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Political science student Ryan Bartley shares his experiences studying abroad in Belgrade, Serbia.
Image Credit: Ryan Bartley

Ryan Bartley is a senior who double majors in economics and political science, and he recently took advantage of the Clemson University Department of Political Science’s semester abroad program in Belgrade, Serbia. Courses are taught in English by top Belgrade University professors, and Bartley and his fellow students got the opportunity to interact with Serbian students, officials and the Serbian government.

Bartley enjoyed his time abroad led by Clemson faculty Jeffrey Peake and Vladimir Matic. We got the chance to catch up with Bartley during a busy fall semester so he could provide further details on his experience.

Caroline Marwede: Why should people go on this trip?

Ryan Bartley: The number one thing that sets it apart from other programs is you aren’t just studying abroad with only Americans; you’re completely integrated with the Serbian students in that area. My classmates were Clemson students, and my professors were from Belgrade, however outside the classroom we spent more time with the Serbian students than with each other.

CM: The program consists of 15 credit hours; what classes did you take while you were there?

RB: You’re allowed to take 12 hours of political science and three hours of electives. I ended up going with U.S. Foreign Policy; European Politics; International Political Economy; Serbian Language, Politics, History and Culture; directed study in International Politics; and Theories of International Relations.

CM: What was the most valuable takeaway from the program for you?

RB: That’s difficult to answer because there were so many valuable aspects. However, I’ll never forget the connections amongst faculty and students and the friends that I made there. There were seven Clemson students in the program and it felt like we were the only Americans in all of Belgrade. We got to go to weekly meetings with Serbians and then have fun going out with them afterwards. I made some of my best friends on this trip and two of them are even coming to visit me in California.

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Although Bartley’s classmates in Serbia were all Clemson students, his professors were from Belgrade and the trip allowed him to fully immerse himself in Serbian society.
Image Credit: Ryan Bartley

CM: How did this trip help you grow outside your comfort zone?

RB: When you spend all your time with Americans, you tend to stick to your American ways. In Serbia I learned more about the true culture and customs when I was with people that actually live there. You’re also able to learn the language much better when you’re thrown into a culture.

CM: What are the highlights of the program looking back?

RB: First is that there are small class sizes with world class professors. Next, the opportunities to meet Serbian students and get involved at their university.

CM: Where did you travel outside of the program?

RB: I had the chance to travel with Serbian students on a four-day trip Croatia, Bosnia and Montenegro. I also did a weekend with four other Clemson students to Budapest, Hungary and Vienna, Austria.

CM: What was your favorite travel location and why?

RB: Being in Belgrade was so great that I didn’t even feel the need to travel that much. However, I did take a trip to the Dalmatian Coast that was unforgettable.

For more information on the program, please visit the political science department online.