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Study Abroad and Domestic Study Away

Notes from Abroad: Bernie in the Balkans

Notes from Abroad is a new feature on the Off-Campus Programs website, in which we highlight small snippets of a student’s experience.  This week’s feature is from Bernie Reyes Facio ’18, a Communication and International Relations double major and a Print and Digital Publishing minor currently studying abroad in the Balkans.

My name is Bernardo Reyes Facio and I am unmeasurably thankful to CLC Pathways Scholarship for allowing me to experience a life-changing adventure. Let me explain you what I mean.

I am a Communication and International Relations double major who will become an international journalist in the future. Thanks to my donor, I am studying journalism in The Peace and Conflict studies program in the Balkans. This means that I am studying topics like state-building process, democratization, and international intervention in places like Kosovo, a country only recognized by some states. It means that I am writing stories alongside professional journalists from agencies like AFP and Reuters throughout countries like Bosnia and Hercegovina, a state with three presidents. It also means that I am learning from diplomats, researchers, and activists in Serbia the cultural challenges Yugoslavia faced when it disintegrated.

A friend of mine here said, “this program is designed so that you can’t escape learning.” He’s quite right. I learned about the 1999’s NATO bombing when I interviewed people to write my stories in Belgrade. I learned about the systematic repression of Kosovar Albanians when, along German soldiers, I watched in Prishtina the Kosovo team hosting its first FIFA match. I learned that sometimes you can be called ‘a government spy’ for something as simple as writing on a journal in southwest Macedonia.

Today, I am in Bosnia and Hercegovina. I cannot stress enough how much I am learning from the politics, the economics, and the culture that surrounds me. I am thankful for that.

The writing process, the history knowledge, the cultural sensitivity, and the overall set of skills that I am building up will translate into both academic and professional success. During these past months, for instance, I was able to get an insight into the Balkan cuisine and right now, I am a published correspondent in Reporting Balkans: http://www.reportingbalkans.com/serbias-pride-served-with-fries/.

The experience of studying abroad has made me realize, quite miraculously, that I live for journalism. This is why I have decided to prepare myself and pursue it at the graduate level after graduation. But as for now, I will continue to build hands-on experience in countries where siege and violence have devastated populations during years. I will continue meeting with local experts on conflict transformation and war journalism to build a network for professional goals. Thanks to my donor, I will prepare for the future.