Meet the student: Serbia meets Norway

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Isabelle Konghaug og Anne Haws, Meet the Student.

«Meet the student» is a column written by Isabelle Kongshaug and Anne Marie Haws. The columnist meets students from different countries who live in Rogaland, and talks about their home country and their lives in Norway.

Damnjan Cirković is a classical piano player who came to Norway for a Master’s Degree in Music. When he doesn’t play the piano he loves going downhill skiing.

I meet Damnjan Cirković at a café in Fargegaten on a sunny Sunday afternoon. Damnjan grew up in Kruševac, a city with approximately 130,000 inhabitants, located in the middle of Serbia. Eight months ago he moved to Norway for a Master’s Degree at Institute for Music and Dance at Stavanger University. Today, he already speaks Norwegian and has adapted very well to the Norwegian culture.

Bild 1 - Damnjan Cirkovic

Why did you start playing the piano?
I remember when I was young that I wanted to play the piano. I don’t come from a musical family, my parents are both economists, so I had to tell them that I wanted to go to music school. They were very supportive, but also a bit surprised that I knew what a piano was.

What was it like growing up in Serbia?
Since I grew up playing the piano, I went to two different schools in my youth. One was the normal school during the day, and the other one was the music school during the afternoon. Music education in Serbia is a bit different than in Norway. Here anyone can start playing an instrument at the kulturskole, but in Serbia you have to pass a test to get accepted to the music school. If you get accepted, you must spend every afternoon studying different subjects like singing, rhythm, piano, choir etc. By the end of the year you have to pass the music exams to continue the next year.

Can you share some music originating from Serbia?
A famous classical musician from Serbia is violinist Nemanja Radulović. When it comes to classical composers Stevan Stojanović Mokranjac it’s an important name. I would describe the Serbian classical music as being very influenced by folklore. Also, since Serbia is located in the Balkan region, of course Balkan music is part of the Serbian culture. Goran Bregović is a popular musician who mixes traditional Balkan elements into more mainstream styles of music.

Can you say something about the Serbian culture?
In Serbia the family is very important. I have a very close relationship to my family, and I can talk to them about everything. Young people in Norway seem to be more independent from their parents. For instance, if you choose to study at a University in your hometown, in Norway you would probably get your own apartment or student dorm, but in Serbia it would be normal to stay with your family.

What places, and experiences, would you recommend for someone travelling as a tourist to Serbia?
The capital Belgrade is a fun and big city with a lot of things happening, many Europeans travel there. A famous tourist attraction in the south of Serbia is Đavolja Varoš, the Devil’s Town, which has 202 very peculiar rock formations that look like tall pyramids or towers. The site was nominated for New 7 Wonders of Nature. Serbia is also known for its many spa centers where people go for relaxation and health. If you’re in Serbia you should also try some of the local food, like ćevapčići or sarma, and taste the typical Serbian alcohol beverage rakija.

Why did you choose to come to Norway to study?
I wanted to experience a different culture and a new way of living, and learn a new language. I think you learn a lot by coming to a new place, and then when you go back to your home country you can bring the things you’ve learned and maybe help your country in a positive way. I also love downhill skiing and I used to do it a lot back in Serbia, so it’s definitely a plus that Norway has many opportunities for skiing.

Are there big cultural differences between living in Norway and in Serbia?
I think there’s a big difference when it comes to the equality between men and women. In Norway men and women are more equal. I also think Serbian people are more open and talkative; if you meet someone at a bus stop or on the beach you would start talking, even though they’re a stranger.

Where do you see yourself in ten years?
I really don’t know! I want to live for today and do what I want to do now – and then time will show what happens in the future. I like to believe that not everything can be controlled, and that is how it is.

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