Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Kosovo: Can I Go Back to the Balkans Now, Please? Past Review

By (Anthropology., Tufts University) 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?
I want to return to the Balkans, and I'm sure that I will. That changes my future plans, since I hadn't been sure before if I'd want to live abroad. I think I do want to spend some years in Belgrade now that I've been there.

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 2 weeks - 1 month

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

Again, language classes were great. It's just difficult to have one professor - the academic director - for the two other seminars we had, since we sometimes spent long hours in the classroom when we weren't traveling. When we were traveling, lecturers were usually excellent, especially because they could give us such a real, local picture of events in the former Yugoslavia (and they were usually interesting, approachable people as well). I think the "being abroad" part and the small size of the seminar made it more difficult to get work done than at my university; still, I learned a lot from this program and none of that is negated by the occasional academic hiccups.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

Overall, administration was good, though sometimes their knowledge of American higher ed was sometimes lacking. Generally easy to reach and helpful if it's something within their scope of things to do.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

I was treated wonderfully by my host family, like a family member who happened to have very bad language skills. I lived in hotels and hostels with the group when we traveled, which was fun, and during the independent research period I lived in an apartment with American friends. We did not need to furnish the apartment, just keep it clean, and we cooked for ourselves.

* Food:

I have no dietary restrictions, and I loved my host mother's cooking.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

We traveled around in Serbia, Kosovo, and Bosnia and Herzegovina with the program - it was all arranged and well-run.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

* Safety:

I think Belgrade is very safe. We were told that no one had heard of muggings, or even robbery, and in terms of healthcare, our SIT insurance worked at the top clinics in Belgrade, which are private and rather expensive, but reliable. They have English-speaking, capable doctors and the quality of care is good.

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)

Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? SIT gives a stipend for meals that aren't covered by the program: all meals during orientation, lunches for the weekdays when we're with host families, and all meals not eaten as a group (and paid for by SIT, except for alcohol) when we're traveling. It's a good system, because it's given in several installments, and food is cheaper in the Balkans. Independent travel can be costly, depending on your destination, so that's an important expense to keep in mind.


* Did your program have a foreign language component? Yes
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? I did not take any Bosnian/Serbian/Croatian prior to departure.
If applicable, to what degree did your living situation aid your language acquisition?

Language acquisition improvement?

I used the host country language every day, though I did not have to, because most young people in Belgrade speak English. My host family did not have much English, so I learned a lot of the language from them, and I made language-learning a priority (keeping the TV on Serbian channels, attempting conversation with host parents and people in shops). I learned a lot because I really worked to, but even for my classmates who had other priorities or host families with more English, this semester was a great one for learning the language. The language education is very good and excursions, like to the zoo, make it fun. It's also not too rigorous, freeing up time for exploring Belgrade.

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Apartment
  • Hotel
  • Host Family
  • Hostel
* 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? Adventurous people, anyone interested in the region, anyone interested in peace, reconciliation, history, religion, anthropology, sociology, political science, psychology, drama, music,... essentially, people looking for a unique region that's not Americanized - or at least, not in ways that you expect or look for.