prevent these from transforming into future violent conflict.