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SERBIA, BOSNIA, and KOSOVO - SIT Peace and Conflict Studies

Examine peace-building, post-conflict transformation, and the impact of an international intervention on state formation, human rights, and transitional justice in the comparative context of Southeast Europe.

The program explores the origins of the conflicts in the Balkans, from the breakup of Yugoslavia to the violent wars of the 1990s, as well as current challenges and opportunities in post-conflict transformation. Students can choose between two different tracks for their independent study: they may either conduct field research and produce a substantial academic paper or work with professional journalists to research and produce a full-length print or broadcast feature story on a topic related to the theme of the program.

Major topics of study include:

  • The “making and breaking” of Yugoslavia
  • Peace and conflict: theory and practice in the Balkans
  • Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Kosovo in the 1990s and beyond: international sanctions, the NATO bombing, Milosevic, and Dayton
  • A comparative look at history, conflict, and post-conflict transformation in Serbia, Bosnia, and Kosovo
  • A comparative look at international intervention and state building in the Balkans prior to the conflict in the 1990s and current international interventions in Syria and Ukraine

Though this program is geared towards US students, one must be motivated, research-oriented, and independent to be successful on this program.  That said, it is great preparation for self-designed majors and those interested in using this as a jumping point for graduate or Fulbright work.

NOTE: There is a cap on Lake Forest students participating in SIT programs.


To be eligible to participate in this program, students must meet the following requirements:

  • Good academic and judicial standing during time of application AND time of participation in program
  • Undergraduates must have completed at least two semesters of study at Lake Forest College AND have second-semester sophomore status or higher before participation. Junior status or higher is strongly preferred.
  • At least 18 years of age by the program’s departure date. 
  • Be able to stay at the host program for the duration of the semester, including through the exam and travel periods
  • Minimum GPA of 2.5.  
  • For the journalism track, strong writing skills and an interest in journalism are essential. A writing sample may be required as part of the admissions process.
  • Prior coursework in politics, European history, and/or social justice would be helpful.

The program is based in Serbia’s capital, Belgrade, the country’s cultural, political, and economic center, with vestiges of the former socialist state and post-communist Europe. The capital of the former Yugoslavia, Belgrade remains the largest metropolitan city in southeast Europe and is home to numerous activist groups and human rights organizations. A vibrant and dynamic city, Belgrade is very important to the study of post-conflict transformation in the Balkans.

The program has extended excursions to Bosnia and Kosovo. Students experience Bosnia’s capital, Sarajevo — a city famous for its beautiful architecture and religious and cultural diversity — and Prishtina, Kosovo’s capital — a unique city with a prominent Ottoman, US, and Turkish presence.



The interdisciplinary coursework in the Serbia, Bosnia, and Kosovo: Peace and Conflict Studies in the Balkans program focuses on post-conflict and post-socialist transformation in the Balkans since the 1990s. Students examine changes in areas such as politics, civil society, identity, and social memory studies, through participation in a variety of research and cultural activities, classroom discussions, and interactions with academics, activists, and host families. Students also take a Serbian/Bosnian/Croatian language course. During the final month of the semester, students leverage their field study experience and research skills to complete an Independent Study Project or an Independent Study Project in Journalism.

The SIT Peace and Conflict Studies program uses the US semester credit system, in which 1 credit = 42-45 in-class hours and 2 hours of out-of-class work per credit hour.

To Earn 4 Lake Forest credits, students must take 15-16 US semester credits.

To Earn 3 Lake Forest credits, students must take 12 US semester credits.

The number of credits listed here is estimated, and GEO will work with you, your advisor, and the registrar to ensure you are earning enough credits to keep you on track for graduation.

Explore processes of post-war transformation through a comparative approach.

Through the program’s thematic seminars students examine processes of post-war change. By spending extensive time in Serbia, Bosnia, and Kosovo, students get a comparative look at these processes in three different countries. The program also provides a comparative look at ongoing international interventions in Syria and Ukraine.

Topics of study include:

  • The “making and breaking” of Yugoslavia
  • Peace and conflict: theory and practice in the Balkans
  • Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Kosovo in the 1990s and beyond: international sanctions, the NATO bombing, Milosevic, and Dayton
  • A comparative look at history, conflict, conflict resolution, and post-conflict transformation in Serbia, Bosnia, and Kosovo
  • A comparative look at international intervention and state building in the Balkans prior to the conflict in the 1990s and current international interventions in Syria and Ukraine

Students engage with academics from institutions such as the University of Belgrade, Serbia; the University of Prishtina, Kosovo; the University of Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina; and the Faculty of Media and Communications (FMK), Singidunum University, Serbia.

Students also meet with representatives from leading NGOs such as The Youth Initiative for Human Rights in Serbia, Kosovo, and BiH; the Humanitarian Law Center, Serbia; Levizja FOL, Kosovo; and The International Commission on Missing Persons, BiH.

Choose to complete either a field research or a journalism track.

Students build upon the foundation provided by the core language and thematic courses through either research- or journalism-based independent study. Students who choose to do the traditional Independent Study Project will, with guidance from the academic director and an advisor, conduct field research and produce a substantial academic paper (see more information below).

New for 2015, students can choose to do an Independent Study Project in Journalism. Students who choose this option will be paired with English-speaking local media studies students and mentored by professional journalists who will guide them as they research and produce a feature-length print or broadcast story. The stories produced by these students will be considered for publication in a US media outlet.

Take advantage of interactive workshops.

Students engage in interactive workshops as part of the program’s thematic seminar. Possible themes and sites include:

Acquire critical field studies skills.

Through the Research Methods and Ethics course, students learn a variety of methodologies that prepare them to undertake primary research on critical issues and topics relating to peace studies and conflict studies. Students develop research skills and approaches that are used for their Independent Study Project. Specific focus is placed on the ethical concerns related to conducting research in post-conflict societies.

Students who opt for the journalism track take Field Ethics of Journalism in Serbia, Bosnia, and Kosovo, a seminar that prepares them for the production of a major feature story. Specific focus in this seminar is on journalism ethics in Serbia, Bosnia, and Kosovo; laws affecting the practice of journalism in the Balkans; and the story pitch.

Independent Study Project

Students spend the last four weeks of the program focused on an Independent Study Project (ISP) or an Independent Study Project in Journalism (ISPJ) in Serbia, Bosnia, or Kosovo. Students may focus on issues related to post-conflict transformation, memory studies, genocide studies, or human rights, applying the concepts and skills learned in the thematic seminars and Research Methods and Ethics course or the Field Ethics of Journalism in Serbia, Bosnia, and Kosovo course. Sample ISP or ISPJ topic areas include:

  • Impact of international intervention on the peace process
  • Balkan perceptions of the Ukraine-Russia conflict
  • Integration of Serbia and Kosovo in the European Union
  • Islam in Bosnia-Herzegovina and/or in Kosovo
  • Human and LGBT rights activism in Serbia
  • Dealing with the past
  • Street art and street activism in Belgrade
  • Yugonostalgia in Belgrade and Sarajevo

 More information on courses available can be found here.

Student Life

Please note that in order to take advantage of dynamic learning opportunities, program excursions may occasionally vary.

The program incorporates extended educational excursions to Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo. You will discover the ongoing efforts of various groups working to make the transition from conflict to new state-building processes and hear diverse perspectives on current realities and challenges.  

Experiential Opportunities

During the ISP/ISPJ period, students may wish to pursue community volunteer experiences that allow them to take a more active role in the issues they are researching. Sample community volunteer experience sites include the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network in Belgrade, the Dah Theatre in Belgrade, the Youth Initiative for Human Rights in Sarajevo, and the Center for Peacebuilding in Sanski Most. These opportunities are varied. Students assume an assorted set of responsibilities according to their skills, interests, and needs.

Students frequently use their ISPs as a jumping-off point for more advanced research for their senior thesis, Fulbright and Rhodes scholarship applications, or graduate school work. Full-length feature stories produced in the context of an ISPJ will be considered for publication for broadcast in a media outlet in the US.  

Housing and Meals

Students will live with a host family in Belgrade for seven weeks. Students undertaking an Independent Study Project in Belgrade may extend their homestay by four weeks. A homestay may be arranged in other ISP locations, as well.

During the homestay in Belgrade, students will live with local families and may meet their hosts’ extended families in other parts of Serbia. Some homestay families have always lived in Belgrade while others have relocated to the city from other parts of the former Yugoslavia. Living with a host family greatly contributes to students’ understanding of the realities and challenges facing the Balkans today and provides an excellent opportunity to improve language skills.

Other accommodations during the program could include guest houses or small hotels.

Financial Information

For all approved programs for guaranteed financial aid transferability, students pay their Lake Forest College tuition plus a program fee. The program fee for the SIT program includes orientation, on-site director, program fees, housing, most meals, and insurance.  

Here is an estimated budget for the Fall 2019/Spring 2020 programs:

Budget Item


Lake Forest College Tuition


Program fee (estimated)

Note: Spring may have added cost


Total Expected Billed by Lake Forest College


Additional Meals


Estimated Airfare


Estimated Personal Expenses (passport, visas, immunizations, textbooks, supplies, personal expenses, additional national insurance if required, travel insurance, additional travel etc.)


Total Expected Out-of-Pocket Expenses




Tuition rates and program fees are subject to change each year, but this information was up-to-date as of March 2019. We will notify applicants, and update this page if the program fee or other estimates change.

You can discuss with Financial Aid your specific aid package and your expected family contribution.

Deposits to other programs, if required, are paid by the student to the host program, and will appear as a credit on your study abroad term bill from the College.

Keep in mind that you may spend more or less in certain areas like personal expenses, travel, meals, or airfare, depending on exchange rates and your own spending habits. Classroom or lab fees are not included in this estimate and will depend on your course registration choices.  

Don’t forget to apply for scholarships! A great listing can be found here.  

  • Contact:

    For Questions About the Initial Application Process:

    Alexandra Olson
    Coordinator of the Global Engagement Office