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Help a Serbian University Student Experience the U.S.A.


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If you are like most folks throughout the United States, you probably know little about the J-1  Visa Summer Work and Travel Program.

Are you lazy? Would you rather listen to me talk about the work and travel program? Click here 🙂
This program was created in the 1960s by the Kennedy administration as a way of improving America’s image around the globe. It also plays a very beneficial role for the American business owner and the student. The businesses owners, customers, and employees get to learn about foreign nations, cultures, and befriend folks from different backgrounds. It makes the world a much smaller and more enjoyable place. The foreign students are allowed to work during their university’s summer break at seasonal jobs throughout the United States of America. They learn how American businesses operate and gain some valuable experience which can improve their employment future back in their own country. Once their work contract is finished, they get 30 days of tourism before returning to their country. This program supplies some employers with enough summer staff to fill their summer rush. It may seem like it takes jobs away from Americans, but many of these locations don’t have enough American workers to fill the open positions. There are many resorts in the middle of Denali National Park, Yellowstone, mountain towns in Colorado and the islands off the coast of Massachusetts that are unable to find locals to work in their resorts. This program is helping small business owners stay in business while bringing in foreign students who are renting apartments and buying local products from the community.

Serbia is one of the bigger players in this program. There were around 2,700 Serbian university students who were approved on this program last year. This year the enrollment was almost doubled! We, Work and Travel Group,  are sending around 750 students to the USA for the summer of 2015.

Do you know any business owners who might be interested in bringing in a Serbian university student for the summer of 2016? Serbian students are allowed to work 4 months between May 21- Oct 1st. My agency has contacts with many successful and large companies throughout the USA. mat4

The employer must provide a copy of their current business license along with a copy of their workman’s compensation insurance policy. The majority of our students are working in bars, restaurants, hotels, fast food restaurants, retail stores, and many other hospitality-type businesses throughout the USA.

The location and job must be vetted by the U.S. State Department to make sure it aligns with the program guidelines, but many states are covered. We sent our first group of Serbian students to St. Louis, Missouri this year. My old school friend, Bill Croy, is the GM for a few McDonalds on the western part of St. Louis. He decided to bring in 5 Serbian students and they are loving it so far. They are able to work with Hispanics, African Americans, and many other minority groups that they may have never encountered if not for this program.

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They were also able to experience their first Walmart. 🙂 One of the students was dying to try “Hersey’s” for the first time.

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This program can also be a great thing for local homeowners. The students have a budget of between $75- $100 a week to spend on accommodation. This can be a big boost to a struggling American household where every dollar counts during the hot summer months. One homeowner took in 7 students and is able to use the almost $12,000 each summer to take his family on a big vacation each fall.

Dusan

The children in the house also love meeting these “funny sounding” foreigners. One American family from North Dakota randomly ran into a Serbian student who was asking if he could play soccer with their little son. They all quickly formed a life-long bond and they are now considered family. The American family even flew over to Serbia to surprise him and his friends on Thanksgiving.

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It has even formed friendships between students from unlikely places. One Serbian student started working at a restaurant on Martha’s Vineyard. He learned that two of his coworkers in the kitchen were Albanians from Kosovo. It made him very uncomfortable at first, but they soon were hanging out together after work and on weekends. This program can really change the world.

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Want to meet up with a Serbian student who is in the USA this summer? Download our app to find out where the Serbian students are and send them a message.!

If you or anyone you know, might be interested in taking in a Serbian student or two for the summer of 2016…… contact me ANYTIME!
charles.cather@workandtravelgroup.com

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Posted by on June 17, 2015 in Through my eyes

 

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6’7 Serbian Student Spends a Year in Kansas


pan Marko Vignejevic is a young man from Pancevo, Serbia. He spent one year studying at an American high school through the A-SMYLE student exchange program. One day he received a letter from the organization telling him that he would be spending his year in the tiny little town of Sylvan Grove, Kansas. sylSylvan Grove has a population of about 300 residents! What would happen when a 6’7 Serbian student enters a tiny town in the center of the USA? I asked him a few questions to find out…. Charles- “What were your first impressions of the USA?” Marko- “Okay. My first impressions? Well, lets skip all the flying and sightseeing and jump right into Kansas. So, my first impression of Kansas was “Holy shit, this place is flat!” and I live in Vojvodina. 🙂 Then I started mentally preparing myself for the farmer lifestyle, instead of my city lifestyle that I had in Serbia. Then I got to the house and the farm and I liked it! It was way different than my house in Serbia, but I expected that.”  kansas Charles: “What about the family you lived with? Were they nice to you?” Marko: ” They treated me very well! I never once felt like I didn’t belong! They had four kids already. One daughter and three boys. It was a lot of fun living with them as you can imagine with all those kids running around.”  Charles: ” Did you teach them any Serbian?” Marko: ” I tried, but It didn’t work out very well. They kept pronouncing the J and the G the exact same way. :)”  Charles: “Were they a wealthy family?” Marko: No, average middle class family, but they live much better than an average Serbian family.”  serbi1 Charles: “ Were your real mom and dad worried about you? Did your host family speak with them? “ Marko: No, once all my flying was over, they were fine. My dad is a very reasonable man and calmed everyone else. I introduced my host parents to my real parents over Skype and there was a lot of awkward staring until I started translating because my parents in Serbia speak ZERO English.” Charles:How did the residents of this place treat you?” Marko:The town is so small. It only has 300 people in it. The high school was a consolidation of a few little towns and only had 100 students. The people of Kansas were so nice to me, possibly too nice.” Charles:Were the kids at school friendly to you?” Marko: ” YES! The minute I walked into the school kids started saying ” Great! We are going to state in basketball this year” because I was the tallest guy in school. It was funny because they hadn’t even seen me play yet!  I felt like the star walking around this school being 6’7! I was also the only exchange student.”  serbian Charles:How did your basketball season go in Kansas?” Marko: “It was good. We ended up 9th in whole state of Kansas, but lost badly in our final game. We were 5th in the state at one time”  Charles: ” Did you tell the kids at school about Serbia?” Marko: ” Yes. We had my Serbian flag hanging up in my American history class! :)”  serb1 Charles: ” Did you like American food?” Marko: ” Yes, I loved it! Could you find a way to bring a Taco Bell over here to Serbia? 🙂Charles: “What was the worst part of your trip?” Marko: “Probably having to leave everyone.Charles: “Anything else you’d like to tell us?” Marko:Well… I won a free trip to Washington D.C and New York City for winning a writing contest and for having lots of community service hours!”  serbi Marko: ” I’d love to find a way to go back to Kansas again next year!”

 
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Posted by on February 7, 2015 in Through my eyes

 

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Video Game Maker Obsessed with Serbs


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The new Grand Theft Auto game, GTA V, has a scene showing a homeless man with a sign that reads “Serbian bad guys stole all of my money. PLEASE HELP”  ( Picture above)

This is a video company that released its first version of this hit video game back in 1997.  Each game in this series allows players to take on the role of a criminal or a wannabe in the big city, typically an individual who plans to rise through the ranks of organised crime  through the course of the game. The player is given various missions by kingpins and major idols in the city underworld which must be completed to progress through the storyline. Assassinations and other violent crimes are featured regularly. Occasionally taxi driving, firefighting, street racing, bus driving, or learning to fly helicopters and aircraft are also involved.

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The lead character is named Niko Bellic. There has been some debate as to his nationality, but there is a lot of speculation that he is Serbian. You can read that for yourself on WIKI. One of the executive producers just made this statement when asked about Niko’s nationality  “from that grey part of broken-down Eastern Europe”. That pretty much sums it up. They have Niko speaking Serbian in a few different segments.

You Serbs sure get a lot of flack in the media, Hollywood and in video games. Just smile and enjoy the attention they are giving you. Jebiga! 🙂

 UPDATE: A Serbian buddy from Milwaukee, Wisconsin recorded this video of some “Serbian revenge” on this character. 🙂

 
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Posted by on November 19, 2014 in Through my eyes

 

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Serbian Athlete Discusses Life in the U.S.A


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The best part of my job is getting to speak to hundreds of Serbian kids that have had the opportunity to visit and go to school in my country. It is very hard to find one that had negative things to say about their time in the US or about the American people. The A-SMYLE exchange program is one thing that the government does well. Apply today….http://www.ac-see.org/programs/hs-citiesdates.htm Two months ago, a dozen kids from this program wrote to PRVA TV to beg them to help me stay in Serbia longer! 🙂 They told PRVA that they use my blog posts and videos to introduce their classes to Serbian life and culture. I was very touched when the tv station reporter told me this. ❤

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Exchange programs are very important and can really change the world. I feel that all high school students should be required to live in another country and experience a totally different culture. It really is the only way to destroy propaganda. There always seems to be  billions of dollars available  for bombs, guns, and terror…….. why don’t we try spending it on the kids who will be running this evil planet in a few years? Our governments would never do that. There is so much more money to made in military conflicts! Obama, Bush, Nikolic, Tadic…… they are all controlled by higher powers. 😦 Sad, but true!!!

This young man was going to school in a small town in Illinois. He has enjoyed his exchange program very much. I asked him to write down a few things that he noticed about life in the USA. Here are his thoughts :

“Before I came to the US two years ago all my knowledge about it was based on things that I saw in the movies, tv and the internet. There are many stereotypes about Americans and some of them are accurate at some level, some of them are not but in general the picture that the rest of the world sees is somewhat true but it’s not complete until you actually visit and spend some significant time living here. First thing that I have noticed is how things look better here. Buildings, roads and infrastructure in general are a lot better in the US. Serbia has many beautiful old buildings and monuments but in general most of the things in Serbia are built back in the post Josip Broz Tito era. Some of Serbian buildings are very old and they are pretty much falling apart but since Serbia don’t have money to build new ones we are forced to use them. In the US everything just appears nicer and newer since there is more money to spend to take care of it. Other thing that was very different is the amount of space Americans are using to build towns and cities. I could say that just a regular US town somewhere in countryside or suburban area with a population of 20.000 probably has a bigger area then, for example, Novi Sad which has a population of 300.000 or more. Now something about people. Mentality is different than Serbian for sure. People here don’t talk or discuss politics as much as people in Serbia do. There are people who disagree with the US government of course but politics are not as common topic as it is in Serbia. I would say that main topic in the US are sports. I knew that Americans watch sports but I wasn’t really aware how much it is big until I came here. I also knew that professional sports are big deal but college sports are probably even more watched than professional sports. In Serbia the sports that are followed by people are pretty much at the same time of the year but in the US it is divided by seasons. With the beginning of August/September football is most popular I believe, both college and NFL. Then later on, somewhere around October/November NBA starts but it is not really that much watched until the playoffs. College basketball however is very popular. Hundreds of Universities with great basketball teams so there is plenty of good basketball to watch. Then in March it becomes super popular. No wonder that it’s called March Madness. I haven’t met a single American who doesn’t follow March Madness. It doesn’t matter if it is 10 year old boy or 70 year old granny, everyone have their favorite team and pretty much everyone makes a bracket and tries to predict the team who will win the National Championship. Then after that baseball season starts and it lasts throughout the summer. There are other sports like golf, hockey, track and fields and other but I don’t know much about that. There are plenty of good sports to watch all year long and people love to do it in the US. In Serbia its mostly just soccer and basketball and maybe tennis. People in Serbia watch other sports only when our national team is playing. Other than watching it youth here plays a lot more sports during the middle school and high school. Very often kids play more than one sport and all the competitions are mostly related to schools. Girls involvement in sports is also way bigger than it is in Serbia. Pretty much everyone here is playing or has been playing some sports. Social life is very different. I would say it is much more “alive” in Serbia. For youngsters there is a big legal problem which is no drinking before age of 21 and if you ask me it is a big deal. Law is very strict and for kids younger than 21 sometimes it is really hard to get booze and have fun. Young people here have to be very careful with throwing a party because there is always a risk that police will bust it and check for everyone’s age. In Serbia there is no such a problem so it’s easier to have fun and that is the reason why other people would say that Serbians live “laid back” life style. So parties and hang outs until early in the morning are not as common as they are in Serbia. Fast food in the US is very popular. Not just fast food but the custom of eating outside the house is much more popular. Plenty of restaurant chains and many different types of food so there is always a new place to eat. In general life here is easier, there are more opportunities for jobs and careers and material wise there is a lot more things and products. It is way more organized and the systems and patterns that people follow in the US are better so that makes life here simpler. On the other side I believe life in Serbia is more fun. It is harder but I would say that Serbians enjoy life better. This is just my personal observation so it’s not necessarily true. There is obviously a lot more differences and these are just some of the most interesting ones but it would take me forever to write them down.”

 
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Posted by on July 13, 2013 in What others think

 

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Travel Tips for Americans Visiting Serbia


Traveling to a new part of the planet is always a very exciting thing for me. I always start getting this little BUZZ feeling way down in my gut a few weeks before I leave. I try to be as prepared as possible, but there are always things I neglect to think of.

Electrical ……

One thing in Serbia that is very different for American tourists is the electrical connection. The United States uses 110 volts while Serbia uses 220 volts. Electrical wall outlets in the USA are made for three posts to enter. You have a positive, negative and a ground. Check the pictures below….

American outlet

American outlet

While Serbian outlets are round and made for two circular plugs to enter. See the picture below..

Serbian outlet

Serbian outlet

..It is very easy to find the electrical converter here in Serbia. The majority of electrical stores offer them. I bought this one

110v to 220v adapter

110v to 220v adapter

for 200 Dinars or about $2.50 in Kragujevac.

Another big difference I noticed was that the light switch was on the OUTSIDE of the bathroom!!!!

typical Serbian bathroom outlet that is on the OUTSIDE of the bathroom

typical Serbian bathroom outlet that is on the OUTSIDE of the bathroom

I still find myself walking into the bathroom and looking for the switch! I can imagine the fun I would have had if this was a normal thing in the USA. You could shut the light off on your brother while he is in the shower. I think they do it for safety reasons. It is still annoying for me after all this time in Serbia.

Water Heaters…..

small waterheater that is in a bathroom and kitchen.

small waterheater that is in a bathroom and kitchen.

You might also notice that many of the older homes still have a little water heater in the corner of the bathroom and in the kitchen. You might have to turn on the water heater 20 or 30 minutes prior to getting into the shower, BUT be careful. The water gets so hot it will burn you! Most US homes have a large water heater that heats the water for the whole house and is always running on either gas or electric. It is usually hidden in a separate room. The Serbian way is much more cost-effective and I don’t know why it isn’t used as much in the USA.

Laundry……

The worst thing for me is the lack of dryers in Serbian homes. It is very rare to walk into an American home and not see a washer and a dryer. Serbian homes almost NEVER have a dryer. The vast majority of homes have a clothes line hanging outside and dry their clothes on it to preserve energy. This is a pain for a guy like me. I am the guy that likes to decide what to wear at the last-minute and if it is dirty…. wash it and throw in the dryer to dry and take the wrinkles out. That won’t be happening here. It is also difficult to find a laundromat. They do have a few in the larger towns but the smaller towns don’t.

Passport and Visa…..

Americans DO NOT need to do anything prior to flying to Serbia. Once you arrive at the Belgrade Tesla Airport you will receive a stamp on your passport that is good for 90 days. It is free of charge  and most of the time the custom officials will ask you nothing. A few times I have been pulled to the side and asked where I was going, who I was staying with, etc. I just said that I was a tourist and didn’t have all that info. They are friendlier than American custom police. 🙂 It is always advisable to head to the American Embassy to register your stay. You don’t need to do it, but they will take your email, phone, etc and keep you up to date on any activities that might jeopardise you safety. Their address , phone number, etc can be found on their website http://serbia.usembassy.gov/hours-of-operation.html

Serbia also requires that you go to the local police station within 24 hours of your stay. If you are staying at a hotel, they do it for you. If you are staying with a friend or get an apartment, you must take the owner of the home with you. They will issue you a white registration card. You must keep it with you at all times. Serbian police can stop anyone on the street and ask for your identification. If you don’t have it you can be in trouble. They will ask for the white card if you leave the Serbian borders. Many times they haven’t even looked at mine, but better safe than sorry.

Junk Food….

Serbia doesn’t have the large selection of chips, candy bars, soda and snack food that we have. They have lots of different chocolate products, but they lack in the other fields. Maybe  that is why you don’t see lots of fat people lumbering down the streets. LOL! I really miss Doritos!!!!

Doritos... American chips

Doritos… American chips

They have their own brand that rules the market in Serbia. It is called Chipsy..

Serbian chips

Serbian chips

You will also have a hard time finding Dr Pepper, Cherry Coke, Cherry 7-UP, and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. I am an addict so I have looked everywhere for them. 🙂
If you must have them, bring them from home! 🙂

Serbian Women…..

Gorgeous Serbian gals

Gorgeous Serbian gals

Before visiting Serbia it would be wise to exercise your neck. You will find yourself turning in awe at the gorgeous ladies that line the streets of Serbia. The majority are tall, very well dressed, beautiful jaw lines, long legs, very confident and sweet personalities. You will very rarely find a Serbian women that will walk out of the house without first going through an hour-long make up and primping session. hahaahah…

Think ahead!!! 🙂 You will enjoy Serbia all the same. Just a few tips to help you cope !! Serbia is the jewel of the Balkans. Long live Serbia!!!!! 

 
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Posted by on June 8, 2013 in When in Serbia

 

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Greatest Serbian Leader and Hero


Srpski_Vojnik Feb. 1912 by Stefanovic

I have traveled to almost every corner of this great country. It amazes me to find such differing views in such a small place! Serbians are very open to me about their politics and their personal beliefs. I never judge anyone and usually just sit and listen. I am interested to get an idea of where my friends and followers stand.

Please vote on these two polls. I will study and read up on the winners and provide an interesting blog post about them. The “Serbian Hero” question was left with an option to add your own!

Thank you in advance!!! Please join our new Serbian website…… SAY SERBIA….. http://sayserbia.com/. We are trying to create a place to bring together Serbians, foreigners that are interested in Serbia, and create a place to find out about EVERYTHING Serbian! Feel free to click on a category and add your input, pictures, opinions, videos, etc.

 
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Posted by on June 6, 2013 in Through my eyes, Uncategorized

 

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Jagodina, Serbia to Small Town Illinois


The only way to save this evil planet is to start with the youth! They are our only hope for a better tomorrow. The old folks have already formed their opinions , but the youth still have a chance at seeking understanding and respect between those that are different from us.

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The exchange programs like A-SMYLE are amazing. They are helping students from all over The Balkans see the beauty, culture, and life in the United States of America. It is very rare to find any negative feedback from the kids that have been on these programs.

Many of the students on the A-SMYLE program contact me! They are always thankful for my blog and videos about their country. They say that it makes it easier to explain Serbia to their friends. 🙂 I know so many former and current students. It really puts a smile on my face when I get a message from one of these bright kids. If you are interested in A-SMYLE check out their website http://www.ac-see.org/programs/hs-citiesdates.htm

I was contacted by this young man named Vuk Vasic. He was accepted into the A-AMYLE program after beating out many others in this area. He is from the beautiful town of Jagodina that is located in the heart of Serbia. He was placed into a host family from Edwardsville, Illinois USA. That isn’t far from my hometown of Greenup, IL!! Lets see what he has to say about his time in “The Land of Lincoln”

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Dear Charles,
I’m a Serbian exchange student from a town called Jagodina in central Serbia. I went to America through A-Smyle, an exchange program completely financed and supported by the US Department of State. You asked me to share my American experience and I will but first, I must tell you something about my history.
Ever since I was a kid I wanted to go to America, it was mostly because I was influenced by American culture through TV, Internet and video games. All of this pushed me to start learning English at a young age, even before they started teaching it in school. By the time I was in 5th grade (when Serbian students used to start learning English) I already had a basic knowledge. My English teacher helped me perfect it, plus I practiced a lot with my friends outside of school.
I had a group of friends who by 8th grade all shared my dream of going to America and experiencing the culture first hand. The wonderful exchange opportunity came in my Sophomore year of high school and me and my friends jumped at the opportunity. Sadly, out of 4 of us that had the same dream, only I had the opportunity to actually experience it. When the acceptance call came, my whole family was overjoyed but what followed was nerve wracking and terrifying. It took the organization about 4 months to get me a host family, way, way longer than anyone else’s. My waiting was fruitful though, and I got placed with the most wonderful host family any exchange student can ever wish for, The McCrackens. They live in a small town of Edwardsville, near St. Louis in southern Illinois. This is where the rest of my year was spent.

Vuk and his American brother riding snowmobiles

Vuk and his American brother riding snowmobiles

I have done so many things here, it’s hard to recall everything but some of the highlights were:

Vuk meeting with 100 year old WWII vet

Vuk meeting with 100 year old WWII vet

– Meeting an American WW2 veteran who’s turning 100 this year, he was my host family’s neighbor, so naturally, I had to meet him. As luck’ll have it, he spent some time in Yugoslavia(Country which Serbia was a part of in the 1900’s) in 1960’s and had only positive things to say about the hospitality of it’s people.
– Going to my school’s football games. That was the first time in my life that I have seen American Football being played, and being a soccer fan, it was hard for me to grasp the concept of it at first but later I started enjoying it immensely.

Vuk at the St Louis Blues hockey game.

Vuk at the St Louis Blues hockey game.

– Watching professional hockey games. My host family are huge fans of hockey and the St. Louis Blues, so they took me to a couple of games. I absolutely loved it, it was like watching soccer on ice. Me and my host brother were so into it sometimes, yelling and cheering, that we got weird looks from people

Vuk as a cowboy in Nevada

Vuk as a cowboy in Nevada

– My trip to Nevada. My host grandma and my host aunt live in Reno, NV and during the Christmas break, my host mom took me and my host bro’s to their house. Being a huge fan of westerns, I was stoked to go to the actual Wild West and experience it. I wasn’t disappointed. Between going to fancy restaurants, enjoying Casino atmospheres, snowmobiling and just generally strolling around in my Ten Gallon hat and cowboy boots ,(How could I come to America and not get some western wear?) there was no time to rest.

Vuk at 4-H function

Vuk at 4-H function

– Going to different seminars and workshops with other exchange students from all over the world (Albania, Pakistan, Russia, Egypt, Jordan and many others). We all had opportunities to share our experiences and troubles which proved to be fairly important to the entire exchange year.

Vuk dressed as a hillbilly for Halloween

Vuk dressed as a hillbilly for Halloween

There were many other experiences but those were the ones that stood out to me. Other than that, American people are wonderful and friendly, people are approachable and easy to talk to and some girls are very pretty  Americans are actually quite fit in general and not fat as other nations stereotype them as. Sometimes I actually think that they overwork themselves. I should wrap it up since I’ve already been typing for an hour. I definitely recommend this program for any high school students because it isn’t just fun, it’s also life changing.
Best wishes,
Vuk”

Thanks a million for this excellent story!! I am very happy that you are enjoying my home state as much as I am enjoying Serbia! Average Americans and average Serbs will always be friends…

 
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Posted by on May 10, 2013 in Through my eyes

 

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