California State University, Long Beach
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Prof Sees Benefits
of Cultural Exchange
America Transformed book cover

When the opportunity to “host” a Bosnian graduate student was made available through an International Junior Faculty Fellow program, Theatre Arts’ associate professor Anne D’Zmura couldn’t pass it up. She might have been a little apprehensive about taking on the additional workload to her already busy schedule, but looked more favorably at the chance to work with a somewhat accomplished actor who could give some cultural perspective to CSULB students.

“It’s my understanding that this is a program that universities fight over to get these individuals and this is the first time our department has ever done this,” said D’Zmura, who agreed to serve in an advisor roll. “I seized on the opportunity because I am also having him teach workshops for our undergraduate population with the idea of the cultural exchange and the ideas and techniques he has learned in Bosnia, what’s similar, what’s not similar. So not only is he benefiting, but our students are benefiting by having him here.”

This is the second visit to the United States for Jasmin Mekic, his first being as an exchange student in 1997-98 at the age of 17, which culminated in his graduation from a New Jersey high school. Nearly a decade later, however, he is not only a student and actor, but sees himself as a future educator as well.

“I don’t think there is a purpose for you being here if you don’t know what you are going to do when you go back home,” said Mekic, referring to himself. “For me, I think it’s better to get experience from here in the area of film acting so when I do return home I will be the only young Bosnian teaching assistant in Balkans that teaches film acting. Hopefully, that will open some doors for me.”

Mekic, who learned English back home as a youth mostly by watching American television and deliberately ignoring the subtitles, is a graduate from the University of Tuzla’s Academy of Dramatic Arts in Bosnia and now, at the age of 26, has a budding career in his homeland.

“These days I have kind of established my status in my home country as a young actor,” said Mekic, who has been in one movie, two television series and numerous plays, “so I am pretty known there. There are not many actors in Bosnia (population approx. 3 million), about 150 in all. Here, in Los Angeles, everyone seems to be an actor.”

Mekic wasn’t even sure he wanted to be an actor, but that changed when he was cast in a production of “Grease” at the New Jersey high school.

“That was the moment I realized I was going to be an actor,” he remembered. His father and mother had other hopes, wanting him to be a doctor. He entered medical school and was there for a one year. During that time, however, he would sometimes skip classes to go to the academy and watch acting, his true interest. “So, I decided after a year I was going to quit medical school and go to the academy for acting because that’s what I really wanted to do.”

Mekic arrived at CSULB in January and is here only through the spring semester, but he is getting his fill of acting, in and out of the classroom.

“He takes several classes that will facilitate his academic and professional career,” said D’Zmura. “On campus he observes a company class; takes a film and theater theory class with (professor) Maria Viera; takes movement class with (assistant professor) Orlando Pabotoy; and has been open to auditioning and participating in some of our productions. I think this has been a good experience for everyone involved.”