SSST Stories


ERASMUS student exchange experience at SSST

Apr 26, 2018

Andrew Cooney was born in 1989 in the capital of Thailand, but spent his childhood with his family in Australia. He decided to start studying in Germany, but then life brought him to Bosnia and Herzegovina, namely to the SSST University where he spent one semester as a visiting student. We talked with him about his country, our country, his experiences and friends he has gained during his stay in Sarajevo and the University of SSST. We are very proud that an increasing number of students from all over the world recognize the quality of education at the University of SSST and decide to continue their life in the capital of BiH.

You came from Australia to study here in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Why did you chose BH and what did you know about it before your arrival?

Well, I actually came from Germany, where I’m currently doing my studies. But yes, I initially came from Australia and by a string of funny coincidences ended up in Sarajevo. I was travelling through the Balkans and came up into Bosnia and Herzegovina from Split, Croatia. Having already spent a week in Bosnia and Herzegovina, namely in Mostar, I was enamoured by both the beauty of the country and the friendliness of Bosnians. During a free walking tour of Sarajevo I asked the tour guide whether there were any technical Universities in Sarajevo and he directed me to the Sarajevo School of Science and Technology (SSST). Upon returning to Germany, I discovered that the SSST has a newly established cooperation with the learning chair that I work for (Wi1 Chair of Innovation and Value Creation). It ultimately seemed like fate that I was to do my semester abroad in Sarajevo.


Did it take you a lot of time to adjust to the new environment, learn about new culture and customs?

Other than studying a bit of Bosnian modern history in school, I really hadn’t known much about the local customs per se. In preparation for the semester abroad I took part in Croatian language courses offered by my University in Germany. That gave me about as much basics as one can imagine a one-session per week language course offers (close to none in other words). So in short, I needed a bit of time to adjust to the new environment. This includes the simple things such as buying a sim card, phone credit, tissues (initially I would just do the gesture), tram ticket etc. At the same time, though I was in a foreign country with very different ways of life to what I was used to in Germany and Australia, I was living in the moment and enjoying it. It didn’t take too long before I was ordering more than four espressos per day and meeting up with friends in local pubs.


Have you met a lot of new friends here? What were their impressions?

During my time in Sarajevo I met a lot of people and made some friends that I will keep in touch with for a long time to come. Typically the conversations started with them asking where I was from, followed by why on earth I chose to come to Sarajevo. My response to that was that Sarajevo has a lot to offer at which point they looked at me with confused and comical suspicion – as if to say, “really though?” I mean, I can’t really generalise what their impressions of me and my reasons for coming to Sarajevo were. However, it was somewhat clear that had they been in my position they would have chosen somewhere else to go.


Do you talk to them about your hometown?

It’s difficult really to say where my hometown is. I grew up in different places around Southeast Asia and Australia and have constantly been moving for as long as I can remember. So in this regard I did talk, to a small extent, about the places that I periodically called home. That being said I’m not much of a talker and would much rather listen to other peoples’ stories. For some students at SSST, Sarajevo is also a proxy home as they come from either neighbouring countries or cities. And it’s equally as interesting to hear how they ended up in Sarajevo.


What impresses you most here in BH?

With this question it’s difficult to know where to start. I’ll guess I’ll start by saying that I’m thoroughly impressed by the beauty of the landscape in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Having travelled to other parts of the Balkans (namely Slovenia, Croatia, and Serbia), Bosnia and Herzegovina contains without a shadow of doubt the most spectacular and breathtaking scenery. Had it not been winter or had I had regular access to a car I would have definitely been travelling around the country more. My grades may have taken a turn for the worse but grades are more ephemeral that what is learnt while travelling and experiencing different cultures.


Additionally, and in regards to Sarajevo, I’m impressed by the people of Sarajevo that make it such a lively and vibrant city. I can’t say that I’ve ever felt such a warm benevolence from people that I don’t know and that speak little English (and me with my little Bosnian) on a regular, daily basis. It was truly astounding and for that I’m really grateful to have had the opportunity to experience it. I look forward to the next opportunity that will take me to Sarajevo once more.


What are the main differences (regarding customs and culture) between BH and your country?

Well, both Bosnians and Australians eat a lot of meat, drink a lot of alcohol, are very social, frequently have barbeques in summer, and drink coffee like it’s a religion. The only difference with the aforementioned list of commonalities is that I have, on more than one occasion, seen vegetarian sausages offered at sausage sizzles (Australian slang). The why, how, and who both baffles and embarrasses me. So on this note I was happy that Bosnians offered no such option. 


Do you think you can stay and live here in BH and start your career in Sarajevo? What are your plans after the graduation?

I think Sarajevo offers a rich place for innovation where, given the current bureaucratic situation (or lack thereof), people are forced to abide by the proverb “necessity is the mother of invention.” I observed this when talking to people at incubators such as networks and it makes for a very exciting working atmosphere. This exciting working atmosphere coupled with being a vibrant city would definitely to be reason for moving to Sarajevo.

As for what to do after my graduation, I’m not entirely sure (says almost every student). I ideally would like to do a PhD in Germany. However, that requires that someone is willing to employ me to do research and is also dependent upon the quality of my Master thesis. So, one step at a time as a conservative parent always says and see where these steps eventually lead to.


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