This city is amazing. And I know I say that about every new place I visit, but Belgrade really is a unique place. I was surprised by how “hip” the city is. It has a large number of cultural cafes featuring poetry readings, film festivals, and performances by local artists. I have already stumbled upon many hidden gems and can’t wait to explore and find what else this city has to offer.
The city is fairly large with a population of about 1.7 million, though that includes very residential areas as well. During the first week of the program I was in a bed and breakfast in the Savamala neighborhood. This part of town is right by the river and also houses the SIT offices. It was fun exploring this part of town last week. Since it is right by the river I went for a run almost every morning. We (myself along with some other SIT students found an organic restaurant in the area called Gnezdo! This place is truly unique.
First of all it is located in what appears to be an abandoned building, but is quite adorable inside. The menu features many vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options. I’ll definitely be returning there so I will devote an entire post to that sometime.
But onto this post. I arrived in Serbia on Monday and everything from that moment on has been non-stop. The program I am on this semester is also SIT, so the structure is very similar to last semester. One of the things I liked about SIT was that we had orientation for a week before moving in with our host families.
This program is no different. The first day we arrived was mainly a day to rest and catch up on lack of sleep. Tuesday is when the fun began. We visited SIT for the first time. It is located in the Faculty of Media Studies and is a very nice building. I am excited to get to know some of the Serbian students who are studying there.
After an overview of the program, we were split into groups and given a “drop-off assignment.” In other word we had to go investigate a part of the city and report back what we had learned. My group got a bit lost at first but we eventually found what we were looking for, Republic Square(Trg Republika in Serbian). This main square is considered the heart of Belgrade. It is located right in center city and is next to the pedestrian street,Knez Mihailova. After completing our assignment we found a nearby restaurant and enjoyed a quick lunch.
After the drop-offs we were introduced to the staff. A unique aspect of this program is that it offers a journalism track as part of the independent study project. The journalism course is taught by two journalists, one from the region who covered all the major happenings during the break-up of Yugoslavia and the wars that followed and an American who worked for the Better Government Association in Chicago and reported on public corruption as well being a researcher for various T.V. documentaries.
Most of orientation week was devoted to familiarizing us with the program and an introduction to Yugoslavia. I’ve never studied this region before and am very excited to study it in-depth. Serbian people are very friendly and very open and from talking to people it seems a lot of tension still remains in this region even though direct conflict is gone.