Ema Mujic: Home is Where the Heart Is

Ema Mujic is a current sophomore at DePaul University. She shares her enriching story about how she decided to view her displacement from her native culture of Bosnia to cherishing her loved ones as her true meaning of home.


My name is Ema Mujic, and I am a currently a sophomore at DePaul University. I am majoring in health sciences, and minoring in bioethics. I come from a Bosnian background, both of my parents were born and raised in Bosnia. Once the war broke out, both of my parents had to flee to Germany. And when they met, one thing led to another and I was born in Germany in 1996. Afterwards we did move back to Bosnia, but at the end of this little story — my mom and I ended up moving to the United States where her family was.

I think for a long time, I would say maybe all the way through my sophomore year of high school; I hadn’t realized how strong my personal identity was. Until I had to sit down and write those common app applications, which made me think why I hadn’t realized it before. There’s a really big power that comes with knowing yourself, this doesn’t just limit what we think are our strengths and weaknesses. But knowing what you care about, and knowing what makes you curious, what’s your inspiration, what do you wonder about, and what’s your passion? And obviously all of those questions are really what comes up in those college essays. They want to know you, what do you think, what do you like to see in the future, what are your plans?

It sparked an interest for me because I hadn’t done that deep of a reflection before. And it really made me happy about my identity, I realized that I cared about things that weren’t superficial. What is really close to my heart, not even as an academic or a future professional, but as a person is giving back. I know that we all have innate gifts, and being able to discover our talents is a really good thing. Because if we discover what we’re good at naturally, it is a lot easier for us to succeed. Success of course, is defined by people differently. But I think the people who truly find their niche, can give back to the community and that’s really what I’m pursuing here in my undergraduate experience.

But other than that, I’ve definitely spent a lot of time thinking about myself, and who I would have been had I not moved to the United States, had I not grown up here, what would my mentality have been? And it’s hard to think about things like that. Even when I think about possibly going to a different country and meeting other cultures, I get really excited about it. I mean I think we all really love to travel, but for me there is something about meeting a different culture that helps m e realize what I love about mine.

I have traveled to Turkey, and that is exactly the moment in time that I found out who I am. And it is so funny to think that being in a different country; surrounded by a new language, different smells, vibrant colors. All of those things that can make you fearful and maybe even lose interest in your own culture. But it really helped me value mine, because I saw how much people valued theirs. I think that something here in America is to really assimilate in America, you have to appreciate the American culture. Being able to appreciate one can make you lose interest of your own. Being in Turkey I saw all of these people that were so in love with the simple ritual that they’ve known for years, which is sitting with each other for hours and drinking Turkish tea or coffee and I thought it was beautiful. And then I seem to do this quite frequently, but whenever something really triggers my mind and this sparks this need to know — I start to read. I love to read! I love research articles, and I think it is quite fascinating that people devote their lives to finding out why. And of course correlation doesn’t equal causation, but the more that we know, the more we can figure what could happen in certain scenarios.

In my Turkey experience, I was there to teach English and I took a few classes at a university about modern Islam. But I read this research report about how psychological processes that are affected by geographical displacement, so immigration, basically assimilating to a new culture because you have to. Either there is not a lot of economic growth in your own country, there is a war, or you’re seeking asylum. This research said that it proposed that human beings are linked to their environments by processes of attachment through their familiarity and identity.

It really does feel that way to me. I’m in the United States and I love everything about the US. But a part of me I think always seeks home. The beautiful thing is that I’ve substituted this idea of home, which I think really is Bosnia. But I’ve substituted it with being close to my family, having friends that are either Bosnian or from a culture that is very similar to it, staying really close to my mom, being true to myself, practicing my religion in a way only through love, and respecting others. So I have created this idea of home within me, and within others. I think I’m constantly going to be searching for attachment, familiarity, and my own identity because I’ve been forcefully displaced from it.

For my concluding remarks, I really just want to say that I am so grateful for where I am, and the opportunities that I’ve been given. I know I’ve been back to Bosnia, and I know how hard it is – so it’s a beautiful thing that I get to be here. I find myself very lucky to almost be displaced, because I never settle. And I think my own pursuit of happiness is naturally never found in things, but is found within the people that I love the most.

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