The Ideal Leading me to Study Law
The war in the former Yugoslavia is an intensely personal matter for me. I had, for some time, been more aware of the strife in Croatia than many of my peers. My family is originally from Zagreb. As the war progressed, my parents worried about relatives and friends whom they could no longer reach. My father gave up his medical practice in the summer of 1991 to volunteer his medical skills in Zagreb.
Throughout this time, I struggled between my sense of responsibility to my relatives and "homeland" and my comfortable life as an American college student. Concentrating on classes and career plans became less important as the war progressed. As I read my father's letters during my senior year detailing the horrible conditions in Croatia, my grades went into a shameful decline. But my heart was nowhere near a textbook; it was at my father's side helping the victims of this international travesty. I didn't even look for a "career option" in the United States. Instead, I sought a volunteer job, sponsored by the University of Zagreb, rebuilding homes destroyed in the conflict and teaching English.
Croatia provided a hot blast of reality. During my first week in Krasic, the village where I was assigned, I watched Croatian teens yelling "Cetnik!" (Serbian nationalists during WWII) pelt an elderly woman, who lived in the village for over fifty years, with rocks. Until then, I had never seen such overt and utter hatred, but I learned that such events occurred frequently in the village. Sadly, in a few months all the non-Croatian villagers were forced to leave for Serbia or Bosnia, countries that they did not consider home yet knew were safer for them.
I remained in Croatia for a year. By then, exhaustion, poor diet and homesickness were making me less than productive. Even worse was the cynicism I had developed toward the people I had gone to help. Daily exposure to hatred had stolen the sense of purpose I had brought with me; I decided to return home. At my parents' urging, I applied to graduate school. Their arguments that I could contribute more with an advanced degree than by building houses were hard to refute, especially with the evidence of how much my father had been able to accomplish with his medical skills. In 1994, I began a Ph.D. program in International Relations at xxx, specializing in a study of the phenomenon of "ethnic cleansing." Rather than feeling that I was preparing for my future, however, my studies constantly escalated my belief that I was shirking my duties by hiding in my textbooks.
In April 1996, I interrupted my graduate studies and returned to Croatia, working for six months for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. For a few months I served with a team monitoring Bosnian refugee...