Mostar Stories

Ivana, Andrea and Selma: From Mostar abroad Selma, Andrea and Ivana are among 500 BiH students who graduated from UWC Mostar since 2006.

Ivana, Andrea and Selma: From Mostar abroad

Selma, Andrea and Ivana are among 500 BiH students who graduated from UWC Mostar since 2006. They believe that their perseverance, hard work and effort would have provided great opportunities in life, but that UWC and IB diploma provided, not only better opportunities, but also led the way towards much larger and greater projects and opportunities.

UWC Mostar was established in 2006. Although envisioned as a short term project, now, 14 years later it has educated thousands of students from all over the world. Each year around a hundred students are enrolled in this institution and one-fifth of this number are students from BiH, while the remaining number of students are international. Receiving an IB diploma is a great advantage of students attending a UWC, as it also opens up the opportunity of studying abroad, a chance that was taken by these three students who decided to seek for better educational opportunities across the Ocean.

“Prior to UWC Mostar, I studied at Gimnazija Mostar, so I never changed the school building but I definitely changed my internal world" says Selma, now a student at Lewis & Clark College, Portland, USA. I am completely certain that without UWC I would not be able to study at one of the very strong academic colleges like Lewis and Clark and receive a full scholarship. It is very difficult to achieve without the IB diploma” says Selma.

A desire to surround herself with young, prospective people who are not afraid to stand up and fight the stereotypes, injustice and discrimination was the reason for Andrea Previšić, a former students of Gimnazija in Čapljina to enrol at UWC.

“During my education prior to UWC, I was taught that the system is always right, even when it is not and that I should keep my opinions to myself. At UWC I learned that if the system is not right we should fight against that - says Andrea, now a student of Psychology, NeuroScience and International Relations at Lewis and Clark College, Portland, USA.

Enthusiasm for knowledge was gained at UWC, due to the fact that students are encouraged to form their own opinions - starting with smallest everyday problems to great scientific issues. Although they have replaced 16 subjects with 6 at UWC, they have gained necessary broadness in knowledge and a spectrum of knowledge for specialising in one field.

They explain that theoretical knowledge is not just learning definitions by heart, it is being implemented in practice in the world, society, science, politics. Everything learned is applied through research and experiments in every subject. “The curriculum in our schools is old and based on memorising the facts, which are rarely useful in todays’ society where all information is available at one click. Classes at UWC are much more focused on practical application of knowledge. - they explain.

 “Through almost my entire education I learned biology in terms that did not really make sense, nor did they mean anything to me until I started applying them in my personal research, work, laboratory - Andrea explains the differences she noticed during her education at UWC. The idea to study Psychology, Neuro Science and International Relations at Lewis and Clark College in Portland came from her affinity towards psychology, behaviourism, profiling and criminalistics. When deciding where to study she states that a great role was played by the quality of the programme and receiving a scholarship.

Education at UWC Mostar opened new doors and opportunities to Ivana Filipović, now attending University of Richmond, Virginia, US. Following her education in high school in Prozor Rama, her enrolment at UWC and IB diploma led to her thinking about greater prospects and opportunities. The reason why Ivana chose to study in the USA is the fact that a great number of institutions provide an opportunity of selecting liberal arts program and are able to research different fields before making a final decision on the subject that they wish to pursue.

Selma, Andrea and Ivana are among 500 BiH students who graduated from UWC Mostar since 2006. They believe that their perseverance, hard work and effort would have provided great opportunities in life, but that UWC and IB diploma provided, not only better opportunities, but also led the way towards much larger and greater projects and opportunities.

Nejra Neimarlija-Roic UWC in Mostar Alumni Nejra Neimarlija Roić is an NGO activist, working on improvement of young people position in Bosnia and Herzegovina and in the region, within the NGO Institute for Youth Development KULT, in Sarajevo.

Nejra Neimarlija-Roic

After graduating from United World College in Mostar, in 2008, I decided to stay in Bosnia and Herzegovina as I was motivated to contribute to, so needed change in my country. I have always dreamed of being a doctor, but on UWCiM I changed my mind and fell in love with economics. Even now, I believe it was a good decision. High unemployment rate in BiH, Iow economic growth and development, made me interesting in researching more on these issues and its solutions. 

While I was a student, I started to volunteer in the Institute for Youth Development KULT. The vision of the Institute is to have active citizens who are willing to be involved in decision making processes and it was very similar to the values of UWC. There I met many young people who are truly inspirational and who after trainings in Institute became socially active citizens and carriers of social change in their communities. On trainings, study visits, conferences and other events, organized by the Institute you could see young people from all over of BiH and the region, Kyrgyzstan, Germany, USA – all over the world. This remainds me on time living in UWCiM. In 2012, I started working for the Institute and became the Project Coordinator of some of these activities, on which I am proud.

To advocate for better position of youth, you have to understand the background of these young people, so we often implement research in communities where our target group is living. Work in Institute is three-sided: work with young people directly through organisation of different trainings for them, focus groups, asking them about their problems and wishes, but also it includes work with institutions and politicians, as well as work with other NGOs, local and international ones.

After understanding young people we present their needs to the government on different levels and we are involved in making strategies and laws related to youth. In order to make change, Institute supports government during the implementation of laws and strategies. As an employee, I have the opportunity to collaborate with young people, government, local and international NGOs, financial institutions and economy sector.

In 2014, we marked 100th anniversary from the beggining of the World War First and Institute organized International Youth Conference in Sarajevo, where 200 young people from different countries in Europe participated and shared the idea of peace. It was my pleasure to coordinate such conference and that conference aimed to promote peace in the world – what was one of reasons of establishing United World Colleges.
I have a Master in Economics and currently I am working on initiative related to my field of study. I work on strenthening government institutions and processes in BiH, with a focus on youth friendly budget and audit.
My message to young people is that they should always follow their dreams, even if it takes to change their strategy and even if it is frightening – because it is worthwhile.

Uroš and Antonija When Uros (Serbia, UWC Mostar ‘14) and Antonija (Croatia, UWC Mostar ‘13) decided to kiss in front of an old woman who disapproved of their hand-holding to show her what peace looked like, they had no idea the image would go viral.

Uroš and Antonija

Uroš and Antonija

"The bravest kiss ever" was the title of the world famous photograph of a young girl and a boy who kissed wrapped in a Croatian and a Serbian flag.

The story of two UWC Mostar students, Uroš and Antonija, started during a flag parade in 2013. When asked why she was walking next to a Serb, the Croatian girl responded by kissing him. The rest is history.

In the words of the author of the famous photograph: "This might not seem like much, just a couple expressing their love, but for us, here in Mostar it is a symbol of a new generation who is not willing to continue the war which exists in the minds of people."

The photograph became a symbol of reconciliation, unity and love, and made it to the headlines all over the world. Under the title "Even against overwhelming odds," the Huffington Post selected it as one of 21 top photos in the world that prove 2013 was a year of triumph, no matter how small.

Su MyatNoe Su is the first student from Myanmar at UWC Mostar, and the first Aung San Suu Kyi Endowed Scholar. And she must be one of the first Burmese people to live in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Su MyatNoe

Su MyatNoe

As the November 8 election in Burma was coming nearer, everyone was getting excited for a dramatic change through the election. Some Burmese citizens from abroad went back home to vote their precious ballots from their hearts. But for me, I was here studying in UWC Mostar and I felt a bit sad as I missed the chance to get involved in such a great event. And I was also excited so much as four candidates -- including my father -- are running for the parliamentary seats from opposition party in my hometown region. Actually, we all were already worried about losing in my hometown because of the fragile crisis between Buddhists and Muslims. The military government has used this religious crisis as a weapon and indirectly persuaded people not to vote for the opposition party. Most of the military officer families live in my town and their votes were for the ruling party. And the sadness happened.

We lost all seats as the opposition party in my town. However, the good news was that the opposition party won in a landslide, except a few regions, to form a democratic government. At that time, my joyful tears came down over my cheek and I felt eternally happy. But still I felt sorry for the candidates and people of my town. By that time, I realized that we younger people have to try more and educate those people who are still misunderstanding between different religious, races and nationalities, to help form a cosmopolitan atmosphere and to get rid of injustice. And being here I realized here that we, students from UWC, have been proving how all students can live peacefully together as an excellent example for my country.

Stasia Rudak Stasia (Belarus, UWC Mostar ‘10) graduated from Dartmouth College in 2014, returning to Mostar to teach Math and Theory of Knowledge. She is originally from Belarus, and mostly doesn’t mind being confused with students.

Stasia Rudak

Stasia Rudak

Before I started teaching I had many doubts about what this job entailed. At times, I imagined teaching to be the value added to the textbook; and, in strict economic terms, the value added needed to be maximized. Within that definition, a teacher was a perfect machine, incapable of mistakes. Because I lacked supernatural abilities to know everything and be ready for every question, not to mention my lack of experience as a backdrop for comparison, this idea of teaching caused me much grief in my first year. Whenever, in my opinion, I could not maximize the value, I felt I did a mistake by choosing teaching as my career.

As I got to know my students more last year I came up with another idea of teaching – a memory from when I was a girl, who lived and studied in a foreign country and appreciated my teachers also being my friends. Then I defined being a teacher differently: a teacher is a human being, who understands the struggles of students, because she has her ups and downs, too.

I don’t think many other schools shape the job of a teacher in the same way as the UWC. This school was a great place to study, and now it is a great place to work.