Willamette University hosts students from Bosnia and Herzegovina

Eighteen high school students from Bosnia and Herzegovina are visiting Willamette University this month to explore U.S. democracy and American culture through a program sponsored by the International Debate Education Association (IDEA).

Ethnic tensions between Bosniaks, Serbs and Croats remain high in their home country, but the students are setting aside their differences as they study at Willamette and visit sites around the region.

The students arrived March 27 to spend 24 days in Salem. While on campus, they are attending debate and leadership classes taught by Willamette professors and students.

They also have the option to sit in on several regular Willamette courses, providing the opportunity for the visitors and the American students to learn from each other.

"I'm looking forward to building relationships with these students and learning about their views of the world, particularly the way they understand U.S. actions abroad," says Austin Griffiths '13, one of the Willamette students assisting with the visit.

With independent entities at Willamette and in Amsterdam, IDEA promotes debate, discussion and the free exchange of ideas among youths in more than 40 emerging democracies worldwide.

This is the second year IDEA has brought students from Bosnia and Herzegovina to Willamette. In February, IDEA also hosted college students from China, who engaged in an informal debate on censorship with Willamette undergraduates.

The students from Bosnia and Herzegovina are also visiting local high schools for a first-hand perspective on the American educational system, and participating in service projects at Union Gospel Mission, Meals on Wheels and Habitat for Humanity.

They are partnering with students from Willamette Academy, the university's college access program for underrepresented youths, to research, form arguments and debate together.

Their work will culminate in a final debate April 20 at 6:15 p.m. in Paulus Great Hall at Collins Legal Center. The debate will be adjudicated by members of the Oregon Court of Appeals and the Oregon Supreme Court. This event is open to the public.