Ajla Karajko, Barnard Class of 2014, is working on more than just registering for classes this week. As one of seven women in the running for a Glamour competition that acknowledges superb ungraduate students, Ajla has been sharing stories about how growing up in war-torn Bosnia has lead her to do extensive community building in her hometown. Through the means of art and inter-faith dialogue, Ajla is hoping to provide children with a different set of cards than the one she was dealt. Her Campus Barnard sat down with her to hear about what glamour means to her, why she is so passionate about working with her home country , and what its like to simply be a regular girl at Barnard College.
For more information on voting for Ajla: http://www.glamour.com/inspire…
Is there anything about your Barnard experience that conjures up images of your childhood in Bosnia?
This is a hard question. There are of course those small daily activities/happenings or even people who remind me of something/someone from my past. However, Barnard and the USA are very different from my home country Bosnia and Herzegovina, and especially from the Bosnia and Herzegovina that I was raised in. I was born in 1991, right before the war that ended in 1995. So, my earliest childhood was nothing like the childhood of most of my friends at Barnard. But what my Barnard experience really evokes in me is a feeling of happiness and gratitude to God, to my parents, my brother, and everyone else who believed in me and who helped me to get here where I am now. Because, even today, 20 years after the war, there is still a lot of poverty in my home country, which makes it really hard to succeed and to make your dreams come true.
How would you explain your experience in New York City in 3 words?
As I dreamed.
Describe your dorm room.
I was abroad last semester, and I just moved into an empty room in Hewitt. My luggage got lost, so until I get it back it just me and walls. In normal situations my dorm room is very organized, usually in three big sections: study section with lots of books, inspiring posters and technological devices, fashion section with all of my clothes and shoes, make-up, accessories and everything other that a women ought to have, and stress-free section with photos of my family and friends, music, movies, cozy blankets and of course some delicious European food.
What are your usual Sunday plans?
Sunday is my studying day. I have Fridays and Saturdays off, and that is when I do whatever I feel like. I use Sunday to finish all of my homeworks, to organize and to get ready for the next week.
How do you define “glamour?” How would you interpret the message the magazine competition seeks to deliver?
Glamour is being who you are and feeling good about it.
I think that “Glamour Magazine” is trying to tell its readers few things: 1) that women are and can be as (or even more) successful than men, 2) that it does not matter where you come from, but where you want to be and that as long as you follow your dreams, you will get there, and 3) that there are still some good people on this planet who are trying to change the world and make it a better place. And I would really like to emphasize this last point, because most of the news we read today are about people who killed someone, who stole something, people who hurt others…Glamour does a really good job of showing that there are other kinds of people too: young women who are trying their best to help others, and to change lives.
What kinds of stories do you share with friends and family from home?
My family and my friends home are the best thing that ever happened to me. I talk to them every day via Skype, and I tell them everything. Really, EVERYTHING. They know me so well that, if you asked them these questions about me, I am pretty sure they would give you the exact same answers.
What are you most looking forward to about the upcoming semester?
I am looking forward to my internship at the United Nations. I will be working with VGIF which funds grass roots projects that benefit women and children in developing countries worldwide. Considering that women empowerment and children’s’ rights are my biggest passion, this is a real dream job for me!
Who and where are your mentors, near and far?
I try to learn something from everyone I meet, and looking back, my life would be completely different if I did not meet some people. However, my best mentors and my best friends are my parents. They graduated from college and got married just right before the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina began. They got a house, and they got me. And then they lost everything they owned in one day. They had to start all over without place to live, without a job, without food, in a country in which the biggest genocide after WWII happened. And they succeeded. They gave me and my brother life that many people in Bosnia and Herzegovina wish they had. They are my teachers, my inspiration, my support, and I see them as my honor code. Before any decision I make, I always ask myself what they would do. And I know I will never make a mistake by doing that.
What is a lifelong goal? Anything on your bucket list?
I plan a lot. And I usually make a few plans, so if one fails; I have another one to work on. Right now I am looking for graduate schools, and trying to make up my mind on which continent I want to live in-whether I want to stay in NYC, or go back to Europe. Apart from this, I would like to get a job in some big international organization, such as the UN or the EU, and to help my country with its transition into the EU.
What do you most appreciate about being a nominee in this competition?
I appreciate the support I got from my family and friends, and even from people I never met before. I received so many facebook messages and emails, so many friend requests and phone calls from people I’ve never seen before-all of them saying how they are inspired by my work, how they believe in me, and how they wish me all the best in my future.
That is a real treasure!
How has Barnard prepared you for all the charity work you’ve done?
Barnard has helped me to meet people without which I would never manage to do what I did. I especially want to thank Dean James Runsdorf for believing in me, and for helping me to plan and to write my projects, especially the school playground in small Bosnian village.