Junior ventures outside SJS bubble, studies abroad in Bosnia

Edward Chen, Staff Writer

Every day on his morning commute to school, junior Ayush Suresh passes three Serbian war bunkers from the Bosnian war in the 90s. A few blocks down, there is a communal water fountain from 1659.

Suresh is studying abroad in the Southeastern European country of Bosnia as an opportunity to experience independent living outside of the St. John’s bubble. According to Suresh, transitioning from the tight-knit SJS community to an entirely new environment has been a big jump, but he has remained connected with peers through the Class of 2021 GroupMe and his blog. 

“We look forward to hearing about his experiences when he comes back,” fellow advisee Scott Koh said. 

Suresh read a few articles and excerpts to prepare himself for the move, but he soon discovered upon arrival that there are many more unexpected and subtle details. 

“The amount of historical and cultural context needed to understand how they live is enormous,” Suresh said. 

Transportation is quite different from car-dominated Houston. Suresh lives on a mountain near the city center, and his walking commute to school is around 45 minutes. Fortunately, the city is concentrated so that walking is more than enough to get by. 

“There’s so much to see, and I really appreciate being able to take my time and walk around rather than skimming past sites in a car,” he said. 

For Suresh, the transition has been smooth, partially because the host family is very accommodating. Suresh is a vegetarian, and they take lengths to prepare appropriate meals despite their meat-heavy cuisine. Suresh’s host family has previously hosted other exchange students, and they take an active role in making sure that he is doing well. He takes ample language classes at school and has a host brother who speaks fluent English, so the language barrier has not posed an issue with the exception of slang. 

Suresh’s journey has not been challenge-free. Many prejudices against people of Central and South Asian descent exist in Bosnia and the surrounding Southeastern countries—some illegal immigrants of the European Union come from Bosnia, which creates a stereotype and resentment against those with darker skin tones. 

Suresh has experienced this prejudice in instances where he has been called names by strangers on the streets. On one occasion, someone followed Suresh on his way home, spitting at him when he stopped to tie his shoe. However, Suresh doesn’t let these actions bother him and tries to understand the peoples’ point of view.

“It’s a different culture, and it’s interesting to learn about how recent events have impacted their outlook,” Suresh said. 

Suresh says that this past year has really expanded his horizons and taught him to keep an open mind. He says that regardless of what one believes, people should try to understand where others are coming from, approach them with a positive mindset and avoid pre-emptive judgements. 

“Especially since society is as complicated as it is today, it’s important to be receptive to all backgrounds and people you encounter,” Suresh said.