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Una with the partisan women in Zagreb, Croatia (Credit: Personal Archives)

Una Blagojevic, a Serbian 2013 BA graduate, has been around the world. Currently residing in Budapest, Hungary and beginning her master’s thesis at the Central European University, Una looks back on her time at Bard Berlin, then ECLA*, with great fondness. I sat down for a late-night Skype chat with Una to discuss the transformative and orienting powers of core courses, her shift from Berlin to London to Uganda to France to Budapest, and the consistent and enduring eccentricities of Pankow wildlife.**

Tell me about your time in Uganda.

My Uganda trip was quite amazing! After I left ECLA, I was planning to stay in Berlin for my  master’s, but the program I applied for was all in German, and my knowledge of German was not high enough. I also couldn’t find any scholarships to do my master’s in England, so I was quite unhappy and disappointed. And then, just totally coincidentally, a friend of mine saw that there was a safari company in Uganda looking for interns, which was a totally new thing for me because it had nothing to do with my undergraduate education at all.  

Right. After four years of doing school, this is something completely different.

Yes, totally different! Sometimes when I tell people that I spent a year working for a safari company they think that this was some kind of place where people go to shoot animals, and I would never do something like that. I didn’t do that and this was not that kind of company. They had some lodges all around Uganda, large lodges in the savannas of a national park called Kidepo Valley. I spent approximately four months there. It was so beautiful. I was always in nature, helping out. My tasks also included working in an office and helping with boring administrative stuff, documents, calculating budgets in Excel. I always wanted to escape from this sort of work after finishing my Gymnasium. There, in Serbia, you usually go and work or study in a department, like natural sciences, math or physics After I finished Gymnasium  I said ‘Never again!’ and then I turned to humanities. It was nice to do it again in Uganda, though.  

What was the community in Uganda like?

Even though the administrative work was boring, I was very close with the staff, helping out as much as I could and also hanging around with the guests. It was a very small, intimate approach to work, so we would all eat at a big table and they would serve us and we would all sit and talk about which animals we’ve seen and things like that. Sometimes I felt like it was strange because it was a place where very rich people would come and spend time in a ‘wonderful African, Ugandan experience’. Sometimes I was kind of not sure what to think of myself being there. But I had this great time where every day was filled with new and crazy experiences. I lived in a small hut, too, made out of wood and leaves and such: They tried to make it as natural as possible to give an ‘explorer’s experience’. I lived in one of these, and in the morning I heard animals making such crazy sounds, and, even though the hut was off the ground for security reasons, we would get woken up by screaming animals. It was always wild boars.

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Recently, the web world was astonished by the technically advanced Norwegian fox which stole a 16 year-old guy’s smartphone, managed to receive a call and then even sent an SMS.

ECLA of Bard has a companion fox which can be easily found around campus, sunbathing during summer and playing in the snow during winter. Even though our fox doesn’t have a mobile device yet, it made an almost successful attempt to capture a volleyball a few weeks ago. Well, as soon as it gets warmer, we will be glad to welcome the new member in our sport community! The only pity is that the fox will probably not be allowed in the sauna – Germans are still quite conservative about the nudity policy in there.

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It was then that the fox appeared.
“Good morning,” said the fox.  […]
“Who are you?” asked the little prince, and added, “You are very pretty to look at.”
“I am a fox,” said the fox.
Come and play with me,” proposed the little prince. “I am so unhappy.”
“I cannot play with you,” the fox said. “I am not tamed.”

                                                            Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince

Picture: Irina Stelea

Some of us were still dreaming of an ECLA pet, when, on one October evening, a student encountered in the heart of the campus, a fox. The enthusiasm and surprise spread rapidly, since none of us had ever seen a fox outside the zoo, let alone in a city. All would have sounded like a fantasy, had not it happened again and again in the following weeks. In fact, it turned out that, on our campus, there are at least two foxes.

As time passed, we discovered that there is an entire population around Pankow. Some of us happened to see the red slender miracle crossing the street at the traffic light, others—going into one of the courtyards in the neighborhood. It was officially a phenomenon, and, luckily, we didn’t need a pet anymore.

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