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Serbia, Austria, & Hungary

Comparative European Perspectives on Conflict & Democracy

Engage with sophisticated analyses of Europe’s most complex challenges around the future of war, peace, and democracy.

At a Glance





Language of Study


Courses taught in



Feb 5 – May 19

Program Countries


Program Excursion Countries

Hungary, Austria

Program Base


Critical Global Issue of Study

Geopolitics & Power


Why study conflict and democracy in the Serbia, Hungary, and Austria?

Analyze the continent’s most pressing sociopolitical and economic challenges—including the war on Ukraine—and how they intersect with issues of mass migration, refugee crises, and the rise of far-right nationalism and populism. You will examine the threat of illiberal democracies on the future of political organizing and evaluate impacts of civic engagement and social movements from the streets of large urban centers, where everyday citizens are demanding change.

The program’s base is the city of Belgrade, the largest urban and political center of southeast Europe known for its vibrant culture and nightlife. There, you will examine European perspectives on conflict and democracy through the lenses of EU member and non-member states, and grassroots and social movements that include Ukrainian refugees and Russians who fled to Belgrade to avoid the draft.

In Belgrade and during excursions to Budapest and Vienna, you will engage with EU policymakers to learn about an array of political agendas, local activist movements, and regional identities within the shifting power relations of contemporary Europe. During a day trip to Bratislava, Slovakia, become immersed in the cultural life of this beautiful and compelling central European country.


  • Travel to Vienna, Austria; Bratislava, Slovakia; and Budapest, Hungary.
  • Choose to do independent field research or an internship.
  • Explore European perspectives on conflict, democracy and migration in three European countries
  • Meet with policymakers, experts, politicians, and activists from universities, leading think tanks and civil society organizations in Belgrade, Budapest, and Vienna.
  • Gain proficiency in comparative thinking and analysis related to peace and conflict studies.



program map


Budapest, Hungary

Visit Hungary, Serbia’s northern neighbor, and explore the capital Budapest and its beautiful architectural landmarks and vibrant urban life. Learn about Hungary’s recent post-communist transition to democracy and a free-market economy, and its EU membership since 2004. Examine Hungary’s current position in relation to EU policies on refugees and migration, the war on Ukraine, and questions related to the future of democracy and peace in Europe. Learn from local civil society actors’ claims for free media, democracy, and human rights.

Vienna, Austria

Austria, in central Europe, has been an EU member state since 1995. Here you will meet with leading European policymakers, peace and conflict analysts,  prominent think tanks, and academic institutions grappling with Europe’s approaches to peace, the war on Ukraine, and the overarching challenges to democracy on the continent. Learn about Austria’s legacy in the aftermath of World War II, the challenges of dealing with its own violent past, and its current policies toward migration and refugees.

Bratislava, Slovakia

Become immersed in the cultural life of this beautiful city known for its castles, museums, and art galleries, and learn how a small, land-locked country has managed to preserve its language and cultural life.


As the largest urban center in southeast Europe, Belgrade not only is a dynamic political center but also an exciting and vibrant cultural center known for live music and excellent night life. Explore Serbia’s unique position within Europe, from the Ottoman Empire’s invasion of European lands to the legacies of the Austro-Hungarian empire, followed by the formation of Yugoslavia until its demise at the end of the 20th century. Visits to local museums and heritage institutions reveal Serbia’s place within the layers of European histories during war and peace.

Please note that SIT will make every effort to maintain its programs as described. To respond to emergent situations, however, SIT may have to change or cancel programs.


Program Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of the program, students will be able to: 

  • Use complex reasoning to engage critically with frameworks for civic engagement, peace from below, and actions for peace as they pertain to current academic discourses in the fields of comparative politics and peace and conflict studies.
  • Evaluate the current state of democracy and geopolitical trends in Europe as they relate to the rise of populism, authoritarianism, and growing illiberal trends globally.
  • Compare the ways different regions of Europe (southeast, central, EU, non-EU) approach challenges to war, peace, democracy, illiberalism, migration, and humanitarianism.
  • Develop Serbian language skills.
  • Apply qualitative research methods to complete a field-based research project or internship in an ethical manner.

Read more about Program Learning Outcomes.


Access virtual library guide.

The following syllabi are representative of this program. Because courses develop and change over time to take advantage of dynamic learning opportunities, actual course content will vary from term to term.

The syllabi can be useful for students, faculty, and study abroad offices in assessing credit transfer. Read more about credit transfer.

Please expand the sections below to see detailed course information, including course codes, credits, overviews, and syllabi.

Key Topics

  • Explore themes of post-liberal peace, everyday peace, feminist peace and security.
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  • Engage with current debates in Europe regarding the future of democracy,
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  • Examine humanitarian crises with a focus on central and southeast Europe.
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  • Improve your communication skills.
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  • Use theoretical, conceptual, and practical tools to identify and conduct field research and/or an internship in Serbia, Austria, or Hungary

Conflict and the Future of Peace in Europe

Conflict and the Future of Peace in Europe – syllabus
(PEAC3000 / 3 credits)

This course focuses on the developments in conflict, as well as peace and change in Europe since the end of the cold war to the present. From the violent break-up of Yugoslavia to the current war on Ukraine, students use lenses of critical peace and conflict studies to comparatively explore themes of post-liberal peace, everyday peace, feminist peace and security, as well as justice, narratives, and contested memories after conflict.

Democracy, Illiberalism, and Humanitarianism in 21st Century Europe

Democracy, Illiberalism, and Humanitarianism in 21st Century Europe – syllabus
(PEAC3005 / 3 credits)

Recent years have seen political developments across old and new democracies ranging from the rise of populist leaders and diminishing support for democratic rule to the growing polarization of public opinion. The illiberal turn is forcing many societies across Europe to face their pasts, present, and futures as internal divisions grow deeper. Using the lens of comparative politics and peace and conflict studies, this course allows students to engage critically with current debates in Europe regarding the future of democracy, the rise of illiberalism, and the humanitarian crises, with a focus on central and southeast European societies.


Serbian I – syllabus
(SERB1003 / 3 credits)

Serbian II – syllabus
(SERB2003 / 3 credits)

Serbian III – syllabus
(SERB3003 / 3 credits)

Emphasis on speaking and comprehension skills through classroom and field instruction. Students are also introduced to the Cyrillic script. Students are placed in beginning or intermediate, or advanced classes based on in-country evaluation, including oral proficiency testing.

Research Methods and Ethics

Research Methods and Ethics – syllabus
(ANTH3500 / 3 credits)

The Research Methods and Ethics (RME) course provides theoretical, conceptual, and practical tools for identifying and conducting field research and/or an internship in Serbia, Austria, or Hungary. Emphasis is on grappling with methodological and ethical challenges in learning and researching issues related to peace and conflict studies in this part of the world, or in entering an internship site. Students will discuss particular ethical considerations in studying and researching topics pertaining to post-conflict transformation in Europe. The course prepares students to record, interpret, and analyze information obtained from primary sources by developing better understanding and awareness of cultural differences and  students’ own positionality.

Independent Study Project or Internship

Choose between the following two courses:

Independent Study Project – syllabus
(ISPR3000 / 4 credits)

The Independent Study Project is conducted in an approved location appropriate to the project in Serbia. Requests for field work in Vienna or Budapest will be reviewed on a case by case

Sample ISP topic areas:

  • Solidarity and activism with migrants and refugees on the Balkan route
  • Transitional justice and education for peace in the Western Balkans
  • Local youth perceptions of the Russian soft power in Republika Srpska, Bosnia-Herzegovina
  • Integration of Serbia and Kosovo in the European Union
  • Islam in Bosnia-Herzegovina and/or in Kosovo
  • Human rights and LGBTQI activism in Serbia and/or Bosnia-Herzegovina and/or Kosovo
  • Street art and street activism in Belgrade
  • “Yugonostalgia” in Belgrade and/or Sarajevo
  • Kosovo-Serbia relations and the analysis of frozen conflicts
  • Youth activism and youth encounters in peace-building efforts between Serbia and Kosovo

Browse this program’s Independent Study Projects / undergraduate research.


Internship & Seminar – syllabus
(ITRN3000 / 4 credits)

This seminar consists of a four-week internship with a local community organization, research organization, local or international NGO in Serbia. The aim of the internship is to enable the student to gain valuable work experience and to enhance their skills in an international work environment. Students will complete an internship and submit a paper in which they process their learning experience on the job, analyze an issue important to the organization, and/or design a socially responsible solution to a problem identified by the organization.

Sample internships:

  • Helping refugees on the Balkans route at Asylum Protection Center
  • Building connections between young people across the Balkans at Youth Initiative for Human Rights
  • Supporting journalists in the region through the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network
  • Conducting desk research at the Belgrade Center for Security Policy, a leading think tank in southeast Europe
  • Digitalizing historical archives at the Museum of Yugoslav History
  • Helping beneficiaries at Atina, a prominent local NGO in anti-trafficking of human beings



You’ll live with a host family in Belgrade. If you choose to pursue an independent project or internship in the city, you may be able to extend your stay for an additional four weeks. Living with a local family is a unique opportunity to gain an in-depth understanding of the people, realities, and challenges facing the Balkans today. While offering an excellent opportunity to improve your language skills, the homestay experience will add warmth and create lasting bonds beyond the program.

Family is very important and there is a good chance you will meet your hosts’ extended families in other parts of the city or country.

In Belgrade, your family will also be a great source of information about local places such as the best kafanas, informal neighborhood bistros where you can meet new friends, sample traditional Serbian dishes, and enjoy live music and vibrant night life.

Other Accommodations

Bed and breakfast or small hotels

Career Paths

Recent positions held by alumni of this program include:

  • Fulbright research scholar in Serbia or Kosovo

  • Fulbright scholar teaching English in Serbia or Kosovo

  • Global networks program manager at the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience, New York, NY

  • Senior program assistant at the National Democratic Institute (NDI), Washington, DC

  • Leading team member with International NGOs assisting migrants on the Balkan route

Faculty & Staff

Serbia, Austria, & Hungary: Comparative European Perspectives on Conflict & Democracy

Orli Fridman, PhD bio link
Orli Fridman, PhD
Academic Director
Aleksandar Skundric bio link
Aleksandar Skundric
Program Assistant
Ana Begovic, MA bio link
Ana Begovic, MA
Language Instructor
Rodoljub Jovanović bio link
Rodoljub Jovanović

Discover the Possibilities

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    SIT Balkans
    SIT Balkans program is an academic semester in Peace & Conflict Studies. Students can choose between Research, Journalism or Internship Tracks

  • Researching Balkans

    Researching Balkans is produced by students from this program and strives to be a platform for students’ writings about the Balkans, their experiences studying aboard with SIT in the Balkans, and conducting research during their independent study month.

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  • Come together: how music is rebuilding bridges in divided Balkans

    SIT Balkans journalism track student Gillian Dohrn writes a feature for The Guardian.

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  • SIT Study Abroad in the Balkans: Homestay

    You’ll live with a host family in Belgrade for seven weeks. If you choose to pursue an independent project or internship in the city, you may be able to extend your stay for an additional four weeks. Living with a local family is a unique opportunity to gain an in-depth understanding of the people, realities, and challenges facing the Balkans today. While offering an excellent opportunity to improve your language skills, the homestay experience will add warmth and create lasting bonds beyond the program.

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