Beginner English Language Learning Plus (BELL+) Program Launched in Serbia











As of October 22, 2017, the the Beginner English Language Learning (BELL+) program has been officially launched at all eight eight American Corners across Serbia. This semester alone, BELL+ will provide free-of-charge beginner English language instruction to adults from Serbia with the aim of increasing participant employability. Over the course of the academic year, additional courses, including TOEFL strategy orientations, will also be introduced.

October 21-22, the BELL+ teachers, who include alumni of the FLEX and UGRAD programs,  participated in an intensive training and orientation. Inspiration for effective communicative instruction and strategies for supporting adult learners were shared by Regional English Language Officer Jen MacArthur and Serbia-based Fulbright English Language Fellow Jean Linehan. With extensive experience of their own, BELL+ teachers also benefited from sharing best practices and teaching resources.




Travelling Serbia and Testing Students for FLEX: An American in Zaječar!

My name’s is Bo Knutson, and I’m working this Fall as a Participant Recruiter for the FLEX and YES Programs. I first worked in this position nine years ago, in the Fall of 2009, and since then I have recruited in 5 years in Russia, Ukraine, Kosovo, Macedonia, and Serbia. This year I have the opportunity to recruit in Serbia, Ukraine, and Bulgaria. I thought I’d share some impressions from my first testing center on recruitment trail this Fall, to give you an idea of what it’s like to be a Participant Recruiter for the FLEX and YES Programs. For me, part of the appeal of recruiting is that it yields a lot of rich impressions, and the work constantly provides glimpses into the everyday lives of teachers, students, and people who live in towns outside of capitol cities, or conventional destinations for travelers.

My first recruitment trip this fall took me to Zaječar, a city of about 50,000 people in eastern Serbia, close to the border with Bulgaria. To give a brief pronunciation note, ‘j’ is always pronounced as a ‘y’ in Serbian/Croatian/Bosnian and the diacritic above the letter ‘c’ is pronounced ‘ch’- ZA-ye-char. My recruiting partner on this trip was my co-worker and friend Sanja, whose name in Serbian means ‘she dreams’ (or, ‘he dreams’).


We left the office in the afternoon and arrived to Zaječar in the early evening. Zaječar is known in Serbia for its brewery that produces above average beer, and for hosting an annual a rock music festival- ‘Gitarijada,’ that is entering its 67th year of operation.

Just googling the town yields some interesting and unexpected information- the Romans palace built a palace in Zaječar in the late 3rd century B.C. and in the 4th century the city produced 3 successive Roman emperors. As a region, the Balkans are thick with history from many different empires and occupying powers. For me, it was impossible not to ponder the juxtaposition between the sleepy, calm, clean town of  Zaječar with the  Zaječar of the 3rd and 4th century- a bustling center of trade between Romans and Thracians, that hosted a grand palace and spawned emperors. What would the students be like?


When we arrived to the hotel in Zaječar, Sanja gave me an amused but cryptic warning- “Last year, if I remember correctly, the hotel rooms were very blue.” Indeed, when we arrived, nearly everything in my hotel suite was the color blue, including the sheets on the bed. There isn’t much more that I can say to convey the absolute blueness of the hotel suite. After dinner, we returned to our hotel rooms, wrangled with hotel wi-fi (a common activity for recruiters) and relaxed to be ready for testing the following morning.

We set off at about 8 a.m. to walk to the host school where testing would take place. My girlfriend’s dog is from Zaječar, and he is a rambunctious an endless source of energy amusement. So as we walked to the testing center school  I found myself distractedly staring at all of the strays that we passed as they lolled in the grass or merrily skipped past us. On the way, we passed some fun street art that represented the two aforementioned things that  Zaječar is best known for in Belgrade.


When we arrived to the school, we were met by Ognjen and Jelena, two recently returned FLEX Program alumni. They had arrived to help us with FLEX testing. Their key role was to help us ‘register’ students, giving them a FLEX I.D. card/answer sheet, a welcome notice with information about the program, and by helping them staple their photo to their I.D. card.


A lot of the excitement of round 1 of FLEX testing takes place during this stage registration, when large crowds of applicants and curious students gather and crowd around the registration tables. Inevitably, parents also show up, sometimes asking the team questions.

While the alumni registered students, Sanja and I prepared the rooms and the materials for testing. At 9 a.m., we began to admit students to the testing room, checking their I.D.s for eligibility as they enter- applicants for the 2018-19 FLEX program need to have been born between January 1, 2001 and July 15, 2003.


As we checked I.D. cards to determine eligibility, I noticed that the I.D. that many of school I.D. booklets as identification that the students provided had the pictures ripped out. I asked a student, where is your I.D.’s picture? ‘Here,’ he said, offering me the small passport sized picture with his other hand. He, along with many other students, had had ripped his picture out of his school ID booklet in order to use it for FLEX round 1 participation.

It took about 30-35 minutes for us to test each group of students, explaining to them how to take the test, implementing the test, and then giving information on how they may find the results online around lunchtime.  Recruiters have the test administration down to a system, and are able to move students in, test them, and move them out with efficiency.


For this reason, round 1 testing normally doesn’t allow for much interaction with the students. The students faces are a gallery of determination, attentive nervousness, giddy excitement, and stoic reserve.

We started at about 9am, and the students were well-behaved and polite, and we were able to stay on schedule. We ended up finishing our testing students by 11a.m.; in total we tested  57 students for round 1. As this total for round 1 was lower than expected, we corresponded with senior FLEX staff in Ukraine on the number of students to invite to round 2. We were able to take about half of the students who attended round 1. This was great for us, and for the students, as we wanted to bring as many students as possible to round 2. About half of the students were from Zaječar, and the rest were from smaller towns in Eastern Serbia- places with names like Bor, Negotin, and Knjaževac.

After grading the tests and posting the list of invitees for round two, we had time for a short lunch.  For testing centers with smaller turnout, we are usually able to conduct round 2 of testing in the same day, in the afternoon. Round 2 consists of completing an information sheet about the student, and three essays in English that allow the applicant to expand on their interest in the program.

We returned from our lunch break to find some of the round 2 students already assembled and ready to continue with FLEX testing. They smiled at us as we entered, and we got down to business. Altogether, the administration of the round 2 essays and information sheet takes a little more than one hour, and we have a little more time to interact with this smaller group of students. But as anyone who works with students knows, small moments always stand out. This time, as we assisted the students complete the information sheet together, one bright-eyed student in a leather jacket pointed to the ‘name’ field on the info sheet, and asked me, ‘What should I write here?’

I said, ‘Well, what’s your name?’

He answered, ‘Milan- like the city.’ He puffed his chest, patted his jacket, and said, ‘You know- fashion!’

After we finished the information sheet, we gave the students the instructions on how to write their round 2 essays, and read them translations of the questions in Serbian. After a collective deep breath, the students began the essay. During the essay, the students were deep in getting their thoughts on paper, as Sanja and I organized our materials. When time ran out, we collected and counted the students essays to ensure that we had one from every student, and gave them some basic information about the third round before bidding them farewell. Later, towards the end of the month, we would hold round 3 and interview 15 of these Zaječar students. But that, along with round 3 recruiting for FLEX testing, is another story altogether…

I am learning Bulgarian / Аз Уча Български

By  Margaret Gleason, YES abroad 2017/2018, Bulgaria

“Happy October everyone!


It’s October.

I got here in August.

I have now officially spent an entire calendar month in Bulgaria.


I would write a reflection looking back on my first month in Bulgaria — what I’ve learned, what I’ve done, what challenges I’ve faced — but I feel like most of those things have been documented in previous blog posts, so if you want to read about them I suggest you click here and spend some time exploring the archives.

Instead, I thought I would commemorate the completion of 1/10 of my exchange with a post on the subject about which I get the most questions and whose influence on my exchange will probably be greater than pretty much anything else: Learning Bulgarian.

For those that don’t know, Bulgarian is a Slavic language (like Russian, Polish, Bosnian/Serbian/Croatian and others) which uses the Cyrillic alphabet. In fact, according to most people I’ve met here, St. Cyril and his brother Methodius, the men who created the Cyrillic script, were Bulgarian (though the Greeks and Macedonians also claim them as their own and historians can’t agree on who’s right).

If you are like the majority of my friends and family, you are now thinking, “Wow, a whole new alphabet? That must be insanely hard.” Believe it or not, learning Cyrillic has probably been the easiest part of my Bulgarian studies so far. It was basically the only thing I knew when I arrived here! I’m still a very slow reader and occasionally (read: frequently) make mistakes when sounding words out, but if you were to quiz me on what sound each letter makes I would get 100%.

For me, the most difficult part has been memorizing vocabulary. Over our first two weeks in-country we had 28 hours of intensive Bulgarian lessons where every day I filled at least two pages with new grammar rules, verbs, and words. It was incredibly useful, but my daily retention of the material was maybe 15%. Seriously. I asked my host mom how to say ‘delicious’ every single night for a week before I finally got it down (Вкусно!). My inability to remember the simplest of words was in no way the fault of my teachers (s/o to Надя and Русанка for dealing with my exhausted, French-filled brain), but rather an inevitable side-effect of trying to shove an entirely new language in your head for four hours a day. Also I didn’t study enough.

Along with struggling to retain everything I was taught, I had to build up the courage to actually use what little I did remember in daily life. My host mom speaks sufficient English for us to communicate all the necessities plus some, so for the first few weeks I spoke essentially no Bulgarian at home. This was for several reasons: 1) I didn’t really know enough yet! (“Hello, I am Margaret. I am a student from America. I go to 18th School ‘William Gladstone’,” does not a conversation make) and 2), the more legitimate reason, I was nervous. Speaking a foreign language to native speakers when you know for a fact that you’re going to make mistake after mistake after mistake is terrifying. Most Bulgarians under 30 speak fluent or near-fluent English, making it very tempting and very easy to stay where I’m comfortable. But here’s the thing: Exchange isn’t supposed to be comfortable. This experience is all about stretching my boundaries and trying new things! So, about three weeks after I arrived, I informed my host mom that from there on out I would use Bulgarian whenever I could. Even if it meant forming half-Bulgarian, half-English sentences (which it almost always does) or if it took me three tries to accurately communicate a thought. I would make the effort.

Since then, I would say I’ve stuck to my promise…more or less. Because I know most basic verbs and a lot of random vocabulary but nothing particularly complicated, I often get halfway through a sentence before realizing I knew how to say most of it in Bulgarian. In order to form a phrase I usually have to think through the whole thing in my head first, which isn’t ideal for maintaining the flow of a conversation. Still, I’m working on it and can feel myself understanding a little more each day. Being surrounded by Bulgarian in school, while it can make staying focused a bit of a challenge, is definitely helping train my ear to pick out familiar words and phrases, as well as become more comfortable with the language’s rhythm and flow.

IMG_0059Most foreigners who come to Bulgaria don’t bother to learn the language, so the response from my peers, teachers, and random people on the street when I do use Bulgarian has been really positive. A favorite moment is when I was at one of the many bookstands on Slaveykov Square looking at a book that had Hristo Botev, Bulgaria’s most famous and beloved poet, poems printed in Bulgarian and French. Upon seeing me look only at the French side of the page, as well as some English-language books, the bookseller assumed I spoke no Bulgarian and began using hand gestures and basic English words to try and communicate to me that the price on the sticker was not what I would have to pay. As she was drawing “18” in the air, I managed to interrupt and say in Bulgarian, “I know numbers.” Her face lit up and she exclaimed, “Oh, чудесно!” (meaning “great”) and we proceeded to complete the transaction in her native tongue. It felt really, really good. This experience also stands out because in most stores, restaurants, etc., people respond in English even when I try to use Bulgarian because they can tell I’m a foreigner. Though English clearly wasn’t an option here, I loved hearing beautiful, native Bulgarian in response to my own broken attempt at the language.

Having not been at square one in serious language study since I was five, the extreme difficulty of this endeavor caught me slightly off-guard. I knew that it wasn’t going to be easy, but some part of me also assumed I would have some sort of intuitive sense for Bulgarian as I do for French, that I would be able to just figure things out as I go. Realizing that my Bulgarian will only develop through actual study and a lot of hard work, rather than by mere observation and absorption, took some adjusting. Luckily, Delaney, Makana, and Lily share in my desire to become as fluent as possible and we have plans to continue taking lessons together throughout the year. My host mom found me a private tutor who she wants me to meet with regularly as well. Hopefully the combination of two sets of lessons, studying on my own, and paying close attention to the Bulgarian swirling around me will do the trick. I guess I’ll find out soon enough! For now, I’ll have to be content with stumbling through the world, embarrassing myself at every turn, in the hopes that one day, someday, I’ll be able to order a salad all on my own.”

*  The article is from Margaret Gleason’s blog.

An American in Skopje: Exploring the Region and Working with Youth


When I found out that I would be placed in Skopje, Macedonia for the upcoming YES recruiting season, I was very excited. Although I had lived in Albania, I never had the chance to make it over to Macedonia.  Skopje will continue to be my hub location as I recruit for the YES program in Macedonia, Kosova and Albania this fall.

My first day at the office, I was warmly greeted by the wonderful American Councils staff in Macedonia. They immediately invited me to go hiking to Mt. Vodno the following day with the American YES Abroad students studying in Skopje.  Every free opportunity that I’ve had, I’ve been exploring Macedonia. I’ve hiked Mt. Vodno, visited famous Ohrid, taken numerous walks through Skopje’s Old Bazaar, and taken a boat ride through scenic Matka Canyon. Macedonia continues to amaze me with its natural beauty.

My favorite thing to do after I finish work is to study with my Macedonian language teacher. I thought that living in Skopje would provide me a wonderful new chance to learn another language.  We meet several times a week to study the most common phrases and words. It’s so rewarding to be able to use what I have learned in class to buy burek at my favorite bakery by the office, greet my neighbors, have small conversations at the supermarket, and decipher the alphabet on advertisements in the city.

From excursion to presentations, I’ve had several opportunities to meet YES alumni from Macedonia. All of them I have met talk so highly of their year in America and the impact being a YES finalist has had on their lives. What amazes me the most, however, is the dedication they have to spread the word about the YES program to every corner of Macedonia. These alumni and staff have been working hard to make sure that every eligible student is aware of the program. They’ve been giving interviews and presentations in multiple languages including: Albanian, Macedonian, and English.  

I can’t wait to meet more students from across the Balkans this fall!

Sarah Senior, American Councils Participant Recruiter


NEW! FREE English Language Lessons at American Corners in Serbia

BELL+ AnnouncementAko mislite da bi Vam znanje engleskog jezika pomoglo da pronađete odgovarajući posao, upišite se na besplatne tečajeve engleskog jezika za odrasle BELL+ u Američkom kutku u Vašem gradu!
Beginner English Language Learning Plus –  BELL +  je besplatni jednosemestralni program početnih kurseva engleskog jezika namenjen polaznicima starijim od 18 godina u cilju unapređenja kvalifikacija neophodnih na savremenom tržištu rada.  Časovi u trajanju od 90 minuta se održavaju dva puta nedeljno u prostorijama Američkog kutka, a pored osnova engleskog jezika, polaznici će imati priliku da se upoznaju sa američkom kulturom i vrednostima američkog društva. Program BELL + pod pokroviteljstvom Ambasade SAD u Srbiji i u saradnji sa Američkim kutkom organizuje Američki savet.
Elektronsku prijavu možete popuniti na ili se prijaviti u Američkom kutku u Vašem gradu.
Rok za prijave je 9. oktobar 
If the knowledge of English would improve your chances to find a suitable job, join BELL +, a free-of-charge beginner English courses for adults at the American Corner in your town!
Beginner English Language Learning Plus (BELL +) is a free of charge, one semester long program of beginner English courses intended for 18+ adults to improve their competencies necessary for the job market. 90 minutes classes are held twice a week and, besides the English language training, the students will have the opportunity to learn more about American culture and the values of the American society.
BELL +, under the auspice of the US Embassy in Serbia, is implemented by the American Councils in collaboration with the American Corners.
Apply online at or at your local American Corner.
The deadline for the application is October 9th. 

YES Program Testing Results for Kamenica, Kosova

Secondary School Program
Round 2 will be held at the following location: Andrea Durrsaku, Kamenica
All Round 2 participants should bring their passport or birth certificate, a pen, and should know the city code for their home telephone number.
To see what time you are scheduled for Round 2, check the Date and Time after your name.
Last Name First Name Middle Initial Gender City & School R2 Date R2 Time
Basha Fortesa F Kamenice, Ismail Qemali 27.09.17 1:30PM
Behluli Gresë F Gjilan, Xhavit Ahmeti 27.09.17 1:30PM
Borovci Xhemajl M Kamenice, Mehmet Akif College 27.09.17 1:30PM
Demaj Ardian M Kamenica, Andrea Durrsaku 27.09.17 1:30PM
Devaja Gentrit M Gjilan, Xhavit Ahmeti 27.09.17 1:30PM
Haliti Avdulla M Viti, Kuvendi I Lezhes 27.09.17 1:30PM
Hyseni Diellza F Kamenice, Ismail Qemali 27.09.17 1:30PM
Ismajlaj Eriola F Kamenica, Deshmoret e Kombit, 27.09.17 1:30PM
Ismajli Bleona F Gjilan, Xhavit Ahmeti 27.09.17 1:30PM
Kadriu Natyrë F Gjilan, Xhavit Ahmeti 27.09.17 1:30PM
Krasniqi Rionë F Kamenice, Ismail Qemali 27.09.17 1:30PM
Krasniqi Blendi M Prishtina, Rezonanca 27.09.17 1:30PM
Krivaqa Dafina F Kamenice, Ismail Qemali 27.09.17 1:30PM
Latifaj Aurela F Hogosht, Skënderbeu 27.09.17 1:30PM
Miljkovic Sandra F Kamenica, Gimnazy 27.09.17 1:30PM
Mladenovic Nikolla M Kamenica, Gimnazy 27.09.17 1:30PM
Morina Blerim M Gjilan, Xhavit Ahmeti 27.09.17 1:30PM
Mustafa Amar M Gjilan, Xhavit Ahmeti 27.09.17 1:30PM
Naskovic Lazar M Kamenica, Gimnazy 27.09.17 1:30PM
Racaj Besfort M Kline, Luigj Gurakuqi 27.09.17 1:30PM
Ramadani Rilind M Gjilan, Xhavit Ahmeti 27.09.17 1:30PM
Ramizi Lisa F Gjilan, Xhavit Ahmeti 27.09.17 1:30PM
Rrudhuni Blend M Rogacica, Sejdi Kryeziu 27.09.17 1:30PM
Rudhani Diard M Rogacica, Sejdi Kryeziu 27.09.17 1:30PM
Selishta Drit F Kamenice, Ismail Qemali 27.09.17 1:30PM
Shabiu Bleron M Lipjan, MAC 27.09.17 1:30PM
Sinani Aulonë F Gjilan, Xhavit Ahmeti 27.09.17 1:30PM
Zubaku Ardit M Kamenice, Ismail Qemali 27.09.17 1:30PM
Zuka Eronita F Gjilan, Asllan Elezi 27.09.17 1:30PM
Zylfiu Manushaqe F Kamenice, Ismail Qemali 27.09.17 1:30PM

Bajram Thoughts: Eid in Sarajevo

Greg and Hdad

By Gregory R., YES Abroad 2017-2018, Bosnia and Herzegovina, from Hopkinton, MA

This past weekend I had the wonderful opportunity to take part in the Bosnian form of the Muslim holiday: Eid al-Adha (known as Kurban Bajram in Bosnian). While I am not an expert, I would expect that celebrating both new and traditional holidays for exchange students. It definitely was this way for me! After arriving in Sarajevo only two weeks before, my host family was suddenly trying to explain to me that we were going to celebrate one of the holiest Muslim holidays of the whole year. Something about giving food to the poor, visiting family, and going to the mosque before sunrise was all that we really talked about.

The day turned out to be much more than that! We woke up at the crack of dawn and my host father, two host brothers, and I went together to a neighborhood mosque. There, like they had taught me the night before, we took to the beautiful carpeted floors and performed the Eid prayer and listened to the service. While I could not understand anything said, just being there was a testament to the spirit of brotherhood and my host community has to welcome me, an American Christian, into their holiday. That in itself is inspiring enough. After wishing a happy Bajram to everyone around me and embracing each member of my family, we began the other festivities of Bajram.

As I was told, Bajram is a day that is supposed to remind the Muslim community of the virtues of sacrifice.  Thus, upon arriving home, we met my host mother at the door with a “Happy Bajram,” changed our clothes, and started the next activity: the sacrifice of a ram. I was uneasy with this part. I understand that this is where meat comes from and that unless I want to turn vegan, this is how it works.  But I did not really understand why we would need three rams worth of meat sitting around all in the name of a holiday.

Pretty soon, however, the many members of my large extended host family began to arrive, and quickly, the socializing, eating, and drinking put a stop to my worries about the rams—I just enjoyed the chance to spend time with my wonderful, new family. After a big lunch of goulash, lamb, baklava, and many cups of Bosnian coffee, we cleaned up and packed into the car to visit more friends and family at their homes, which included more baklava, fruit, and Bosnian coffee, of course.  We also stopped along the way to cemeteries where those relatives who could not join us were laid to rest, including my host father’s two brothers, who lost their lives in the Bosnian War.

When we finally returned home, I asked my host father about the rams. He said Tarik, my host brother, had already taken the meat to be dropped off somewhere.  Where?  A home for children with disabilities, who only get to taste something as good as fresh lamb once a year.

By this point I thought we were done for the day—we had left the house at 5am, and it was approaching 9pm.  But my host brother Tarik told my host parents that he was going to take us to visit his girlfriend and her sister in Sarajevo. While we walked through the streets of the old Turkish quarter, called Bascarsija, I was tired, more than a little confused by all the Bosnian being spoken around me, and thinking wistfully about my bed. However, it was on this walk that I came to realize what Bajram is about. It is not only the rams that gave of themselves that day. Muslims across Bosnia and Herzegovina opened their homes, refrigerators, and wallets to friends, family, neighbors, and, most importantly, their community. Bajram is about giving of one’s self to make one day a year that everyone can enjoy.

Teaching English As A Way of Giving Back

Traveling and learning new languages has always been important to me because I want to be connected to the world and know more about other cultures through the eyes of locals. I started learning English when I was in the 4th grade and I never thought that it would help me the way it actually did. Thanks to my English skills, I was able to join different NGOs in my country and help my community.

Knowing the importance of Education and Languages, I decided to volunteer as an English Teacher this summer through AIESEC in Istanbul, Turkey.


My  English language skills have helped me win the full scholarship through the YES Program which has been the best experience I have had so far in my life, and I wish that as many young people have this great opportunity in the future. That’s why my choice was Teaching English to kids in the Elementary School.

AIESEC is a United Nations a program that helps in finding Global Volunteering Opportunities. Some of their long-term goals are: Zero Hunger, No Poverty, Quality Education, Gender Equality, etc. which are expected to be met by  2030.

I chose to volunteer in Turkey because I love the culture and considering the countries’ vastness and geographical position, I am aware of its lack of accessibility to learning English. I was also very keen on experiencing the picturesque Istanbul which turned out to be even more magnificent then I have ever imagined, with the sea, the albatrosses and the historical monuments every step on the way.

The project that I volunteered in  was called ‘Magic Steps’ and  it was organized by Burak Sahin, Melike Guler, and Eren Karaosmanoglu. There were 15 other volunteers from all around the world. We paired in groups of two, my partner (Marina Oleksuik, from Ukraine) and I taught English to 6th-grade students.


My volunteering experience was for 6 weeks and it was amazing to see the progress of the students throughout the weeks. We taught basic English such as the alphabet, numbers, colors, vegetables, fruits, clothes, etc. I was focused on making the lessons really fun for the kids through games and songs which they enjoyed and which helped them learn easier. This way, I believe they will think that learning new languages can be fun, too.

During these weeks, I feel like I have learned as much as I have taught. I lived with a host family which helped me a lot with learning the Turkish language, culture, and history. So far it has been the best volunteering experience I have ever done and I would highly recommend it to everyone.


by Visar Zeka, YES 2015, Prosper,  TX

Hosting an American student in my home


American Councils Serbia organizes Balkan Language Initiative Program for American students who wish to study Serbian language in Belgrade, Serbia, throughout the year. Alexandra Karppi is one of the students who came to Belgrade to study Serbian on an eight-week long program from June 17 to August 14, 2017.

Alexandra and other Balkan Language Initiative students, as a component of this program, are placed in Serbian homes, to live with Serbian host families and thus gain additional insight about the Serbian culture.

We have asked Alexandra’s host, Dragana Pešić, to tell us about her impressions of time spent with Alexandra.

“If I tell you that I feel honored to have been given an opportunity to be a host of a young woman from a far-away America, then it says it all about my experience. It has been wonderful, and Alexandra’s and my relationship is really good.”


Because host families are obliged to speak only Serbian language with American students and in such way provide the students with the additional opportunity to learn and practice Serbian, depending on the level of the knowledge of Serbian language each student has prior to coming to the country, communication between hosts and students could potentially be challenging, especially in the beginning.

“When Alexandra first arrived, communication between us was very challenging, but my granddaughters helped us understand each other.” – Dragana commented.

About her and Alexandra’s relationship and daily communication, Dragana said this: “Alexandra is one very cultured, very responsible and hard-working young girl. Her obligation was to text me when she arrives at the language school and then again when her classes end and she is on the way home. She did not give me one single reason to worry about. Because of mobile phones, I knew her coordinates all the time.”

20621121_1808308399499365_3202570696099082342_nThe hosting experience is valuable not only for the students, but also for the host families. It changes the host family’s daily routines, and provides them with the opportunity to show their own culture, hospitality, and learn about the culture of their guests.

“When it comes to change in dynamics in my own life, I walked more than usual, because I wanted to show Alexandra as much as possible of the city, regardless of high summer temperatures. Every little excursion we went on was remarkable in its own way. And her young, forever smiling face was the best prize for this whole experience.”

American Councils has an open application for Serbian families who are able to provide a separate room and two meals a day for American students who wish to come to Serbia to learn the language and Serbian culture. For more information about all the conditions of this experience, please fill out the application, and contact local American Councils office.

Language program for studying Serbian in Belgrade, Serbia – host family application in English
Language program for studying Serbian in Belgrade, Serbia – host family application in Serbian










The Board of Trustees of American Councils for International Education is pleased to announce that Mr. Lorne Craner will succeed Dr. Dan E. Davidson to become the second President of American Councils, effective July 5, 2017.

LCThe Transition Committee of the Board carried out a seven-month search, assisted by the Spencer-Stuart firm, and considered the applications and credentials of over 300 candidates for the position, including many outstanding professionals from government, business, academia, and the nonprofit sector.

Mr. Robert Rhea, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, noted, “The Board of Trustees is delighted to have Lorne join us and lead American Councils in the next chapter of its service to international education and exchange. Lorne’s leadership skills and experience made him uniquely suited to continue the tradition began and fostered for so long by Dr. Davidson. The Trustees made an excellent choice. He has our full confidence.”

Mr. Craner has previously served as Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy and Human Rights as well as President of the International Republican Institute. He has resided and studied at length overseas and is a speaker of French and Mandarin. His clear passion for the mission of American Councils proved to the Transition Committee that he is the best person to take up the reins as the next leader of American Councils.

Transition Committee member Ambassador Richard Morningstar commented, “We are delighted that Lorne Craner will be leading American Councils into the future. Lorne has an exceptional blend of being a life-long advocate for democratic values together with extensive political and business experience. He is uniquely capable of building upon the incredible 43-year legacy of retiring President Dan Davidson.”

The Board of Trustees was also pleased to confirm Dr. Dan E. Davidson’s new role at American Councils, beginning July 5, as Senior Academic Advisor to American Councils Programs and Director of the American Councils Research Center (ARC).

— — —

Interview Requests
To request an interview with American Councils President Mr. Lorne Craner, contact Christine Vivas: or 202-833-7522.