Editor’s note: My LopeLife is a GCU Magazine feature in which GCU students, staff and alumni share enlightening experiences. To be considered for My LopeLife, please email a short synopsis of your suggested topic to [email protected] with “My LopeLife” in the subject field. To read the digital version of the April issue of GCU Magazine, click here.
By Bozana and Tijana Zlaticanin
Photos by Ralph Freso
Who would have thought my sister and I would move from the small, mountainous country of Montenegro on the Balkan peninsula, right by the Adriatic Sea, to this beautiful desert state of Arizona?
From a young age, Tijana and I were determined to make something of ourselves and break out of the small town of Sutomore, where we grew up.
We were so curious about the world beyond our borders and dreamed of pursuing a higher quality education and achieving successful careers. Both of us have passions we have used as keys to unlock a plethora of opportunities.
Tijana is a model who has traveled across the globe, to beautiful places such as Paris, Milan, London and New York. She also experienced life in Tokyo.
I played basketball and left our hometown at age 14. In high school, I lived in Florida for a year and then moved to study in Rome, where I played basketball at one of the best academies in Europe.
Tijana (pronounced Tiana) is fluent in our native Serbian language and English, while I speak Serbian, Italian, English and am learning Spanish.
Everyone asked, why GCU? For many students living in Europe, attending college in America is a dream come true. The journey, however, can be arduous and fraught with obstacles.
Despite these hardships, many students, just like us, are determined to pursue their education in the United States and make the American dream a reality.
One of the biggest obstacles is cost, which is one of the reasons Tijana and I chose GCU. We applied for every scholarship available to us. Luckily, we got the majority of them and also became Honors College students, which was an enormous relief.
Another big obstacle: the cultural differences. America is a melting pot of cultures, and at first, we believed it would be overwhelming. Luckily, that was not as big of a problem as we thought because of our experiences and interactions across the globe.
The language barrier at the university level was also a hurdle because we had to communicate and study in another language at a remarkably high level.
We also had to go through a complex immigration system to study in the United States. We had to obtain visas and work permits and often had to jump through numerous bureaucratic hoops to do so. Despite that, nothing could stop us from getting on the plane toward our dream.
We knew GCU would be our new home, and with that, we left with nothing but our determination and a few suitcases.
There is something so special about this beautiful campus. It is not only the look or Christian aspect but the energy that is felt just by walking around campus. Classrooms are smaller, so it feels like there is more compassion and understanding between professor and students, not to mention the scholarships and resources the school provides.
At first, Tijana and I were worried. How would we afford GCU? It is expensive for Americans, let alone foreigners from Montenegro, which has a completely different economy. We could not let our parents take out loans to help us fulfill our personal dreams. They had done more than enough for us already.
We did not want to give up hope, though, as we knew there must be another way and, eventually, we found it with the support of our family.
This is just one example of what makes GCU stand out from all other universities.
It provides equal opportunities to everyone, whether in-state or out-of-state applicants.
It has over 300 total academic programs, emphases and certificates to choose from, and there are so many amazing clubs that we are part of where they prepare you for the career you want to pursue.
There are plenty of job opportunities and internships, too, not to mention the number of events designed to help you network and get ready for your career. I am Vice President of Strategic Alliances for the Honors College Student Advisory Board and am a mentor to incoming freshmen. Tijana is Vice President for Public Relations and Marketing for the same organization as well as being a mentor to students. Both of us are also on the Dean’s List.
I am a senior working in supply chain and logistics for a transportation company, while Tijana is a junior who works as a security operations center program analyst for 360 SOC. Both of us had one goal, and we made it happen. We will receive our degrees with no debt attached. We planted the seeds, and now we are enjoying the fruits of our labors.
Tijana and I were curious about the world beyond Montenegro. So we dared to face uncertainty, as reflected in our favorite quote by Rupi Kaur: “They have no idea what it’s like to lose home at the risk of never finding home again, to have your entire life split between two lands and become the bridge between two countries.”
By the grace of God, we found ourselves at GCU, and Phoenix has become our second home.
About Bozana and Tijana Zlaticanin
Bozana Zlaticanin, a senior who graduated in April, is an avid traveler and is heading to Europe and Hawaii this summer. She loves basketball and martial arts and is a member of the Cyclone Gym. Tijana Zlaticanin is a junior majoring in cybersecurity. She enjoys traveling around the world and reading books. After graduating from GCU, she plans to move to Europe, where she will work remotely as a cybersecurity professional.