By Selma Čampara, YES Abroad Program Coordinator Bosnia and Herzegovina
The third generation of Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study Abroad (YES Abroad) students arrived in Bosnia and Herzegovina on Friday, August 15, 2014. As in previous years, participants will reside in Sarajevo during the 2014-2015 academic year. However, for the very first time, two additional students are spending their year in Banja Luka, which is the largest city in Republika Srpska and the second largest city in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Since their arrival, the group has been active, participating in an arrival orientation in Sarajevo, touring their respective host cities, and spending time with their new host families.
Both groups of students began intensive Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian language study soon upon their arrival and have participated in tours of cultural and historical sites and even completed a Scavenger Hunt, designed to assist them in exploring their host cities and utilizing the public transportation systems.
In addition to participating in language classes, drinking delicious Bosnian coffee (kahva), eating Bosnian specialties such as ćevapčići and orienting themselves, YES Abroad students in Bosnia and Herzegovina also met up with local Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) alumni. Together with alumni from Banja Luka, YES Abroad students there visited Fortress Kastel, the oldest historical site in Banja Luka, while the YES Abroad group in Sarajevo visited the Spring of Bosna River in Ilidža and learned about medieval tombstones, called stecci, with YES alumni from Sarajevo.
One of the final activities during the two-week arrival orientation for the Sarajevo group was participation in a clean-up activity of Vraca Memorial Park, a park dedicated to World War II victims. Together with the newly-returned YES Inbound group, YES Abroad students also participated in the taping of a YES promotional video, directed by YES alumni of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Banja Luka isn’t the only new Balkan city to receive YES Abroad participants this year, however. American Councils in Macedonia recently welcomed three YES Abroad students for the 2014-2015 academic year. Like in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the participants in Macedonia have wasted no time in exploring their host community of Skopje, taking intensive language courses and spending quality time with their host families and YES Inbound alumni.
The application for the 2015-2016 program year is now available at usa.afsglobal.org/YES; the deadline is January 7, 2015 at 11:59PM PST.
The YES Abroad program provides competitive merit-based scholarships for U.S. secondary school students (age 15-18.5) to study for one academic year in select countries. Like its complimentary program, YES, YES Abroad seeks to build relationships between people from the United States and countries with significant Muslim populations by promoting mutual understanding, the forming lasting relationships, and engagement in activities in order to learn about the host country’s society and values.
For the 2014-2015 program year, YES Abroad has 65 students in 12 countries, including Bosnia and Herzegovina, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Macedonia, Malaysia, Morocco, Oman, the Philippines, South Africa, Thailand, and Turkey. YES and YES Abroad are funded by the U.S. Department of State and administered in partnership with the Department of State by a consortium of non-profit organizations led by American Councils for International Education and including AFS-USA, AMIDEAST, and iEARN-USA.