Tina Seslija describes her childhood in Bosnia-Herzegovina (the former Social Federal Republic of Yugoslavia) as amazing. She and her family traveled extensively, she loved school, participated in sports, and in general felt very lucky and safe. As Tina was preparing for her high school prom — a major event in her homeland, that amazing childhood came to a screeching halt. War broke out. No prom was held. And for the next four years, Tina and the rest of her country lived in constant fear surrounded by daily gun fire.
"Two first years was without electricity which means without water without anything. I married during the war, I delivered child during the war. Sometimes I feel there is no words to explain how I felt during that time. That four years, of course, changed everything," Tina said.
Tina enrolled as a first year student at the College of Saint Benedict (CSB) — about as far removed from those years of war in her country as she possibly could be. But no matter how much distance or time she puts between herself and the war, she will never forget. It has shaped her life and her life goals.
For each of the past three summers, Tina has returned to Bosnia-Herzegovina to do volunteer work and internships. She has worked in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for Bosnia; listening, learning, and building contacts. Two of those summers, she worked directly with the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs. One project she worked on included handling all the details around a visit by ten Italian diplomats to Bosnia for discussions around the visa process. Again, she uses the word amazing to describe the experience.
"So crazy how much stuff they give to me to work on. I'm not sure I ever let intern see some documents, but they did it and I felt amazing," Tina commented.
Tina will graduate this spring from CSB with majors in Peace Studies and Political Science.
"I know politics always play a big role in decision making and everything. I want to know more about it; to be able to maybe to change something back in my country. And also I want to learn more about peace and how to make peace, because every 50 years in my country we have war, new war."
After graduation, Tina plans to return to Bosnia-Herzegovina and begin the next chapter in her amazing life. Her long term goal is to serve as an ambassador for Bosnia in another country such as Greece.
"I need to be honest, I'm scared a little bit because we are moving from paradise (CSB and the United States) to my country which I love most but still there is a lot of things I don't know how it's going to be. I don't know if I'm going to get a job, my husband also. I have two kids to feed and I don't know are they going to have problems in the school because my youngest doesn't understand the language very much and all those obstacles I could think about, but I'm so happy I'm going back home. I'm so happy that I have experience here in United States."
She may be a bit scared about the return home, but she is full of hope that she and her fellow Bosnian students studying at CSB and SJU will be able to make an impact when they go back.
"I just hope that having 60 of us could help our country to see and to think differently, and to be able to at least respect each other. We don't need to love each other, but at least to be able to sit and listen to stories."
And in Tina's case, it truly is an amazing story.