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Santa Clara's Tapestry of Excellence:
A World View—Up Close
SCU senior Jacob David had seen the media accounts of the devastation of war in the former Yugoslavia. But he says he knew the television reports of warring factions and ethnic strife didn’t tell the whole story—particularly the human side.
So the Portland, Ore. native, a religious studies major who is also pre-med, decided to travel to Bosnia to expand his world view and help people in the process. He says the trip did more than teach him about another culture. "It was about exploring myself at the same time," says Jacob.
The cost of his trip was offset by the Jean Donovan Summer Fellowship, which awards grants of up to $1,000 to students who want to deepen their understanding of social justice through a summer community-based learning experience. The fellowships are funded through a Jesuit endowment and administered through the Pedro Arrupe, S.J. Center for Community-Based Learning.
Jacob spent four weeks last summer working as an after-school health educator with the Sarajevo Youth House in Bosnia. He taught health workshops on Saturday and helped in English classes for middle school students every evening. His mornings were spent working with preschool-aged children.
"My ancestry goes back to the former Yugoslavia," Jacob says. "I’d heard bits and pieces about the war on the news, but I wanted to find out for myself what the people were going through and what it’s like to have Americans intervene in a war between white people," he explains. "I wanted to learn and be moved by the experience—I wanted a different way of looking at the world."
"Folks in Eastern Europe who have been through a decade of violence see the world differently than a comfortable college student from California," adds Jacob. "It knocked me off my high horse and put a human face to the images on the TV screen. It changed the way I look at politics and international relations."
During his time in Bosnia, Jacob stayed with a woman and her 10-year-old daughter and was able to interact with many of the local people. "Kids going through school don’t expect to get jobs. People expect another war," he says. "There’s hope that they can walk to the store without getting shot at, but there’s no utopian vision in Bosnia."
Still, there were signs of hope. Jacob says it was encouraging that Sarajevo residents were proud that Serbians, Muslims, and Catholics could get along. "Coming from the U.S. with our racial tensions, seeing a place that took pride in racial harmony was inspiring," he says.
SCU, Jacob says, has given him the opportunity to broaden his knowledge of world events. "There are very few universities that commit to that," he says. "Very few people go through college and have an experience like this."