Springfield, Ohio — Few college students get to experience the sights and sounds described in textbooks utilized in the classroom, but that's exactly what Wittenberg University students Kate Stoverock, class of 2009 from Gahanna, Ohio, and Alyssa McEachran, class of 2008 from Bellevue, Wash., did last month in Sarajevo, the capital city of the war-torn nation Bosnia and Herzegovenia.
It doesn't stop there, however. As part of an innovative summer course titled "Sarajevo: Surviving Urbicide," Stoverock and McEachran have created a brief online walking tour of the city ravaged by war in the early 1990s that is now experiencing a revival. Stoverock, a double major in art and Russian Area Studies, and McEachran, a sociology major with a religion minor, populated the Web site with digital photos and narratives of their eight-day trip to Sarajevo.
"The focus of the course was the historical character of Sarajevo, its multi-cultural heritage and its varied history during the Ottoman Empire, Austro-Hungarian Empire and Communist Yugoslavia," said Professor of Sociology Keith Doubt, who has been awarded two Fulbright awards to study and teach in central and southeastern Europe. "It also provided a humanistic account of how people in Sarajevo survived a vicious, sadistic siege from 1992-95."
The course started with classroom sessions on campus for one week before Stoverock, McEachran and Doubt traveled to Sarajevo from May 18-26. The trio prepared for the trip by reading and discussing three textbooks: Sarajevo: The Tourist-Historic Guide by Majo Dizdar, Sarajevo: A Biography by Robert Donia, and Sarajevo: A Walker's Guide, written by William Tribe before the 1984 Winter Olympics in the city. They also watched such recent post-war films about the war in Bosnia asRemake; Hop, Skip and Jump; and 10 Minutes.
While in Sarajevo, the students and Doubt packed a lot of activity into a short amount of time. Highlights included visits to numerous religious sites, including the only Jewish Temple still holding services in the city and a Jewish cemetery that had been used by snipers as a hideout during the wars of the 1990s, and museums, including the National Gallery, which featured an impressive contemporary art exhibit called "Retrospective."
In addition, the Wittenberg traveling party attended a performance of the famed opera Carmen, visited sites of historical significance and enjoyed the camaraderie of the family that owns Hotel Hondo, where they stayed. Dizdar, the author of their primary guide book, took the group on a tour in the hills of Sarajevo. He was so impressed by the Wittenberg students' genuine interest in the course and the city that he invited them to write essays on their experiences for the Bosnian newspaper PSS Magazin. Published in St. Louis, Mo., where more than 60,000 Bosnians have settled, PSS Magazin will also publish the students' essays online.
Both students said they found Sarajevo residents to be "hospitable" and the city to be very "cosmopolitan" and "beautiful." From a variety of perspectives, the experience was eye-opening for Stoverock and McEachran.
"Sarajevo is a great home for young artists and art historians," Stoverock said. "The numerous galleries in Sarajevo give a big city feel, but the city is small enough that you can get to know the artist and intellectual community very well."
A week of work back in the Wittenberg classroom rounded things out. After studying Sarajevo and then seeing the city in person, Stoverock and McEachran created the online walking tour. It, and the essays for PSS Magazin, reflect their new perspectives of this historic, multi-cultural city.
All of this was made possible by Doubt, who is the author of three different books on Bosnia: Understanding Evil: Lessons from Bosnia, Sociology after Bosnia and Kosovo: Recovering Justice, Sociologija nakon Bosne [Sociology after Bosnia], which was translated and published with a grant from the Cultural Affairs Ministry of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Doubt, who has a bachelor's degree from Dickinson College and master's and doctorate degrees from York University in Toronto, Canada, currently is co-editor of the interdisciplinary, bilingual, online journal Duh Bosne/Spirit of Bosnia.
Written By: Ryan Maurer