Past Review

By (Political Science and Peace and Justice Studies, Wellesley College) for

SIT Study Abroad: Belgrade, Budapest, and Vienna - Comparative European Perspectives on Conflict and Democracy

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
It definitely was... the most important thing for me on this trip was the gaining on self-confidence. Wellesley is a tough school: all the women are extremely smart and talented, and sometimes I feel like I am in an intellectual bubble. This program definitely popped that bubble for me and helped me really push myself in the field and confirmed my love for peace and justice studies. I definitely gained a sense of confidence, increased maturity, and intellectual knowledge that is unique to field study. I love the Balkans- not a lot of people decide to study in those countries but it is DEFINITELY worth a shot.

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 1 month - 6 months
The term and year this program took place: Spring 2010

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

The academics were not incredibly challenging, but our guest lecturers and NGO visits were wonderful and supplemented our learning well. Every opportunity we had to get out of the classroom was wonderful and cherished by the group. Our days were incredibly long, however, but such is life when you are trying to cover complex topics in 10 weeks of study. The workload was challenging, with about 6 papers in total, three language tests, 2 language oral exams, and the ISP at the end, but definitely doable. I definitely could feel the cultural difference in local professors when we had language class and guest lectures but it was definitely a positive experience (aside from a particularly challenging experience with a Serbian language professor).

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

I gave a 4/5 mostly due to my experience in Croatia. The administration there, especially our assistant Goga, was amazing. Extremely accessible, always helpful, and most importantly, KIND. In Serbia, sadly, this was not the case. Our homestay coordinator was extremely inaccessible and our program assistant was much younger than our assistant in Zagreb and was unable to help us in ways that our Croatia assistant could.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

In Croatia, I stayed in an apartment in the Zagreb neighborhood of Spansko with two host parents and their children when they were around. In Belgrade, I lived about 20 minutes outside downtown in a house with two host parents. <br /><br /> The only problem I had with the location of homestay families both in Zagreb and Belgrade was my commute time. I had a 40 minute commute in Zagreb and a 30 minute commute in Belgrade. That was very difficult during rush hour. Both neighborhoods were safe from what I could tell but it definitely took a while to get to the center of the city for nightlife. I was treated with respect for the most part from my host families with the exception of a few cultural relativism bumps (aka- I must always wear slippers in the house, I have to leave the house with socks on no matter the weather, etc). For my ISP I lived in an apartment with two other Americans, one from my group and one who was a volunteer for the NGO I was volunteering for. For this, I needed to buy my own food but that was it.

* Food:

I had no troubles since I eat pretty much everything, but the vegetarians in our group had to be specific as to what they do and do not eat and they had to explain multiple times why they did not eat meat. This region is very meat-heavy so be aware of this before you arrive. The quality of the food... SPLENDID.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

To be honest, I didn't get a lot of time to go out but group dinners and our time in Bosnia was especially wonderful. We had lots of field trips and excursions... the trip itself is only 10 days in Bosnia so it was essentially an excursion. That is what made Bosnia so memorable for me.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

* Safety:

I will focus on one incident I had that was supposedly rare but still happened... in Zagreb, I was mugged at knifepoint outside of a club. Zagreb is an incredibly safe city but this is a perfect example of the fact that things can always happen no matter where you are. I am fine and was not injured, but I learned a few lessons. 1- Don't ever leave a place at night by yourself. Bad idea. 2- Do not keep a lot of money on you, and don't have it all in one place. 3- Look out for your friends... if they are leaving alone, go with them. Power in numbers. Belgrade is less safe but I never had any trouble because I stayed in groups.

If you could do it all over again would you choose the same program? Yes


* Money: How easily were you able to live on a student's budget?

(1 = not very easy/$200+ on food & personal expenses/week, 2.5 = $100/week, 5 = very easily/minimal cost)

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? SIT gave us a weekly stipend that was perfect for food every week and I always was able to save a little extra for personal expenses.
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? I did not have any unanticipated expenses except for after I was mugged. I lost a lot of money that night because I had just exchanged money... don't ever go out right after exchanging money. Keep your money in a safe place. Also- food is not expensive in the Balkans at all... you really shouldn't have any money troubles.


How would you rate your language skills at the beginning of the program? None
What was the highest level language course you had completed prior to departure? none
If applicable, to what degree did your living situation aid your language acquisition?

Language acquisition improvement?

I did not know a single word of Croatian/Serbian/Bosnian when I arrived... now I can hold conversations for a decent amount of time and am able to chat with my homestay families to a point! I practiced with my professor, my homestay families, and a TON on my ISP... which helped so much. I definitely needed that language study because in the Balkans, there are people that know English in the cities, but when you go to rural areas (like the area of my ISP), you cannot count on knowledge of English.

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Hostel
  • Apartment
  • Host Family
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family
  • Americans
* Who did you take classes with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans

A Look Back

* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? This is not your typical study abroad experience. Think and choose carefully. If you're ready to be challenged mentally and emotionally, this is the right program. It's intense, quick-paced, but worth it.

Individual Course Reviews

Course Name/Rating:

Thematic Seminar: Post-Conflict Transformation in the Balkans

Course Department: PEAC 3000
Instructor: Dr. Orli Fridman
Instruction Language: English
Comments: This course was our largest and most intense course and covered all topics, from the breakup of Yugoslavia to a small section about Kosovo. It was the most demanding in terms of writing assignments and readings. The guest lectures used for this seminar were awesome and definitely helped foster our discussions about conflict in the region. The teacher was incredibly knowledgeable. I participated in class with SIT about the same amount as I would in my smaller, discussion based courses at Wellesley.
Credit Transfer Issues: I have not yet transferred credits but I do not foresee any difficulties.
Course Name/Rating:

Intensive Language Study

Course Department: SERB 1000-3000
Instructor: Marija Bosnjak and Nebojsa (do not know his last name)
Instruction Language: Croatian/Serbian/Bosnian
Comments: Our language instruction in Croatia was AMAZING and our professor, Marija, was fantastic. I was surprised at how much I learned in such a short period of time. My time with Nebojsa in Belgrade, however, was a disaster. He was never prepared, went on tangents that were not pertinent to our language study, and was at times offensive. My experience in Croatia, however, made up for it and I was very pleased with how much I learned in such a short period of time.
Credit Transfer Issues: n/a do not foresee problems
Course Name/Rating:

Field Study Seminar

Course Department: ANTH 3500
Instructor: Dr. Orli Fridman
Instruction Language: English
Comments: This course was pretty helpful in helping learn methods of research and field study, however, I often found myself saying "I already know this". The course was not challenging and the assignments were mostly cultural drop offs in the city to help us with our fieldwork and use of interviews. This course often turned into lecture so I often did not speak as much as I normally do.
Credit Transfer Issues: n/a do not foresee problems but doubt that I will get credit due to short number of hours
Course Name/Rating:

Independent Study Project

Course Department: ISPR 3000
Instructor: n/a
Instruction Language: n/a
Comments: This was not a course, but instead a field study opportunity that is graded as a course based on the project component at the end. It was challenging but in the best kind of way. It was our opportunity to do independent work and it was extremely academically fulfilling. I absolutely loved my ISP time. It helped me mature as a student and a person and learn to be proud of myself and my work abroad.
Credit Transfer Issues: n/a do not foresee issues