Impressions from my first trip to the United States
Autor: Hana Kazazović
It is almost ten days since I came back from my ‘one in a lifetime’ trip. I visited the United States, as a part of IVLP program. And I already can say that this trip changed my life. How – I don’t know yet, but I feel like that. Actually, I knew it a few days after I stepped on US soil.
Why was this trip so important to me?
Actually, this is my first travel abroad in my whole life. I am almost 40 years old and I have never been outside my country and outside places that sometimes were my country too. I live in Bosnia and Herzegovina almost whole my life, except three years when I was a refugee during the war. And even then I was a refugee in Serbia, which sometimes was a part of Yugoslavia, as well as Croatia, Montenegro, Macedonia and Slovenia.
I came back home in 1996 and after that life happened to me so I did not travel. I was studying and after that I was an entrepreneur. It is very hard to be an entrepreneur in my country, or maybe I was one of a kind that did not know how to earn a lot of money. So, I was working and paying my debts and didn’t have time even for a holiday in my country.
After a few years my business failed, so I had to find a job. Luckily, I started a blog a few years before that and I wrote a blog post about looking for a job. I also had a lot of followers on Twitter and Facebook, and I already fell in love with social media and the Internet. That helped me a lot because I got an offer for a job. Actually, it was a very good offer so I accepted it. Since then I have been working in Prime Communications, marketing and PR firm, as a community manager, and I am working from my home in Zenica, while the offices of my firm are in Sarajevo and Banja Luka. It was an august 2011 when I started and I really like working from home, and working on the Internet.
Why did I not travel after I found a new job?
Because I have debts from my entrepreneurial life and I have been paying them for years. Yes, I was a very lousy entrepreneur :) Or maybe I was a utopian, because I was the owner of the gift shop in the town which has a very few tourists :D Never mind, it was a mistake from which I learned a lot and after all these years I don’t regret it.
But I must admit that I needed a couple of years to forgive myself this mistake. Actually, I was very angry at myself.
And so it goes, I was working and I was very interested in traveling, but I didn’t have the money for it. My plan was to pay off all my debts and after that choose one location in the whole world and travel, just to see what the abroad looks like. In my mind that was Italy or Austria or something like that, which is close enough and not so expensive.
And then, I receive an invitation from the US Embassy to Bosnia and Herzegovina for IVLP trip to the United States. They said the trip would last three weeks, and everything would be paid and organized, and that four of us bloggers will go and only I had to do was to accept it.
It sounded like a dream. My first travel abroad and it will be the United States? Well, if I had to wait forty years for my first trip abroad, I can say that it actually was worth of waiting.
And of course I accepted it!
The second important thing to know is that I said I didn’t dare to speak English. I have been learning English almost my whole life, since I was 12 years old, in school. And after I finished the school I read books in English and watched movies and TV shows in English. But every time when I had a chance to use it, I didn’t. I was afraid and insecure in my knowledge, so I said I wouldn’t try. Fortunately, two of my travel companions also didn’t speak English, so we had two interpreters with us all the time.
And on July 9th, four of us went to the Sarajevo airport. We knew that we will visit Washington, DC, St. Louis, Portland (OR), Pittsburgh and New York. We knew that we will have a lot of interesting meetings and visits and that this trip would be great. And that was the third flight in my whole life, so I was a little bit scared.
I have been listening about leaving the comfort zone whole my life, and here I was – waiting for a flight that will take me from my comfort zone almost 5.000 miles far away and it will last 21 days.
And one of my biggest personal shortcomings was self-confidence so yes, I was pretty scared. But, in the other hand, I also was very excited.
My travel companions were very interesting people. Martina Mlinarevic Sopta is a writer, blogger and I didn’t know her, but I was in love with her writing. Actually, I was her fan and I was very happy when I heard she is going. Srdjan Puhalo is also a blogger and the interesting thing is we are working at the same firm – Prime Communications. So yes, I knew him, but we didn’t spend a much time together because I work in Zenica and he works in Banja Luka. Slobodan Vaskovic is also a blogger from Banja Luka and I knew him only from a couple of TV shows.
After a couple of hours, while we were still above the Atlantic Ocean, I realized we have very much in common. We all have the same opinion about life and about anomalies in society in which we are living. And all four of us think that everyone must clean in front of our doors first. And we have very similar ways of thinking and doing and that is probably the reason why the US Embassy in Bosnia and Herzegovina have chosen us for this trip.
I wrote every day on my domestic blog cyberbosanka.me while I was in the US. I did not plan to do that, it just happened. After first day in Washington DC I wrote a blog post on my smartphone, and my readers were very happy to read it, so I decided to write every single day. And I did it, only skipped one day. And I will copy and translate that posts on this blog, so you could find them at this blog in a couple of days if you want to read them too.
Because, after our first meeting at World Learning agency which organized our whole trip for the State Department, I started to use my English. And some people told me I speak it very well, so I didn’t use interpreters after that meeting. And most important is that I gained necessary confidence in using English, so that is the main reason for writing all of this.
I know there are mistakes in my writing and I know that this is the only way for improvement. Also, during this trip I learned something from the people in the United States – my mistakes would not stop people to understand me. And the second important thing I learned from the people from the United States is – persistence is the most important thing, and it can substitute mistakes.
So, that is the reason why I now write in English too, after a couple of tries and a year after I actually started this blog in English. Because I really want to write in English and talk with people from the whole world.
I really enjoyed my visit in the United States. It is a wonderful and fabulous country. And I really like talking and meeting different people in all these cities. And I really think I am a totally different and a better person after this.
Before I finish this post I have to thank all the people who enabled this for me. First of all that is The US Embassy in Bosnia and Herzegovina who recognized and chose me. I don’t know how to express all my gratefulness and happiness for this experience so I will just say – thank you. You did one of the most important things in my whole life for me and I will never forget it.
I don’t know all the people who worked on this trip, all the people who created it and made it perfect. Even if I try I couldn’t find a single shortcoming so – thank you so much. Sometimes I wonder if you somehow have an access to my dreams because you almost met all of them, even those I didn’t have courage to admit to myself.
I have to say thank you to all people we met during our visit. All our meetings were great and very useful because of them. We learned a lot from all of you and I am grateful for meeting every one of you.
I am very thankful for two ladies who were our interpreters. Ms Karalic and Ms Ruzica were our support and pilots of our trip during these three weeks and they helped us to feel comfortable and secure and happy all the time. It is an honor to meet people like them and I know that my companions agree with me. This trip would never be as perfect as it was if they were not with us, so I am very thankful for that.
I am also very thankful for my three companions. The Universe often mixes the most unbelievable things and gives you a chance to get to know yourself while you are meeting the world and the people in it. Because, you really get to know people only when you spend time with them, in a different situation – while you are walking by Mississippi, while you are flying above the ocean and braking while landing, while you share some new experiences with people and they are their first time experiences also.
I am very happy because that were three of them because we are all so different and still very similar. While we were sharing these experiences and this trip, we also had a chance to learn about ourselves.
I am also very grateful for the people who stayed at home for us. They stayed so we could leave, that was very well explained by Marta. They kept everything in our homes and at work and that is the reason why we could enjoy all three weeks without worries. In my case they are my husband, Mom, Dad and my brother, and colleagues from Prime Communications, especially my bosses Dragan and Dobrila, and colleague Vera. They worked a lot instead of me.
At the end, I have to say this – to all my readers on my domestic blog – thank you. Your comments were the main reason why I wrote every day. You are the main reason why I now have all these written memories. Thank you, you are the best!