An Immigrant’s Journey: From Belgrade to NYC and a College Degree
After graduating high school in Belgrade, Serbia, in 1983, I enrolled in Belgrade University, majoring in mechanical engineering. But after the first year I stopped studying and reexamined my career choices. I started working and earning money, but in time, I regretted dropping out of school.
I served 10 years in the army in the Military Technology Institute; I established the first Chinese fast-food restaurant in Belgrade. My wife Aleksandra and I had two kids and we owned and ran three newsstands, employing 14 people. I felt comfortable despite the war with Croatia in 1991, hyperinflation, and NATO’s bombing in 1999. Until I came to the U.S. seven years ago, I had never felt that I should change anything in my life. Everything was great.
But (un)fortunately, it was not great for Aleksandra. So she applied for and won the “green card lottery.” Aleksandra thought that the time had come to grow professionally. After deliberating about our future, I realized that emigrating was the right thing to do.
I never thought I would be in school again. But Aleksandra’s persistence and ambition pushed me to choose something new. Major in accounting? No way! But she knew me too well. Not only is she an economist, she knows my personality: straightforward, obedient, precise, methodical, extremely loyal, mathematically clever, cautious and afraid to take risks — all characteristics of an accountant. According to her, this is the reason she married me in the first place, and that she was hoping that she would make me more ambitious.
Accepting change and adapting to the U.S. culture and business environment has made me more competitive. My increased self-confidence is fueled by success in school as well as the full support and respect from family and friends. Furthermore, my horizons have grown. I am experiencing and networking with people who come from different cultures, languages, races, religions, habits, levels of knowledge, personal interests and wealth. In this melting pot, everyone has the chance to improve.
Before embarking on my current studies, I was expecting classes to be boring. What I found, on the contrary, is that my professors give it their all. They teach using examples from current topics and to develop creative academic thinking about presented problems. My previous academic experiences included learning by rote, but now I learn with a passion for solving problems by investigating their causes and searching for solutions.
I will contribute to society for many more years. I have a chance to fulfill my personal wish, to earn a degree, to gain new perspectives, to learn to be more efficient in business, to use my experience in new surroundings, and to be a better person. Most important I am learning to be an example for my children, to teach them to love what they do. If people don’t love learning and trying new things, it doesn’t matter how old they become. People won’t be able to pass that knowledge to others. And this is the main reason we live. #
Zoran Savic graduated this spring from Touro College.