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My American Experience: Igor Jovanovic, Serbia

This summer, CHI invited its USA Work & Travel participants to take part in a contest to help show off their program spirit. Participants were asked to submit an essay, video or photo slideshow that best demonstrated their personal ‘American Experience’.  In their own words and images, here is what this year’s CHI USA Work & Travel alumni have experienced during their summer in America.

Essay by Igor Jovanovic, Serbia, worked in Baltimore, MD

It was still June, my first month here, and I was trying to hold a good grasp of the summer and have a wonderful American experience. Socializing with the Americans, trying to make friendships for life, was merely another in a wide spectrum of challenges. I knew that if it needed to be taken one step forward, I had to take the initiative! “Let’s go on a roadtrip! We wil have so much fun!!!” I said. The truth is, we did not only have a great time, but have also learnt a lot about American history. This is the tale of my roadtrip to the Smithsonian Museums in Washington DC, and strengthening my friendship with some of the greatest people I have ever met.

By talking a lot to people from work, I realized I was not the only person willing to travel on my days off. But I did not expect it from my local coworkers to be thinking likewise. Despite the fact they had already been in DC more than once, my now good friends, Keri and James, decided to embark on the adventure along with me. We met at Mondawmin mall in Baltimore, and were ready to go and explore, early in the morning. I had made sandwiches, and they had brought snacks for all of us, and we were ready to learn new things – it was going to be an awesome day! Knowing the trip would take around an hour, we started talking about working and studying here and back home (from my point of view). Finding out that students decide to start working and not depend on their parents very young was a surprisingly good thing, I did not know of. I identified myself with them instantly, having come to work here for the same reason.

There we were, in the DC subway. That huge and very well organized network of underground trains was more than something I could’ve ever imagined. The beauties of subterrainian domes and a wonderful view at every junction station – marvelous! The subway took us straight to the Smithsonian Museums. The first one to be visited was the Museum of American HIstory. I have, throughout my life, heard stories about how America barely has any history and wishes to have one. This was a perfect way to prove all those theories wrong. Apparently, a few hundreds of years can result in a very rich content. The splendors of Jefferson’s ideas, old pikes and armors, Native American culture and customs, dresses of all the first ladies, and even Kermit the Frog, all glancing at us from the exhibits, teaching us valuable lessons of American history and even the not so famous hardships America has gone through, standing tall and proud. History: 1, rumors: 0. But the part I liked the most was, believe it or not, Dumbo the Elephant, taken from a ride in Disneyworld. It showed all of us that even a short amount of time can result in a very rich history. We left the museum richer in a whole new way.

Despite the plan to spend about four hours in Washington, the museum we had just come out of had already taken about three. We wanted to see at least one more, but before that – it was snack time. Thinking on full stomach would (and did!) make us choose the second museum wisely. The choice was American Art Museum.

Paintings and sculptures showing everything from antique motives to pop culture, enhanced by a dose of realism on one and mythology on the other hand – simply priceless. We have seen not only that, but a whole bunch of exhibits, showing the history of video games. All of them! From Super Mario to World of Warcraft. Having seen that part as well, we knew we were there for too long already. But we did not simply want to exit a museum without seing all of its content, even if it meant coming back home on time to just sleep and wake up for work tomorrow. The magnitude of paintings showing nature, animals, fruits and vegetables, great people from American history, a lot of mythical beings, cartoon characters and art of hair, different objects, and even TV screens – all of that just sending us a message we have chosen well, and we can now say we do know a lot about American history and art.

By the time we were done seeing both museums, it was already nightfall. There was not enought time to see one more. But there was enough time to do just one more thing, known to be typically American – have dinner at McDonalds. After that, we set off to go back home. It is one of the days we will all remember for life! We learnt a lot about not just American history and culture, but also about each others while going through all the exhibits, talking about them, and our feelings and opinions about them, as well.

Came home late at night. Ready to go to bed and wake up early for work in the morning. But still having the thoughts of the past day in my head. Suddenly, as I started to fall asleep, feeling as I have relived all the battles and events I had seen in the museums, I was thinking about the time I had spent with Keri and James. I knew that true friendships were forged, ones where we would live to see each others again. But another friendship as well – my friendship with America, knowing I will start looking for new ways to come back and see it and experience again.

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