Between mid-April and the end of June 2018, I spent my semester abroad at MANN+HUMMEL BA in Tešanj, Bosnia. You’ve never heard of Tešanj? Well, that’s something we should change, as this small town in the North of Bosnia and Herzegovina is certainly worth a visit. It is mainly known for its castle, a picture of which was included in MANN+HUMMEL’s anniversary exhibition two years ago.

But let’s start from the beginning: My name is Jasmin Slupina, I am 22 years old and I study Business Administration and Engineering at Baden-Wuerttemberg Cooperative State University (DHBW) in Mannheim. The course is a work-study programme with alternating practical and theoretical stages. Since 2015, I have spent the practical stages working at MANN+HUMMEL in Speyer. I am currently in my sixth practical semester and during the course, students usually spend some time abroad. It was through the purchasing department, where I was working at the start of the semester, that I was given the opportunity to spend six weeks in Tešanj. I didn’t have to think long before saying yes!

Filter production in Bosnia

Even though it might seem unusual, Bosnia sounded good to me right from the start, as I have had some contact with the country – or should I say its people – several times in the past. Since 2012, I have been volunteering as a group leader with the ‘Malteser Jugend’ youth organisation, which has maintained an overseas partnership with Bosnia for many years. We have therefore had Bosnian youngsters come to visit our camp site on several occasions – this is how I got to know the mentality of the Bosnian people.

Tesanj in Bosnia

As previously mentioned, MANN+HUMMEL’s plant is located in Tešanj, or to be more precise, the industrial zone there. MANN+HUMMEL has had a production plant there since 2005, primarily producing filters for the automotive sector; industrial filter applications are also produced there on occasion. Around 650 employees work in Tešanj in total.

For the task assigned to me by the local purchasing team, I had to rely on the support of colleagues from various departments. Despite the language barrier, we managed to work well together and everyone was keen to support me in completing my task. In any case, the German language is widespread in Bosnia and I was able to converse with quite a few colleagues in German. I was amused to find out that Bosnian uses many German expressions, such as ‘rückwärts’ (backwards) and ‘Schminke’ (make-up).

Getting to know the country and its people

Although I have had a lot of contact with Bosnian people, this was actually my first visit to the country. What surprised me the most about Bosnia was the magnificent nature there: forests are interspersed with barren mountain ridges, and there is an incredible number of rivers and waterfalls. All this is punctuated by picturesque little towns and villages. We mostly drove along country lanes for our trips because there are hardly any motorways in Bosnia. This meant we could see more of the countryside.

Neretva river and the Bosnian landscape

The picture of Mostar shows the Neretva river and the Bosnian landscape

Away from my project work, I have seen a lot of the country. Two of my colleagues and I used our free time at the weekend to visit some lovely places both close by and further afield.

Blagaj, near Mostar, with the source of the Buna

The photo shows my colleagues and me in Blagaj, near Mostar, with the source of the Buna – one of Europe’s largest and most beautiful sources – in the background

As well as Mostar’s famous bridge and the source of the river Buna, a visit to the capital Sarajevo was, of course, also a must. Being out and about with locals gave me countless insights I would have missed as a regular tourist. In general, I found the people in Bosnia to be very hospitable.

For example, right at the start of my time there I was invited to a barbecue on 1 May, a public holiday that is well celebrated in Bosnia. Of course, during my six weeks there, I also noticed some differences in mentality: Bosnians don’t tend to think things over for long, preferring simply to get on with it, while we Germans like to plan out all the details thoroughly ;-).

Market in Sarajevo

Market in Sarajevo

Bosnians love drinking coffee. Traditional Bosnian coffee is often served in a hand-made, copper coffee set. Generally speaking, Bosnian cuisine does have some culinary delicacies to offer, most of it hearty fare. A favourite dish is Ćevapi (known here as Cevapcici), which is served in a flatbread called Lepina with onions and ketchup. By the way, the best Ćevapi can be found in the capital Sarajevo 🙂

Finally, I would like to sincerely thank my colleagues in Tešanj – without your support and friendship, my semester abroad would not have been such a lovely experience!