“When a path reveals itself, follow it.”
It has been seven extraordinary months in Serbia. Months filled with self-discovery, cultural immersion, challenges and new relationships.
I arrived in Serbia full of ideas and eager to engage with the community. However, I unknowingly carried many misconceptions about myself and Serbia. Simply my ideas were naïve. In stepping outside of my comfort zone and moving to a city lacking any familiarity, I was challenged in a way I had never expected to be. In the beginning, I was overwhelmed with feelings of loneliness, uselessness and thoughts of “why did I think I could do this?”
Every belief and standard I had set for myself was challenged. After the initial “panic” I stepped into roles I never imagined myself in: assistant teacher at a university, humanitarian aid volunteer and co-founder of a youth development organization. Needless to say, the feelings of loneliness, uselessness and the thoughts that paralleled them have floated away.
On the plane to Serbia the word impact permeated through my mind. I had such high expectations and hopes of the impact I would leave on Serbia. My career goal was simple minded at the time, I wanted to change the world. Serbia has given me a dose of realism and I don’t think I will change the world anymore. The world has a mind of its own and it will change me countless more time before I can begin to change it.
What makes a country is it’s people. And my students, friends and colleagues here have made my admiration for Serbia boundless. I could write paragraphs on the impact these peoples have left on me, but I will leave that for another time.
After two months of intense humanitarian work in southern Serbia, while systematically learning the ropes in my new position of “Fulbright ETA” at the University of Niš, I began the process of co-founding NorthStar. My colleagues (or rather dear friends) and I envision a youth and academic development organization, which serves as a voice and motivator to youth in Serbia. With few youth development organizations based in the south of Serbia, we were inspired to start one of our own, aiming to support youth in the form of various workshops, exchange sponsorships, refugee support, community engagement and work opportunities.
I spent most of the winter months bouncing around Serbia, scribbling my ideas down in notebooks, being inspired by my students and trying to come up with a plan. Some of my ideas soared and others faltered and while my Fulbright grant will be ending on June 15th, I feel that it is not yet my time to go. If I did, I would be leaving things unfinished and relationships underdeveloped. (Also, how else am I going to continue learning Serbian…?) After a quick 6-week trip back to the United States this summer, you will find me in Serbia for the remainder of the year, where I will be simultaneously working for North Star, pursuing my masters, dabbling in the construction business and fluttering about the Balkans.