StoriesBack to Stories

Riding the Trolleybus

Photo of Syarra riding the trolley bus

By Syarra G. (YES Abroad 2022-2023, placed in Bosnia and Herzegovina)

On my third day in Bosnia and Herzegovina, my host brother showed me how to walk to the bus station. It was a Sunday, and he and my host nephew walked with me to the trolleybuses to show me which one I could take to get into the city. The station was full of different buses and routes. The following day, I would be going to our orientation alone. I remember thinking at the time that this would be really complicated. My city back home didn't really have a lot of public transit, so it was completely new to me. The following day, I got up and walked to the station like I was shown, and the bus just didn't come for around half an hour. I didn't know what to do. That day, I was late for orientation, and I learned to be prepared for anything.

Photo of a trolley bus interior

After almost eight months here, this is now just part of my everyday life. I have learned how to plan for my long commute. I wake up, walk ten minutes to the station, wait for the trolley bus, ride the trolley for 35 minutes, get off, and walk 10 minutes to school. When I first got here, I did not enjoy the commute. It was stressful and long, but I have come to enjoy it for three reasons.

The first is that in many ways, on the buses, you learn a ton about the culture. You see people on a crowded bus, all on a long commute, and yet anytime there is a baby stroller, a couple of men will get off the trolley and help the mother lift it onto the bus. You see people sitting on their phones in their own worlds, but if there is an older person who might want to sit, someone else will ask you to move for them. You see groups of school kids who get on the trolley together and hang out until one by one they get off at their stops. The trolley is a window into the real, everyday life of the people here, and that experience is worth it.

The second reason I enjoy the commute now is the connection with friends on your route. I live at the last and first stop of two routes. This means on my way to school, I am the first one on the bus and the last one off on the way home. My school has an irregular schedule, so we don't all start at the same time--it depends on the day. Despite this, I have learned which stops my friends live at, so I can expect that at the second stop, this person might get in, and at the fourth maybe someone else. The other day, we had a language class in a different part of the city, so I was at a trolley bus stop that I don't often go to. I was waiting for the trolley when I saw a friend I knew from a different high school, whom I met through Model United Nations competitions. He also lives in the same part of town as me, just three stops before. We had the next forty minutes to talk in a mix of English and Bosnian as we rode home. Sometimes just sharing the experience of the commute is enough to be friends with someone or to make your friendships stronger.

Photo of trolley bus seats

The third reason is seeing the city. The first day that I rode the bus, I was already running late for orientation. I was very focused on finding the right blue building that I had been told to get out at. Once I had memorized the stations, I got to enjoy the ride. Sometimes that means working on homework, reading a book, or listening to music, but sometimes it means just staring out the window and seeing a different perspective of Sarajevo. My favorite is there is this one stretch in between two stops where the trolley is at the top of this road looking down on the whole city. It is beautiful.

There are still some days when you don't want to have two hours on a bus. When you are in a hurry to get to school or home. When you are waiting in the rain and the skies are cloudy and you just want to get to where you are going. But, even on those days, it is a new experience. You are living in a new city and meeting tons of new people. Maybe that day you will see a friend on the bus, or an old lady at the bus station will ask you a question and you get to practice your language. Or maybe something interesting happened at school and you can have an hour to think. Maybe these days are not the most spectacular, but they are each unique and interesting. When I first found out that I would be living far from my school, I definitely did not expect that that would add to the experience. While there are lots of cool things you get to do on the program, sometimes it is the most mundane everyday experiences like riding a trolley bus that teach you the most. And while I never would have predicted it, I believe it will be one of the things I miss when I return to the United States.