Editor's Note: For many Mount Holyoke College students, studying abroad is preparation for working outside the United States after graduation. Anna M. Morawiec '96 now lives in Sarajevo, working with an international organization that is helping to rebuild war-torn Bosnia-Herzegovina.
When I graduated from Mount Holyoke, like so many other politics majors, I hoped for a career in international politics. It was a career choice simple to understand in the era of rapid post-Cold War development in Central and Eastern Europe, the bubbling cauldron of foreign affairs in the Middle East, and the rise of independent nations seeking to empower themselves on the eve of the new millennium.
Upon graduation, I went to Poland as a Fulbright Scholar, where the desire to become involved in international politics evolved into a desire to work in international development. I wanted to take part at the grass-roots level, where the individual has an opportunity to change the face of the political landscape through activism and advocacy. I began working for an international organization devoted to promoting the rule of law in Central and Eastern Europe, and realized that my career was developing around me.
I write this letter from a building with a façade that has crumbled from years of war. I live in Bosnia-Herzegovina, where I am the coordinator for programs on governance reform and development at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe Mission to Bosnia-Herzegovina in Sarajevo. While embarking on the transition to democracy was challenge enough in the other countries of Central and Eastern Europe, Bosnia-Herzegovina is undergoing this process in an environment dogged by political and ethnic polarization and physical destruction of over 40 percent of its infrastructure.
Through programs I develop and coordinate, officials are provided with training and technical assistance to manage their communities' limited resources, while accommodating the critical refugee-return process for the establishment of an inclusive, multiethnic community. In a country where ethnic tensions flare almost daily, the healing and reconstruction process is a long and hard one, but one in which I am proud to have a part.
On any day, I can walk along the street past Stabilization Force soldiers peering out of armored personnel carriers. My colleagues are Serbs, Croats, and Bosnians, all of whom speak a "different" language, and to whom my speech must adjust, despite the fact that eight years ago they were all Yugoslavs. I feel that I, too, have adopted a new language. The organization acronyms and development jargon can almost allow someone to speak entire sentences without words found in the dictionary.
Mount Holyoke challenged me three years ago. My work in Bosnia continues to present me with opportunities to exhibit my skills, as we try to steer this country back on to a track of peace, stability, and democratic development.
--Anna M. Morawiec '96