Sara Elkasevic is Bosnian-American, and discusses how appreciating where she comes from is imperative to consolidating her own identity. Furthermore, she also emphasizes how embracing her culture and heritage helps her connect and build empathy with others.

 

My name is Sara Elkasevic, and I am a current freshman at DePaul university. I come from a Bosnian-Muslim background, in fact I was born in Bosnia and came to the United States when I was only two years old. However, I spent almost my entire life living in the diverse city of Chicago. Growing up in a diverse city and attending a public high school has taught me to appreciate my roots even more. In today’s world, so much injustice and hatred is visible in our communities that it is important to never forget who we are and what we believe in. Whether you identify yourself by ethnicity, nationality, or even what personal pronoun you use; it is important to know your identity and to appreciate it.

This past summer, my sister and I were able to travel to England, Germany, Spain, Austria, and lastly Bosnia. We were gone for almost six weeks, but luckily we have family in each country that we were able to stay with. This was a trip of a lifetime, because we were able to explore so many beautiful cities. From Big Ben in London to the beautiful Park Güell in Barcelona; everything was breathtaking. It was fascinating to talk to the natives in each country because everyone is so excited to tell you about their culture and at the same time learn about yours as well. It was also nice to see people be able to put aside any differences and just engage in a conversation.

 

However, nothing compared to when I went to Bosnia, the country where I am from. Keep in mind that, I am from a very small city in Bosnia where there are no large buildings or well known landmarks like the ones we had been visiting across Europe. Yet being able to breathe in the familiar air and see the familiar houses, could not quite compare to everything I had experienced earlier. Bosnia was home, and every time I return my heart fills with so much indescribable joy. It is not so much as what there is to do there, but just solely being with my family and surrounded by people who share your history and culture.

Bosnia, having experienced a war in the 1990s, has made it also very hard to not only go back there, but also to leave it. The remnants from the war are still visible, not only in the endless rows of headstones but also in the dilapidated houses that were never remade. Along with that, my immediate family members are scattered all along Europe, and summer in Bosnia is the one place where everybody can come back together. So, every day in Bosnia feels crucial and feels like I have to cherish every moment while it lasts. It is both a sad situation yet reminds me of how strong my family was to be able to start anew and rise above it all.

My culture is an aspect of my identity that I highly value and never forget about. It has shaped me into the person who I am today. Because of my background, I have learned to appreciate the little things in life along with the strive to achieve to my full potential. Also because my family came to the United States as war refugees, I understand the situations that are going on in the world and how important it is to show support in a time of need.We must respect each other and not be afraid to the stereotypes that sometimes bind us to our appearances. We must get out there and learn not only about who we are, but who the people around us are.

I went to a high school and even see it at my university, where my peers are bilingual, where they have experienced other cultures through travel, and where we constantly engage in an ongoing conversation about world issues. It is nice and refreshing to be surrounded by individuals who are open minded and are willing to gain new perspectives while simultaneously shaping their own. Our differences should not be viewed as threatening, but rather they should allow us to continue to learn more about ourselves and the world that we live in. Respect and value are two things that go a long way.

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