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Sarajevo, Split, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia

Program Description

This study abroad program focuses on understanding the experiences and learning ways to support immigrant and refugee children in educational settings. The experiences of immigrant and refugee children are often fraught with trauma, even if the hurt and trauma are hidden or unacknowledged. They experience violence, upheaval, marginalization in their home countries, and more often than not, on their journey to their new country. They bring all these memories, feelings, and narratives into their new home, schools, and communities. If you are looking to understand and learn ways to support immigrant and refugee students, you will want to join the travel-study course to Croatia and Bosnia, together with local teachers who are already creating trauma sensitive learning communities in their schools.

During the two-week program, Caring for Immigrant and Refugee Children’s Learning Experiences (CIRCLE), JMU preservice teachers, undergraduate psychology majors, and Harrisonburg schools (HCPS) practicing teachers will learn how to address the needs of refugee and immigrant children from those who had significant success in supporting children and educators in Croatia and Bosnia following the conflicts in the 1990’s. In addition to skill-building relevant to supporting children who experienced trauma and violence, students will interact with host country undergraduate students and K-12 teachers, interact with current refugees/immigrants from the Middle East, engage in story exchanges and dialogue with peers in host countries, learn a way of teaching history from multiple perspectives, and gain deeper understanding of cultural, political, economic and education conditions in a post-war country.

Location Description

Croatia and Bosnia share a rich history and culture, from prehistoric sites to Ancient Roman Empire remains, to the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo, to war in the 1990s, and a geographic location where Western European and Middle Eastern cultures meet.

The course divides its time between two countries, Croatia and Bosnia. During that time, we will be based in two cities. First, we'll stay in the coastal city of Split, with its Roman, Italian and Croatian roots as well as gorgeous coastline. In Bosnia, we'll be based in the capital of Sarajevo, famous for its beautiful and dramatic fusion of eastern and western cultures as well as the tragedies of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and the siege of Sarajevo. Both cities draw their beauty from centuries of cultural exchange, although their presence on the boundary between empires and states has also brought great tragedy and suffering.

We will also visit several locations outside of Split and Sarajevo to gain a better understanding of the countries’ geography, culture, and post-war challenges for educational systems.


Vesna Hart | | Psychology / CGE

Melanie Schoffner | | College of Education


Accommodations will be provided for students through hostels or hotels with internet access, breakfast included, and laundry facilities. Students will be in shared double rooms and faculty will always stay on-site near the students. Hostels and hotels are centrally located or well positioned to easy access all learning sites.

Breakfast is provided by the hotels and paid for by the program. In addition, each student will receive a meal stipend of 15 Euros per day to cover the costs of lunch and dinner. Most students spend more than the 15 Euro allotment, particularly in Croatia.

Additional Items to Consider

All applicants may be required to participate in an interview with the co-directors prior to the review of their application. Interview dates and times will be emailed to applicants upon the completion of their program application.

Applicants who are accepted must hold a valid passport good through six months beyond the end date of the program. Students should bring their JMU ID with them.

There are NO visa or immunization requirements for U.S. citizens participating in this short-term study abroad program.

Three pre-departure orientation (PDO) sessions, totaling 12 hours of instruction, will take place leading up to departure.

This program is an intensive academic experience in the context that it requires sociocultural openness and eagerness to engage with cultural differences.

Applicant Criteria

Applicants must have a GPA minimum of 2.0

Requirements: EDUC 501 – students must have successfully completed EDUC 300 and EDUC 310; PSYC 400 – students must have successfully completed at least one SS content course and one NS content course.

This program is best intended for preservice teachers and psychology majors. However, ALL majors are welcome!

Junior, senior or graduate students (psychology major sophomores also) are eligible.

Application Process

This list serves as an application preview. To apply, students will need to complete the following:

  • Study Abroad Online Application ($25 fee)
  • Short essay 
  • Interview with Program Director(s) may be required
  • Official transcript required for non-JMU students

Further details and instructions about these application requirements will be available upon log-in. 

Application Deadline


All dates are tentative and subject to change


EDUC 501: International and Interdisciplinary Workshop in Education: Caring for Refugee Children's Learning Experiences (3 credits)

ELED 490: International and Interdisciplinary Workshop in Education (3 credits)

PSYC 400: Topics in Psychology: Caring for Refugee and Immigrant Students' Learning Experiences (3 credits)

Courses listed here are to be used as a general guideline for program curriculum. *All courses are considered pending until approved by the Academic Department, Program, and/or College.


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