The Balkans Semester for the Study of War and Peace

[semester-long program]

The Balkans Semester for the Study of War and Peace is an interdisciplinary program centered around the themes of war and peace, conflict and reconciliation. Students study these themes while learning first-hand from people on both sides of recent wars and genocides who are grappling daily with problems of justice and forgiveness and with navigating a path toward sustainable peace. This program is organized and implemented in collaboration with Gordon College, in Wenham, Massachusetts.

The Balkans Semester is ECSWP's flagship program for undergraduate students. The program was personally developed by directors Petra and James Taylor, integrating their love for interdisciplinary and experiential learning, all within a smaller classroom size. The Balkan region is the laboratory within which students are able to delve into the topics of peace, conflict, violence, and reconciliation. Focusing on this specific setting and analyzing it through multiple angles provides students with cognitive distance within which they find themselves better able to grasp a larger vision for the origins of conflict and possibilities for peace, and, in turn, their own lives.

Being immersed in personal stories and complex philosophy about a matter so serious transformed my academic experience and challenged the philosophies and theologies I didn’t even know I had
— Kaylen Wray, Spring '16 alumna

This program is situated in Zagreb, Croatia. Students live out in the city and get involved in its daily rhythms with their internships and class routines. Due to its immersive nature, the program is on the road for several weeks of the semester to gain a bigger perspective of the Balkans and the topics of war and peace. Typically as a program, we travel to eastern Croatia, Belgrade, Sarajevo, Slunj, the Croatian coast, and others. At these locations and in Zagreb, students hear from various guest lecturers on the topics of their studies. Examples of former guest lecturers include local historians, former military personnel, Roma pastors, human rights activists, imams, and more. 

The program is coming up on its sixth semester, totaling 59 undergraduate participants thus far. 

The Balkans Semester is a full semester, totaling 16-20 credits. All students take the following courses together as well as an elective from a visiting professor:

  1. Introduction to the Balkans: History, Culture, Politics and Religion
  2.  Literature and Human Rights
  3. War and Peace: Philosophical and Theological Perspectives


March 1 - June 12, 2018