My name is Lara, I’m 23, and I’m a TandEM volunteer in Croatia from the U.S.
As a third culture kid, I’ve always been curious about the country my Croatian-American parents came from. I decided to experience the culture first-hand when I moved to Croatia five years ago to study. I was lucky to be fluent in the language before moving (give or take a few extra-evasive vocab words). Regardless of my parents teaching me so much about Croatia, I was culture-shocked at first. I sometimes still am. I had moved from a suburb near Boston to, what to me appeared, the slower-paced, less diverse and smaller city of Zagreb. I struggled at times to adjust to a different, but also wonderful, lifestyle. I’m very grateful for the opportunities I’ve had so far, and I’m lucky to be able to call both the U.S. and Croatia “home”.
I received my Bachelor’s degree in international business from Rochester Institute of Technology (Zagreb campus), where I was taught by amazing professors and met some of my best friends. The original plan was to move back to the U.S. after finishing my Bachelor’s degree, but, since meeting my Croatian boyfriend, I’ve stayed in Zagreb a little longer after all. After interning at Deutsche Telekom’s (parent company of T-Mobile) Croatian subsidiary, I accepted a position in international project management. This gave me the opportunity to lead international projects, travel often and meet many different people. My favorite projects included leading two international hackathons (collaborative events for students and young professionals) and working with startups from Zagreb and Tel Aviv. After two years in international business, I decided to explore new perspectives of international cooperation and human behavior. So, this fall I started studying anthropology at the University of Zagreb with the goal of finishing postgrad education.
Learning about new cultures and traveling have always been important to me. My first time on an airplane was before my first birthday and besides Croatia, I’ve lived in three States and Italy. So far, I’ve visited 25 States (half way to seeing them all!) and 17 European countries. Priceless travel experiences I’ve had include waiting out a thunderstorm on a Colorado mountain while visiting an ancient Native American cliff dwelling, participating with Croatian locals in berba (annual grape harvesting and wine making), laughing with fellow travelers at 3 a.m. in a broken-down bus somewhere remote (to this day I’m unsure where) in the French alps, and listening to soft piano music by our lovely host Gianni in the Tuscan countryside. Meeting new people is always the best part of traveling.
While I’ve definitely had some awesome experiences, I’ve also seen very real challenges to be met in terms of multiculturalism and equality. One of my goals is to work on topics like tolerance, globalization, and migration by balancing my international business experience and anthropological perspectives. I believe that encouraging respectful international dialogues and exchanges, as TandEM does, is an important way to help break down barriers of prejudice and xenophobia. TamdEM actively works to foster the coexistence of diverse cultures, and I am thrilled to have the opportunity to volunteer for the program.
Text by Lara Rasin
Photo courtesy: Lara Rasin