The course of my life was changed even before I was born and left me forever wondering where an ordinary life would lead me. The year I was born, a devastating war was raging in the middle of Europe – in my home country called Bosnia. It was the year when death triumphed over life, when dying was normal, and birth was completely inappropriate, a year of those born out of spite. And yes, that was the same year that Bill Clinton was inaugurated as the 42nd president of the United States of America, Michael Jordan scored his 20,000th point, the World Wide Web was born, and Nelson Mandela was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. To my parents my birth meant not only happiness and hope, but was also a source of huge worry.

I was born in the middle of winter, and in the worst period of the war, when all the city trees had already been cut down for heating, when people were dying queuing for drinking water, in a city without electricity and with very little food left. Only two days before I was born, nine children were killed with a single shell in a school in my home town Sarajevo. At the moment the guns went quiet, more than 8,600 young lives had been extinguished in a city of 300,000.

There was no milk or clothes for me at the time, so my parents would wrap me up in blankets and their clothes, since winters in Bosnia are harsh. Food was scarce and they struggled every day to put something on the table. Luckily, my amazing grandmother managed to trade her jewelry for a goat smuggled from the country, so they could feed me goat milk. So the poor goat moved in one of the rooms of our apartment and was a part of our household for the next two years, when they gave it to another family with a small baby.

Sadly, I do not remember the goat except from my parents’ stories. However, although these are not my memories, they are a part of my reality that formed me into a person that I am today. My first real memories are of the smiling faces of my parents. Everybody was happy, peace had arrived – the time of hope and the beginning of new life, and my normal childhood could finally begin – playing with children, going to school and looking forward to the life before me. How ecstatic I was when I realized at the beginning of my education that I would study three foreign languages, knowing even then that that would be the bridge connecting me with other people, cultures, and customs. That was all confirmed when I went to Turkey to perfect my Turkish, staying there for a month, visiting places of historical interest and learning customs and culture of that incredible place through my own experience, rather than from textbooks.

This is precisely why I was truly delighted when I got the opportunity to apply for a student exchange program and finally managed to come to the United States of America, something I dreamed about for a long time. I was aware that I was going to meet many people of different background, culture, and tradition, which was a thrilling prospect. I was going to find out how different people learned to live together, building a strong community, and thus a powerful and great country they can be proud of. I was going to find out how people learned to respect diversity and to respect each other.

Listening to the discussions the older generations back home engage in and finding out what happened from the media, I build a picture of the events that marked the times I was born in, and I ask myself what it was that made people think that war was the only solution at the time. I try to view the issue from different perspectives, in order to gain a more objective insight. I believe that by studying in the United States of America I can learn of ways to find peaceful solutions to any dispute or disagreement and that I could transfer that knowledge to my country, so that the events from the past never repeat themselves.

That which my country is lacking, the US has in abundance – a developed and strong democracy – a value that I want to take from here and transplant to my country and into the lives of my countrymen and countrywomen thus helping along the peace building process.

I think that the best way to achieve this would be through studying at an American college, a
perfect place for me to gain new knowledge, to expand my horizons, and offer my humble
contribution to the famous “melting pot” I read so much about. At the same time it would be an honor for me to share my knowledge of culture, tradition, customs and rich history of my country so that my American friends can better understand the place I come from.

I believe that studying in the United States of America will further enhance my sense of morality and my dedication, and that it will encourage the development of my personality and provide me with skills that will enable me to pass my knowledge and experience on to others. I hope that the academic excellence and high standards of American colleges and my innate desire to strive for the best, together with my drive and determination will make me a person I want to be, with values that would be an asset to my country and my people.

With such sound foundation I know I can achieve anything I set my mind to later in life and I know that I will have the strength to deal with any challenge that comes my way.