Week Without Walls Diaries: Building Bridges

Week Without Walls in Dubrovnik


One of these Week Without Walls trips this year was to Dubrovnik, where students would spend time exploring the ancient city, and learning about the many different cultures that make up the country. Known as the “Pearl of the Adriatic”, Dubrovnik is pristinely maintained, and surrounded by tall medieval walls. Walking through the old town, students were able to do everything from relaxing on the beach, to visiting the maritime museum. 

However, the most memorable experience actually happened on a day trip to Mostar, in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Along with a fascinating tour of the small city, and a tasting of traditional Bosnian coffee, students were taught Roma and traditional folk dances. As it was occupied at different times by both the Ottomans and Austro-Hungary, Mostar is a complex array of religion, heritage and architecture. 

The mix of cultures and the intimate way in which the students were taught about them allowed for a deeper understanding of how rich the country continues to be.

But in spite of the beauty Mostar had to offer, student’s were also quick to notice the many bullet holes in surrounding buildings. This made more sense when, during the day, dance teachers Gaga and Mia gave insight into the Balkan war that occured 20 years prior. As students learned more about the fighting, they gained a new perspective on Bosnian culture, and the separation going on in the country. 

As the Bosnia and Hertzegovinia is inhabited by three major ethnic groups (Orthodox Serbs, Bosnian Muslims, and Catholic Croats), the result is continued discrimination and separation, which affect the inhabitants of Mostar to this day. “Because of this separation they, (Gaga and Mia), are unable to find a place to practice and develop their art. Cultural institutions won’t even provide them with a cultural home…because they are trying to unite their three cultures and aren’t just picking one”. Those were the words of Mr. Bohat, one of the supervisors on the trip. In addition, student’s learned that even schools are being segregated based on ethnicity.

As Mr. Bohat said, “for a city literally named after its bridges, it is ironic how very few metaphoric bridges are being built between people from different cultures”. This isolation of cultures is an important lesson of how fortunate we truly are at ISP. Activities like Language Week, Spectrum, and Happy Caravan allow us the opportunity to learn from other’s traditions and heritage, so people can communicate about their differences rather than avoiding each other.