It doesn’t matter if you move 50 miles away from home or 5,000 miles away, something in you will change as you adapt to your new surroundings. Although humans tend to be resistant to it, change is something that can benefit us all in so many ways. Learning to embrace the inevitable has truly been something that has allowed me to grow in a way that I don’t see happening with every average individual. Your perception to life will change the way that you live it, and Serbia has changed mine and me for the better.
1. I’m far less self-centered.
This isn’t to say that I was very self-absorbed before, because I think my parents did a fantastic job of raising myself and my siblings to think about others. However, I’m even less than I was. Serbia is a culture where you do anything for your family and friends, maybe even a stranger, without even a hint of wanting something in return. One of the craziest things for me to wrap my head around – people lend money that they don’t have. I feel like I read stories about it everywhere but to see it in action evokes something totally different inside of me, maybe it’s awe.
2. I’ve become more appreciative of the life I’ve had.
There are many countries you can visit to appreciate the way that you were raised or where you’re from. Serbia has been a country to do that for me. Trust me, this is no third world country, although we have a running joke at work about it. However, it’s a country that’s experienced 500 years of slavery, wars, and an obliterated economy. It’s crazy to think that Nenad remembers when Serbia was bombed for the first time by America in 1999. He was almost seven-years-old and knows exactly where he was and what he was doing. Things like that make you think. I’ve never experienced anything like that, neither has any of America.
3. I have higher expectations for a home-cooked meal.
Oh.My.Gosh can Serbians make good food or what? Living here has brought me some of the best food I’ve ever had in my life, hands down. After my visit here last summer I couldn’t stop thinking about cevapi, burek, and pljeskavica. Serbia has some of the most simple ingredients, oftentimes with just 2-3, but the absolute best flavor in the world. My mother is coming to visit and one of the things I’m most excited about is taking her to all my favorite places to get all of my favorite foods.
4. I have a better understanding of what war-torn countries have been through.
It breaks my heart to know that the wars this country have been through have had great effects on Nenad’s parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, friends, their families, the list goes on. One night I asked Nenad’s grandma to tell me about her life and the story was so sad that my heart was heavy the next few hours. It’s easy to say “think about the positives” but the truth is her life didn’t have many. She fled her house from enemies coming to take her and her town to away and her parents were too old to flee with her. That was the last time she ever saw them. She returned from the forest the next day to find her parents gone, her house and town burned down, and no sign of the life she was living. The tragedy continues but I’ll save that for a separate blog because it deserves its own.
5. I feel more proud of who I am and my accomplishments.
Moving to a country that doesn’t have all of the opportunities that have had surrounded you your whole life can really show you what you’re made of. Things that are normal to me are impressive to them. Job experience at 21 is unheard of and for me, it’s unheard of that you’re 21 and have no job experience. Working and going to school simultaneously is also something that doesn’t work around here. With different education systems, in Serbia, it’s almost impossible to do both and if you are able to get a job, part-time is not likely to be an option. I worked a full-time job and went to university for two out of my three years, with the exception being when I was abroad in Spain. These feats that seem so easy to me are things that others don’t even have the opportunity to try.
Changing is something that I have come to embrace and living in Spain and Serbia has played massive roles in getting to that place in my mind and life. I am forever grateful that being a foreigner has allowed me to learn so much.