Click to read about Sarah’s time in Bosnia at her blog, Sarah In Sarajevo!


1. Why did you choose Northeastern University?  IMG_0090a

I wasn’t really sure what co-op was when I first applied. But after I got accepted, I came up here and heard the whole co-op spiel. I really like that there is an idea that there is a certain confidence in the classes, that the teachers have to believe there is a real truth and application to what they are teaching in the real world. And what they learn in the real world will confirm what students have been taught. I like as well that Northeastern is very much the antithetical “bubble” school, I visited and applied to some other schools which I won’t name that just felt like it was the campus and nothing else.

2. Why did you choose International Affairs and Arabic as a language?

I was originally a Sociology/International Affairs double major, but once I started taking classes I realized I enjoyed the IAF classes more and downgraded Sociology to a minor.

Why minor in Arabic? I love Arabic, I think it is the greatest language. I’m always trying to convince people to take it, but sometimes poor souls who I convince to follow me down the path turn against me when they realize how difficult it is. I had no exposure to Arabic before Northeastern, but I’ve always been passionate about refugee issu es in the Middle-East. I saw how a refugee crisis could affect generations as some of my ancestors were refugees as well. I had no idea I would enjoy Arabic before I took it, but that interest in Middle-Eastern refugee crises inspired me to take the classes, as well as major in IAF.

3. Why co-op in Bosnia at the Office of the High Representative?

tumblr_my7xgabABl1svqwmko5_500 I’ve always had an issue in post-conflict issues. Bosnia seemed like the ideal place to look into those studies. In many ways it is stable, but there are still serious ramifications and reconciliation issues that should have been addressed twenty years ago that are still being addressed. The Office of the High Representative is where I co-oped. It’s hard to explain what it is as there is no equivalent I know of in other places. Basically, the Peace Agreement created a High Representative, sort of the living embodiment of this document. He’s tasked with monitoring the treaty and implementing it. The Office was granted powers which include removing politicians and en-stating laws. In some ways it is problematic because of the power that they wield. So many people have questions because of this vaguely important sounding co-op.

4. What were your responsibilities at the Office of the High Representative (OHR)?

I think the most important thing I did was work on a forward planning project. 2015 is an election year on all levels in Bosnia, local and state. It will be very contentious, even while I was there the pre-election campaigning included a lot of nationalist rhetoric, especially because this year was the first census since the war which will be released before the election which could be controversial. Basically I created this document which mapped out different issues in the next year which the OHR would be required to address. Sometimes they have a very reactive stance, and they are trying to reassert themselves to a pro-active stance.

The job was more project-based, it was a little unclear as they had three assistants who had been working there for a long time so it took a little while to find my place. There were a lot of meetings, I got to sit in on parliament and government meetings. I was able to meet the vice-presidents of several local countries as well.

5. How was your experience living in Bosnia, not knowing the language?

A good amount of people in Sarajevo spoke English, mainly younger who had learned it in high school and English. In rural areas it was definitely more difficult not knowing Serbo-Croatian. I ended up living with a few Bosnian students who really helped me transition into living in a new country.

Socializing was a lot more about camaraderie, I really enjoyed my time there both professionally and socially. I was able to travel a bit in Croatia as well as Turkey.

 6. How was your co-op in Bosnia affected your future plans?tumblr_mupr6aFPMT1svqwmko1_500

I was hesitant to commit myself to post-conflict issues, because of how long it takes to progress. Its very intimidating to think of spending your entire career working and not see improvement, just stalemate and stagnation, which is common in Bosnia certainly. But I realized that I care enough about these issues to commit myself. In the future I want to work in the same field, but would like to locate myself in the Middle-East to work on refugee issues and practice Arabic if possible. I’m a little unsure about the future, like everyone, but I really think I focused myself during my co-op in Bosnia.