Sunday, June 24, 2018

Embedded Internship Experiences/Final Days in BiH

As our internship experience drew to a close, it ratcheted up in terms of the experiences students got to take part in. Ana found internship experiences for each of the students that align with their college and career goals, and they've all had a great time at each of them. Also, in case you missed the first or second post before this one, here you go: First Impressions & D8N2BiH2018 Continued...

Anya cooking at the delicious Restoran Radobolja
She also got to intern at Suncokret, a local bakery (or pekara).
Interested in chemical engineering, Nate and Kayla got to intern at a local juice manufacturer, Hercegovacka.
Kayla and Nate pictured here with another of their mentors, Anita Jurić.
Griffin was hard at work at a local "advokat," or attorney's office during his experience.
May is with Marko Dzidić, her mentor at Alfa Therm, where she did engineering.
Just doing some CADding!

We've also been continuing our exploration of the Herzegovina region, including learning about local businesses and non-profits. One of those visits was (once again) to see Minores, a local organization that began as a project of college students in Mostar to help provide solutions to homelessness and food insecurity. Last year Mateo, one of the students who came to Dayton in 2017, showed us around the "new" building that they have been given custody of by the government. It's a former military barracks, and they've made a lot of progress since last year and now have a solid roof, electricity, pluming, and can store food and clothes there. They're still looking for donations, and it's definitely a great cause that could benefit from your help if you're in a position to contribute.

They have some rooms with beds and the roof is now repaired. There's still a ways to go but tremendous progress has been made!

We walked through and saw the progress made.
The biggest difference was the basement, which I hardly recognized. They now have a clean space to store donated items like food and clothing. Consider donating by emailing them at
Another one of our day trips included a visit to Kravice waterfalls, a beautiful spot about a half hour away from Mostar where you can relax and go swimming and enjoy the beautiful scenery.

In front of the waterfalls.
The scenery there is beautiful, and you can swim up to the waterfalls (it helps when it's much hotter outside though!)
Another angle of the waterfalls.
After Kravica we visited Medjugorje, a local Catholic pilgrimmage site. We didn't climb up the mountain, but we did walk the grounds and see the large statute of Jesus that many people visit.
It's hard to tell but there was a service going on at the time, which was indoors/outdoors.
Afterwards we stopped for pizza and pancakes (the BiH kind, which are like crepes), all of which were delicious!
One of our visits was to FEAL, a very successful aluminum company in BiH that makes all kinds of products. The students enjoyed the tour and had a great time getting to see what the manufacturing process looks like up close.

Everyone in front of FEAL.
Another day trip we took was to the town of Stolac, where we started off by checking out some stećci, or monument-style tombstones found throughout BiH. The one pictured below is perhaps one of the most famous ones and is found at Radimlja, close to Stolac. It likely dates back to the late 1400s.

I know the symbol means something significant but I'm not sure what that is. It mostly looks like he's saying hi.
We did our best to wave along with him in our Telemach t-shirts (thank you again, Telemach!)
After the visit to Radimlja we went to the town of Stolac. Last year when we were here we went up to the ancient ruins, but this time Meliha took us for a stroll along the waterways that flow through the town and we were not disappointed.
This was rebuilt thanks to an EU project and it's a beautiful replica of the old mill that used to be here over the river.
We stopped by a local tekija, which is like a monastery in the Islamic faith.
More views of the river...
Further on up we found this beautiful little waterfall... right along the path running through the town. Such beauty everywhere.
The people in the town have put the river to good use and have run irrigation channels all along the river.
One last view before heading back...
That night we were invited to coffee and baklava at Meliha's house, where some of our students were staying. She also works at INTERA and was gracious enough to host three of our students this year. During the dinner we learned the difference between Bosnian and Turkish coffee (Bosnian coffee requires boiling the water first and then putting it into the džezva (coffee maker) whereas Turkish coffee is made by putting the grounds in first and getting them a little hot, then adding the water and bringing to a boil. Still haven't mastered it, but I'm working on it!

Meliha serving up the coffee. We also met a really nice couple who have decided to sell their home and travel the world and happened to be staying in one of Meliha's places that night. Check out their blog at!
If you're jealous, you should be. You should also consider booking her place on AirBNB for your next trip! Contact me and I'll put you in touch!
The next day we were back at INTERA for more training, where the students got to learn about digital marketing.

But first, Nate, Vedran, and I took a moment to do an interview for NAŠA TV, a news station for the Herzegovina region.
Dino Joldić led the digital marketing course for the students and taught them all about marketing strategy.

That night we got to watch the Croatians play in the World Cup and the excitement in the air was palpable. Croatia had just come off a win against Nigeria and then they beat Argentina!

People were gathered in cafes all around the Croat part of the city watching the game, so we joined them.
Then Croatia won!
They were our adopted team since the US didn't make it into the World Cup :)
The next day we had a rare opportunity to meet with some entrepreneurs who are doing some great things in BiH and who are rapidly expanding their businesses. We got to talk with them and learn about the opportunities, challenges, and future goals of what they're doing, and both are in the tech industry.

Russ of North Cape Software and Haris of Meta Software Solutions talk with students about
their businesses. There seems to be a lot of opportunity for growth, particularly in tech, in BiH. There's also a large local population of well-educated people who speak English in a low cost-of-living area, so investors take note!
Up next was our trip to Blagaj, which is one of my favorite spots to visit each year. It's a beautiful tekija (Islamic monastery) that was the first spot that the Ottomans set up to administer in the Herzegovina region. It's still a monastery today and is also open to the public. It's set up right next to the largest source of water in Europe, where 40,000 liters per minute gush out as the source of the Buna river.

The Dervishes are known for selecting beautiful spots to serve as locations for their tekijas, and this location is no exception. We learned on the trip that Blagaj means "mild" because the climate here is actually much cooler than just 10 minutes away in Mostar thanks to the spring.

We all had to appropriately cover up before heading in to visit.
You can see why studying here would be an ideal location.
We had an unusual amount of rain (not to mention an earthquake!) happen during this trip, but it was basically two bad days of rain. Unfortunately it happened as we were visiting, so we ducked into the nearest restaurant next to the tekija for lunch and got some great Turkish coffee.
We ordered a large lamb plate that was supposed to feed "4-5 people" and it safely fed all but the vegetarian in the group.
We waited for the rain to clear up next to the river and had some espresso and baklava until there was a break in the rain.
Not a bad place to wait.
Heading back into town we could see where the rain went!
We waited it out in a local cafe and watched the unsual site of water pouring down onto the Old City in mid-June.
Our last night "goodbye" dinner was at Blok Bar again, which was delicious. More importantly we shared our reflections on the trip and gave some gifts to one another.

The kids got Ana some flowers and a Croatian jersey in thanks of all she did for them in putting together such an amazing experience.
The kids and chaperones got some really cool INTERA/Telemach swag to take back!
My wife gave Ana a beautiful picture she painted of the school that Ana attended growing up, a small thank you for being such an amazing host to us in her home for two weeks!
The final day we left for Dubrovnik, but not before squeezing in a couple final activities before we left!
The first activity was a hike up to the fort that sits on top of the mountain that overlooks Blagaj (see above), which was quite a hike. Thankfully our guide/homestay mother, Meliha let us take the "short" one and it was a beautiful hike.
The view from below...
The fort goes back to Illyrian and Roman times, but was greatly expanded on during the Ottoman Empire's rule.
The view from the top was worth it! I can see why Meliha loves coming here to hike.
We made it! Thankfully a couple of other people were there to take our photo all together :)
Finally we had to have some more Bosnian coffee and desserts before we left, so we stopped a little cafe next to the river before getting in the van back to Dubrovnik.

Sharing desserts and stories with the little time we had left in BiH.
The river was unusually high thanks to the rains we had gotten the previous days.
This little guy came to wish us luck before we left too...

Ana's mom was working early so we didn't see her before we leave, so we stopped by her shop to say one last goodbye before leaving. We will miss the Bogdanović obitelj (family) a lot!
This trip provided so many great experiences (both academic and cultural) for all of the students and chaperones. We have to say a huge thank you first and foremost to Ana and all of the people at INTERA Technology Park for creating such an amazing experience for our students. If you are interested in learning about and/or investing in BiH, they are a great place to start. This project is a small one compared to the work they do, and we can't thank them enough for making this internship exchange possible. We look forward to hosting students next summer from Sarajevo, Mostar, and Banja Luka, and if you'd like to be involved, please contact me at and learn how you can help either by arranging activities, serving as a homestay family, or supporting us financially.

Thank you also to our major sponsor in BiH, Telemach, and to our sponsors back in the US, including the Kettering Rotary Club and the Dayton Sister City Committee. This exchange wouldn't be possible without your support!

If you're thinking of your next vacation or are looking for an investment opportunity, now is the time to do it in BiH. The food is amazing, the scenery is breathtaking, but the people there are the best!

Embedded Internship Experiences/Final Days in BiH

As our internship experience drew to a close, it ratcheted up in terms of the experiences students got to take part in. Ana found internship...