Child of revolution works magic on the court
For most people, especially those living in the Western Hemisphere, the small southeast European country of Bosnia and the war that raged there throughout the early 1990s was merely a series of news stories. The world watched the violence, bloodshed and political upheaval from afar, most thinking of it little and investing even less. But for one freshman volleyball star, it was different — it was where her life began.
Edina Begic, a 19-year-old from Bosnia’s third largest city of Tuzla, is currently spending her freshman year at UALR as an outside hitter on the Lady Trojan volleyball team. This is her first visit to the United States, and one that has taken her some getting used to.
Bosnia in the early to mid ’90s was a very different time and place. In 1992, on the eve of a revolution that sparked the Bosnian War, Begic’s family fled westward. Her mother was pregnant with her when the Begics settled in Tuzla, where she was born soon after.
Although she is too young to remember the conflict, Begic’s family was profoundly affected by the War, which spanned from April 1992 to December 1995. Her mother lost her father and two brothers, and her father lost his leg from the knee down. But she rose from the ashes of revolution to become a talented volleyball player with admirable aspira- tions.
Begic began playing volleyball at age 10 while living in rural northeastern Bosnia. Her team could not compete for the first two years due to the lack of funding required to join an official league, but her coach worked hard to change that.
“I always liked to play volley- ball at home with my brothers,” she said. “We used to play it in front of the house with friends when we were younger — and I wanted to play more.”
Although UALR was her first college offer, as a young girl Be- gic dreamed of playing for the professional leagues in countries such as Italy or Turkey. In fact, her first ever visit to the United States was to attend UALR’s Fall 2011 semester. “I just think this is a better option right now,” she said.
Begic first heard of UALR in 2010 while playing volleyball with Bosnian UALR graduate Amila Barakovic. Barakovic, a 28-year-old Sarajevo native, played volleyball for UALR until her graduation in 2008, when she returned home to Sarajevo and met Begic. Barakovic told her about the opportunity UALR of- fered, which piqued Begic’s inter- est and inspired her to create an audition video.
Before she could prepare the video to send the Lady Trojans, Barakovic told her that Assistant Coach Todd Bourdo would come to Sarajevo to watch her play, which he did in November 2010. After that, Begic began an email correspondence with head coach Van Compton that led to her recruitment and enrollment at UALR in the Fall 2011 Semester.
Begic said that she was a little scared upon her first visit to America, but that she was also “very excited to see how it was here.” “‘I have started to like Little Rock,” Begic said, “but in the beginning it was really hard for me because it’s so different from my city. Everybody here has cars and nobody walks. In Bosnia I walked every day to school or to use transportation.”
Aside from the month she spent in Bosnia for winter break, Begic has now been here for over six months. She is currently enrolled in UALR’s Intensive English Language Program to help her become a fluent English speaker, but after that she plans to declare a major in International Business.
Begic said she chose the major partly because she loves to travel and learn about other cultures.
However, she eventually plans to do work that hits a little closer to home.
“I’m not a really big fan of politics, but I would just like to change some things in Bosnia, because the government just doesn’t do its job the way it should.”
On the other hand, Begic said that if she doesn’t get tired of volleyball she would perhaps like to play professionally. But that is not something she could pursue on her return home because of a lack of opportunity and good facilities in Bosnia, she said. Instead, she idealizes about playing in Turkey, a country she said has a very good league with strong competitors — and there is also the prospect of money.
During her first semester at UALR, Begic went with the volleyball team to tour the country that she was so new to. The team played matches in the southern states, going as far north as Kentucky and as far south as Florida and as far west as Colorado. Begic was quick to pinpoint Florida as her favorite American spot. “Miami is really good,” Begic said. “I like the weather because it is so warm. In Bosnia there is a meter of snow on the ground right now.”
Begic led the UALR team in kills during her freshman campaign with 432, and also posted a 3.93 kill-per-set average, tops on the team.
“Edina was fantastic for us this year,” Compton. Next year, we’re looking for her to step up and be even more of a leader. Everything from her her attitude to the way she performs on the court will be crucial to her growth as a leader and how we improve as a team.”
While she loves volleyball, there is the customary homesickness that comes with being away for so long. Begic said that she misses family, friends and Sarajevo terribly. She also said that American food took some getting used to, and that she frequently longs for Bosnian cuisine. Her favorite Bosnian dish is called Burek, which is essentially a baked pie made with meats, cheeses, spinach and some Bosnian in- gredients. “You must have a very good technique to make it,” Begic claims.
“My city is very old and in Sarajevo there is one huge street where people go to shop and walk around and you can buy jewelry and other things. Here everything is in one mall — and there are no coffee bars.”
“I love the warm weather, that’s why I like here.”
Compton notes that it’s Begic’s personality off the court that makes her such a great player on it.
“Edina is about as unselfish as they come, both as a person and a player,” Compton said, “this is one of the reasons she is such a great teammate. On the court, she is always looking to get others involved, and there are even times we’d like to see her look for her own shots a little more. But as far as her personality goes, she’s as good as they come.”