From Bosnia to Bowling Green: students share world experiences

WKU sophomore Kenan Mujkanovic, travels to Bosnia roughly every 5 years with his family. Mujkanovic’s mother and father were both born and raised in Bosnia, and their homes have suffered damages due to the war in Bosnia. “Things are better than they once were,” Mujkanovic said. Mujkanovic was born and raised in Bowling Green. “I got to see where home used to be. Everyone treats you like family,” Mujkanovic said.

Noah Moore

WKU has recognized 2017 as the International Year of Bosnia through various cultural events around campus this fall. However for certain students, the event has an even greater significance. This summer, senior Lane Hedrick experienced the sprawling Bosnian landscapes, cobblestone streets and the “best meat platter you’ll ever eat” during her study abroad opportunity in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

As for its history, Bosnia and Herzegovina is a young country with a historic past. Formerly known as Yugoslavia, this country was liberated from being a socialist federal republic in 1995 following the Bosnian War. Today, however, the country boasts high literacy rates, long life expectancies and an upsurge in tourism. Hedrick notes the country’s balance of new and old. Hedrick recounts her perceptions during her experience abroad.

“Because it is a relatively new post-war country but also has a super-rich history, getting to know new people and their perspectives on daily life was just fascinating,” Hedrick said. “Several taxi drivers fought in the war and could tell you about it in broken English, while some people only had recollections of the war because of stories told my parents or grandparents.”

However, the history isn’t the only thing to marvel at. Bosnia boasts a plethora of landmarks, such as the Stari Most Arched Bridge, Neretva River and Kravice Waterfall.

“The scenery and geographic landscape is beyond anything you’ve ever seen,” said Hedrick.

In comparison with Bowling Green, the Bosnian population is estimated to be around 5,000 or 7 percent of the entire city population. One of those 5,000 was sophomore Kenan Mujkanovic. While Hedrick has ventured abroad, Mujkanovic has a dissimilar story as the child of Bosnian immigrants living and studying in Bowling Green and recounted the difficulties he encountered during the move to the U.S.

“The transition to the U.S. has been pretty tough for my parents. They did not know a word of English or anything about the United States other than that it is the land of opportunity,” Mujkanovic said. “They both worked in factories when they came here and worked two jobs each to support me.”

However, as the child of Bosnian immigrants, he found that the land of opportunity was a tough place to succeed.

“Eventually, I would start school without knowing a word of English other than ‘please, thank you and bathroom,'” Mujkanovic said. “I learned by observing other students, watching TV at home and reading. When I was in third grade, my parents wanted to become U.S. citizens. I would have to memorize these questions and answers, then teach them to my parents. I worked with them for two months, and they passed the test on their first attempt. I guess you can say we all learned something.”

Because this year is the International Year of Bosnia and Herzegovina, events have and will take place that emphasize the diverse culture present in this country.

“I’m beyond thrilled that the Office of International Programs chose BiH [Bosnia and Herzegovina] for the International Year Of project because it correlates so strongly with part of the culture and tradition of Bowling Green as well, which I think helps bridge cultural gaps that couldn’t be as easily brought together otherwise,” Hedrick said. “It also helped mold my understanding for the political climate.”

Though 5,107 miles separate Bowling Green and Bosnia, the two students gained experiences that taught them pride for their own cultures as well as the cultures for others. Though his family now lives in America, Mujkanovic still holds reverence for his family’s homeland.

“I most take pride in the culture of the Bosnian people, the unconditional spirit, the strength of the people,” Mujkanovic said. “But most of all, the beauty of the country itself.”

Reporter Noah Moore can be reached at 270-745-2655 and [email protected], or on Twitter @noah_moore18.