A Schnitzel That Gave Me Ten New Best Friends

By Imman Merdanovic

I grew up in a beautiful city in Bosnia, yet wanderlust took me far from home at a very young age. I was sixteen when I moved to the Netherlands and faced culture shock for the first time. Two years later, after exploring all of Europe and having the time of my life in Africa and Dubai, I moved to Canton to only discover what a real culture shock was! “Here they dip pizza in ranch, wear baseball hats ALL THE TIME and eat Nutella with bacon,” I told my mom, who pretty-much made the story famous at home. And just when I thought I earned my P.h.d. in culture shock, it hit me once again— this time as I returned back to SLU from an off-campus program in New York City. Luckily, a CIIS Living-Learning Community came to rescue, blessing me with ten new best friends and a safe environment in which telling that good old Broadway story for the fifth time became completely normal.

Imman Merdanovic in NYC, Fall 2016

I remember walking into the class for the first time: ten students, equally as confused, talking about all the food they tasted abroad— schnitzel, waffles, crêpes, scones… words that bonded us immediately! Not only did we live on the same floor and learned about travel-writing in a two-hour class, but we also cooked foods from abroad at our professor’s house, and let me tell you— was it a feast! Living together and sharing those cool experiences with each other truly brought out gang together, so much so that by the end of the semester we attended each other’s games, plays and concerts, and became each other’s biggest fans.

Together, we helped each other get back into our normal campus routine. We overcame the famous ‘pub panic attack,’ which happens after the first time you try to order something from the pub after a long time. Most importantly— we developed mutual understanding and helped each other grow as global citizens. Our passports, American, Canadian and European, now all share inspiring stories of just how important it is to get out of your comfort zone and explore the world.Our passports, American, Canadian and European, now all share inspiring stories of just how important it is to get out of your comfort zone and explore the world.

Today, I am not only proud of the experiences I have had abroad, but also of the one I have had as part of the SLU ‘FYP for grown-ups,’ as we call it. Today, I proudly declare the Living- Learning Community my greatest experience at SLU. Today, I can safely say that P.h.d. in culture shock is not a thing— travel is about learning, about crossing boundaries and mastering the fear of strangers, about making the effort to understand other cultures and thereby empowering yourself. My CIIS community has empowered me as much as living in New York City, and just as life never stops teaching, I believe I will never stop learning. Perhaps, some of us will never get a chance to return to those wonderful places and continue their journeys, but together we have created a magical community in which tackling those memories has become a second nature.