Uche Esonu '13

  • Major: East European and Eurasian Studies and Government and Legal Studies
  • Study Abroad Program: SIT Serbia, Bosnia, and Kosovo: Peace and Conflict

Uche EsonuWhy did you decide to study abroad and why did you decide to spend your semester in Serbia specifically?

Given my academic interests (political science, Central Asia, and Eastern Europe) and language study ( Russian) studying abroad was all but mandatory. I really wanted a program that covered more than language study but also contained rigorous academic work, and the SIT program was the perfect choice.  

Tell us about your study abroad experience in and outside of the classroom. 

We learned about the war, and met with survivors a lot and hearing their stories made everything that happened during the nineties so much more real.  Personally, dealing with staring - as a person of color in Eastern Europe - took a little getting used to.  Also, getting comfortable speaking the language to native speaker was difficult at first. What I found thrilling were how often people were willing to tell me their stories and their experiences during the war but also their perspective of Serbian, Bosnian, or Kosovar society in general. Also, conducting interviews for my Independent study project was really cool.  

How did you connect your off-campus study with your Bowdoin academics and extracurriculars, both before leaving and upon your return?

Before leaving I studied Serbian with one of my Russian Language professors (Raymond Miller). After returning I worked with Professor Ghodsee on revising my ISP paper. Also, my study abroad experiences helped provide the foundation for my honors project on NATO-EU intervention activities in south eastern Europe. 

What do you believe was the value of study abroad for you academically and personally? 

Academically, my study abroad experience provided me with the confidence to conduct independent academic research abroad and increased my curiosity about a geographic region that is not often studied. It was only by traveling to the region and meeting people there did I truly appreciate not just the complexities of the war, but other current issues as well. Personally, studying abroad got me out of my comfort zone and made me more independent. 

Does international work or travel figure into any of your future plans?

I received a Fulbright ETA Grant to Croatia for the 2013-2014 academic year.