Go Big Or Go Home

Contributed by Susie Xu. Check out more of their posts from this summer here.

Welcome to Susie’s world, where I go big or go home. This week’s edition includes: food poisoning, EXIT festival, and a trip to the one and only ER in Belgrade. #youngwildfree (And some other things.)

**disclaimer: this is just me and my luck—experience not guaranteed for everyone

As I move to my third NGO of my stay in Serbia, I’m finally very content with the amount of work I’m given and the things I do. If anything, I realized that my Duke side will never go away. Idleness is poison to my blood. I’m now working at Asylum Protection Center, a NGO that offers legal, psychological, and other support to 80% of Serbia’s asylum seekers. As of now, over 37 thousand migrants have already arrived in Serbia. It’s absolutely mind boggling on how to help them, and support them to the best of the available resources.

It’s clearly a taxing job. Police in Serbia aren’t exactly kind to the asylum seekers, nor are many locals. (Though surprisingly many Serbians in the south are still willing to give the seekers food, water, and shelter.) Like I mentioned in my last post, burn out is still so relevant. But it’s thanks to these people that asylum seekers have a help line. Without APC, I really think the migrant situation would be far worse.

Onto my personal adventures—food poisoning anyone? It still didn’t teach me a lesson to eat everything in sight here in Belgrade but at least I now avoid food stands on really hot days.

EXIT festival was one of the highlights of my life, to be honest. I love music, and I Love festivals, so this music festival blew my mind away. From the start it was a hot mess, whether it be the crazy crowds, aggressive touching (excuse me, my body is a temple, go away), and getting lost in the crowd of 60,000. It’s an experience I don’t think I can ever forget. To rank my top five, it’d go: Martin Garrix, Milky Chance, Emelie Sande, Hardwell, and Capital Cities. (John Newman and Clean Bandit were killer too.) I think in that moment, crazily dancing, ducking swinging arms, and just laughing at the pure experience of this with my friends, made me realize that every minute should be sacred and treasured. I shouldn’t stay at home and watch Netflix just because I’m too lazy to move. There’s so much incredible moments yet to come and so little time. Live fast, live long. Youth is fleeting and I want to experience everything. There’s going to be a time when I’m old, where I may not even remember who the artists were, or when it was, but I know I’ll remember I was carefree and blissfully happy. I strive to experience more memories like EXIT 2015.

You know that saying that you haven’t really seen a country until you’ve visited the ER? (Totally non-existent quote, but you get the point.) Long story short, I was tired and along with a variety of other factors, decided to go for a wild ride and had a ridiculous hyperventilation scene on the office floor. (Scarier in the moment, kind of embarrassingly hilarious looking back.)

~Serious shout out to my life saviors Mirjana, Aleks, and especially Michelle. It definitely subconsciously made me feel safer with them with me. ~

Someone called the paramedics, and they came, stabbed an IV into me, and I recovered through the fluids. But due to paramedic protocol I had to be hauled into the ambulance to be taken to Belgrade’s only ER for safety precautions. Apparently they can’t have a foreigner dying on them. So if you want to imagine Belgrade’s ER, imagine a World War 2 movie and the hospitals in it. It’s about 7 times stuffier than American hospitals, 8 times less light, and 100% freaked me out. I was rolled into the hospital on rickety grey stretcher—and trust me it wasn’t as comfortable as seen in movies. (I probably felt sicker in this hospital than I did while they were trying to get me to breathe back in the office.)

Photo cred: Susie Xu
Susie in the ER 😦 Photo cred: Susie Xu

They stationed me near the entrance for a while, I think just so I could feel even more mortification for being in a hospital for such an unimportant reason. *Excuse the picture. I look like how I felt though, tbh.*

I later realized that they did that to almost everyone that was still alive enough to wait for a few minutes. As they rolled me to the doctors, the ER’s waiting room was essentially the hallway outside the doctor’s office. There were numbers in front of each hospital room, and the hallway was bleary, despite the windows at the ends of the hallway. Like I said, I felt that if you weren’t losing a limb or something, you’d wait outside with the rest of the patients. This woman in front of me had this huge bandage wrapped around her head (like a WW2 patient!) and yet she still sat in this hallway. It was a very curious situation.

I wouldn’t say hospitals in America are friendly, but at least there’s a façade of happiness, the smell of antibacterial cleaning, white walls, bright lights. The Belgrade public ER made me feel like I was going to suffocate. But the paramedics, doctors, and others were really kind people, so I suppose that’d make up for the lingering feeling of an ominous fate hanging over all of our heads.

On the walls of our SIT lecture room, the words “you can’t download experience” seems so relevant now. Especially in the last month, things have been hilarious—stories I’ll remember forever. Truly, experience cannot be through second hand stories. Through my time in Serbia, I’ve grown as a person and experienced Serbia through many different channels. Now I only have two more goals to be filled in the last week—visit the private Belgrade hospital (apparently that’s a 5 star hotel level of comfort) and visit prison—hopefully not with me in it. SIKE. Just kidding, I don’t want to do either of those things. We’ll leave those experiences to be downloaded.

Until the next blog post and more adventures,

With love,



2 thoughts on “Go Big Or Go Home

  1. Susie – I like your sentiment that “every minute should be sacred and treasured” — a good mantra to help us prioritize when obligations to unfulfilling things might get in the way of a truly meaningful experience. But, remember, your physical and mental health is important, too (I think your trip to the hospital reinforced that!) so if taking a nap or mindlessly watching some Netflix is going to help you recover the energy you need to be fully engaged in one of those incredible moments, it’s a sound investment of your time. I’m glad you’re feeling better, but please stay out of prison! Keep in mind my mom’s simple rules anytime I went abroad: 1. don’t get hurt. 2. don’t get arrested. 3. don’t get married. 4. Come home when the program’s done.


    1. I took the girls and got some sloes a day or two ago. We saw a few blackberries; but even the secret spot is almost all gone.Oh, and the bastards came and harvested the apples when I wasn’t looking. Even the crab apples! But I did discover hazelnuts just off Timber Pond Ro2.#It&d8a17;s a lovely time of year, now. Nature’s valedictory dance.


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