International Relations Field Study Trip to Montenegro
The Department of International Relations had its first field study trip back in 2003 when we went to Montenegro (then officially part of the State Union of Serbia and Montenegro). We were back in 2008 just before the last presidential elections and again, for the third time at the beginning of March this year.
Montenegro is one of the IR departments post-conflict and nationbuilding destinations (the others are Kosovo, the Basque Country and Northern Ireland in a four year cycle) where students hear a wide cross-section of opinions. They meet decisionmakers and opinionformers for formal presentations and are able to question them directly. In the words of Dr. James Walston who leads and coordinates the trips, they are “Rashomon study trips in identity” after Kurosawa’s famous film where the same incident is told from four very different points of view.
Then there are informal meetings where they get to know local students and young people.
This year, the trip included two stops in Belgrade so students were able to get a glimpse of Serbia. On the way out they went to the Parliament and met government MP and deputy speaker, Gordana Čomić, physicist, feminist and accomplished speaker, and opposition MP and playwright, Nenad Prokić. This was followed by lunch in the Parliament and a visit to the Chamber. On the way home, they went to Belgrade Castle, Kalemegdan, in balmy spring weather (a few days later the temperature was back down to freezing) and then to the historic Radio B92, for much of the ‘90s, the only source of reliable information in Belgrade and one of the moving forces behind the demonstrations and elections which removed Milošević.
In Montenegro, the AUR group was once hosted by the city of Podgorica with thanks to Mayor Mugoša and to the office headed by Irena Rogošić who saw that the tight schedule ran smoothly.
This was very necessary as the Friday schedule started at 9 am with a visit to the UN offices (ABOUT THE UN IN MONTENEGRO WITH INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS), followed by the US Embassy where Ambassador Sue Brown did us proud, with most of the Embassy meeting us. Then to the Faculty of Poltical Science where the Dean, Prof. Sonja Tomović-Sundić gave an overview of Montenegrin history and politics. On to the opposition Socialist People’s Party which looks after Serbs in Montenegro with a panel of two MPs and their international relations person, Radmila Djurišić. Without lunch, we moved on to the President of the DPS, the Democratic Socialist Party, Milo Djukanović.
Over the last 20 years Djukanović has been either president or prime minister of Montenegro in its various forms (it has been part of four different states in two decades which is the main reason for going there). He navigated the country through the many storms of war in ex-Yugoslavia culminating in full independence for Montenegro in 2006. He had welcomed the AUR group back in 2003 and once again explained what had happened to his country taking tough questioning from students who were in no way overawed by Montenegro’s founding father (Đukanović primio studente Američkog univerziteta u Rimu). Djukanović obviously painted a positive picture of the country but did not paper over the problems.
The last meeting of the day was with the NGO, MANS where there was a much more critical picture. The same was true the following morning with a civic opposition leader, Nebojša Medojević. This was the Rashomon effect.
Not all was formal meetings, though. On Saturday, we went first to the old capital of Cetinje, still covered with deep snow and visited King Nikola’s palace, saw the sites of Austro-Hungarian, French, British, Belgian and Russian embassies and enjoy coffee in the sun. Then on to Kotor, the beautiful walled town on the shores of the fijord surrounded by sheer and high mountains. And a typical Montenegrin meal on the way back.
The trip was also an opportunity to meet with AUR alumni who were generous with their time and expertise; Miljan Mugoša who works in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and had just completed a tour of duty and the Montenegrin Embassy in Washington, Ana Dautović, UN Coordination Analyst in Podgorica; David Bajić in Belgrade who is about to start work in an international NGO. And the group was genorously looked after by the father of one alumna and one current student, Miroslav Ivanišević who gave us dinner on one evening and coffee and cakes in Kotor.
Full immersion, Montenegro; not just politics and international relations.