Study-away trip to Bosnia

CCJ 389E: Spring break trip to Bosnia

A small group of students from SOU embarked on a recent transatlantic journey to explore Bosnia & Herzegovina and Croatia as part of their Criminology and Criminal Justice study away class CCJ 389E: War, Genocide, Peace & Reconciliation (open to ALL MAJORS). The fall term 2023 class concluded with the eight-day study abroad component during spring break 2024.

Throughout the fall term, students in the class immersed themselves in the rich history of the region, including its significant roles in WWI, WWII and the Bosnian war of the 1990s, delving into topics of war crimes, genocide and the region’s efforts toward healing and reconciliation. This groundwork set the stage for the experiential part of the class: the journey to Bosnia.

The group traveled together to Sarajevo, where they enjoyed a welcome dinner at an amazing traditional Bosnian restaurant in the old town. The next morning, they embarked on a walking tour of the city – the architecture a blend of Ottoman, Austro-Hungarian and Yugoslav influences. The city’s rich cultural tapestry is woven with mosques, synagogues and churches standing side-by-side, reflecting its diverse heritage. Despite its past conflicts, Sarajevo’s resilient spirit is reflected through the incredible warmth and hospitality of its people.

Following the city tour, participants in the trip were deeply moved by their visit to a museum depicting the harrowing impact of the Sarajevo siege on the city’s children. In a poignant display of solidarity, the museum also features artifacts from children currently residing in war-torn regions like Ukraine and Gaza. The SOU group’s exploration continued at Galerija 11-7-95, a photographic tribute to the victims of the Srebrenica genocide. Meeting with Tarik Samarah, the photographer and founder, was a humbling experience as those in the group learned about Samarah’s renowned exhibitions worldwide (such as the U.S. Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C, UN Headquarters in New York, Galerie du jour in Paris, the Dutch Parliament in the Hague and London’s Westminster Abby and Tate Modern Gallery), reinforcing the importance of remembrance and fostering a future free from such atrocities.

The SOU contingent visited Srebrenica on day three. The Srebrenica genocide, occurring in July 1995, stands as one of the darkest chapters in European history since World War II. It saw the mass murder of over 8,000 Bosniak men and boys by Bosnian Serb forces, despite the town being designated a UN safe area. The international community’s failure to prevent the atrocity highlighted the inadequacy of peacekeeping efforts during the Bosnian War.

The group’s final academic engagement in Sarajevo was a profound meeting with Dr. Hasan Nuhanović. Serving as an interpreter for the United Nations in Srebrenica during its fall to the Bosnian Serb Army, he tragically lost his entire family that day and has since dedicated himself to advocating for justice for the victims of Srebrenica. Dr. Nuhanović shared his deeply personal story with SOU students, and the group engaged in a meaningful dialogue, asking probing questions that he answered with honesty and introspection. This encounter left participants acutely aware of the enduring impact of war – as one student eloquently put it, “we only have to live it for a few days; they have to live it every day.”

Amidst the weighty academic aspects of the journey, the group found solace in the vibrant celebration of Ramadan across the country. In Sarajevo, the old town was adorned with strings of green lights, and each evening, a cannon fired a firework over the city at sundown to mark iftar and the end of the day’s fast. This signaled the bustling opening of cafes and restaurants, infusing the city with vitality, while the unwavering generosity and sense of humor among the people demonstrated their resilience in the face of adversity.

As their time in Sarajevo came to an end, the group journeyed to the enchanting city of Mostar before continuing on to Dubrovnik, Croatia, nestled along the stunning Adriatic coast. In Dubrovnik, they immersed themselves in the city’s rich history and then savored a leisurely day of shopping and soaking up the sunshine, culminating their week with relaxation and exploration.

While each student may have their own favorite moments from the trip, the overwhelming consensus is that it was truly incredible. As a faculty member, there’s nothing quite as fulfilling as guiding students on an overseas journey. Traveling with them facilitates transformative learning experiences, bridging the classroom with the real world and encourages students to step outside of their comfort zones. Witnessing their growth, curiosity and empathy throughout the journey has been truly remarkable. And as the legend goes, “Whoever drinks water from any of Sarajevo’s fountains and spouts will return to Sarajevo,” perhaps hinting at the magnetic allure of this captivating city.

Stayed tuned for next year’s CCJ 389A trip to London and Paris, focusing on historic prisons, contemporary court cases, and of course, Jack the Ripper!  For more information, please contact Dr. Alison Burke at All majors are welcome.