Quinn Van Valer-Campbell

Quinn Van Valer-Campbell (Bosnian Family – BOSFAM): Quinn was born and raised in Santa Cruz, California. She first visited the Balkans in 2007 to work with Bosnian NGOs, and studied abroad in Bosnia while an undergraduate at Fordham University. Quinn was studying for a master’s degree at the Monterey Institute of International Studies (MIIS) in California when she began her AP fellowship. After her fellowship Quinn wrote: “I am more confident in what I know I am capable of. I proved to myself that what I have learned is applicable and relevant in life and not just in class. [The fellowship] has shown me the way in which the cultivation of people to people relationships …can change lives.”



Leaving – But Not for Long

16 Aug

It’s starting to finally set in.  I have four days left in Bosnia.  Not only will I board a plane on Saturday and head to Munich and eventually land in San Francisco, but I also will leave behind my current home.  It is three months after I left California and I find myself at home and comfortable with life, as I know it here.  Bosnia has been wonderful to me and I don’t know if I am truly ready to leave.  Of course, I am ready to see my family, my boyfriend, and my friends, finish grad school, and return to my life.  But I know I will be leaving behind memories and experiences unlike any I have known before.

With BOSFAM's Srebrenica women, Vezirka and Milica

With BOSFAM's Srebrenica women, Vezirka and Milica

This summer has been exceptional.  I have learned more than I thought possible.  I learned how to get my point across with my limited Bosnian vocabulary and how to tailor my words to fit any situation.  I went from talking about whether or not I am tired or hungry to having full-blown conversations about the simplicity and beauty of life despite cultural barriers (one of my favorites was about the proportionality of a little person).  I learned how to discuss a carpet, the wool that one uses to make such a carpet, and the draft that Bosnians deeply fear.  I learned that I must never go outside with wet hair.  I made friends.  I connected with an ex-pat community and made great friends with the women working at BOSFAM.  I traveled to Eastern Bosnia, Sarajevo, Srebrenica, Croatia, and Montenegro.  Most importantly, I learned the stories of the women who I have come to love.  I learned about their pain, their humility, and their strength.
Kahva at BOSFAM

Kahva at BOSFAM

I wonder if I can fully explain how I am feeling right now.  I will not miss hand washing my clothes or the daily mental drain of understanding the language.  I will miss drinking coffee twice a day and knowing how my presence affects these women.  There is something about the Balkans that has grabbed onto me and has not let go.  In my fourth trip to this region, I am definitely not finished.  From the food to the people to the language, I have fallen in love.  The Balkans will be in my heart permanently.
I Love Tuzla

I Love Tuzla

Who knows what the future will hold?  Thus far I continue to be surprised with the passing of each year.  Four years ago I never thought I would study abroad in Croatia, Serbia, and Bosnia.  Two years ago I never thought that I would spend my summer in Pittsburgh studying Croatian.  I certainly did not foresee coming back to Bosnia this summer for this peace fellowship.  As I pack my bags, I can’t help but wonder when I will pack them again.  All I know is that I have not said goodbye to Bosnia forever.
Heading home

Heading home

Posted By Quinn Van Valer-Campbell

Posted Aug 16th, 2011

3 Comments

  • Tory

    August 17, 2011

     

    As always-so proud of the work you’re doing over there and everything you’ve been able to take from this experience. Selfishly I can’t wait for you to come home, but I know too that this will not be your last trip to Bosnia. There is no doubt in my mind that you have changed the lives of many people over there and will continue your work once you have returned home. I can’t wait to see where else life takes you. I am so lucky to have someone as amazing, intelligent, and inspiring as you in my life.

    • Quinn Van Valer-Campbell

      August 18, 2011

       

      Thank you both so much. I am also ready to come home, but know that with more time spent here, the stronger my passion is to actually do something for others. Sometimes I think it’s a pretty hippie ideal, but I have to keep telling myself (as cliched and hokey as it sounds) that person to person relationships do make a difference. It totally alters my perception of life back home and what I had previously considered challenges or setbacks. Thank you so much for being so supportive and responsive this summer – it makes me feel like at least someone other than me can relate. I am so grateful to have you as a dear friend.

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