Who is Eldin Milak and how would you like to introduce yourself to the people who don’t follow your scientific work?
I am a fairly average twenty-five year old who has had a fair amount of luck and opportunities so far. In terms of my profession, I am a cognitive linguist who is currently concerned with questions of language and identity, and how the two communicate through a series of processes of varying complexity.
As we learned, you are a proud valedictorian, what would you like to say to your friends and colleagues, what is the secret to your success?
I wouldn’t call myself successful yet, but what I found helped me so far was being bold, taking chances, and hoping that it all works out. I have always strived to do my best, no matter what task I’ve been given, and people recognize that. From then on you just need a little push in the right direction, an opportunity and a bit of luck, and there you go. But it all starts with not just hard, but honest work as well.
Your Master’s thesis was titled ‘Conceptualization Me’, what is it actually about?
Long story short, it’s an attempt at figuring out how we conceptualize ourselves in relation to greater social groupings, such as a nation, or ethnic group. Moreover, it’s an exploration of how we see others, and how that affects how we define ourselves in contrast.
You’re the proud winner of the Fulbright scholarship. Can you tell us more about that program? What’s your plan after finishing your studies?
Well, the Fulbright program is one of the big international scholarships out there, alongside Chevening and a couple others. It offers students and scholars who have displayed certain academic merit to participate in an exchange to and from the U.S. The particular program I am participating in this year is the Foreign Fulbright Student program which offers me the chance to conduct independent research in the States for the duration of an academic year at a U.S. university. The Fulbright scholarship is fairly difficult to get, and the process lasts a long time. To give you an insight into how long, I began my application in February of 2015, and I arrived to the States late August 2016, so to anyone who is considering applying I recommend patience. It all pays off in the end. Once I’m done with the program I plan on coming back to Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Are you planning to return to Bosnia and Herzegovina? Does BiH have good career prospects for the younger generation?
As I said previously, I’ve been fairly lucky so far. I got a job offer the day after I graduated, so I didn’t really have to deal with the Bosnian job market. However, from what I see right not, Bosnia is not the most fertile of grounds for professional development. In many respects we are still stuck in our ways, and we refuse to budge. Before we can even think of creating a thriving job market, we need to sort out some deeper issues that underlie the country’s constitution as a whole.
Did you decide on the subject you’re going to study for the Fulbright program in America?
Yes, of course. The research direction and a fully fleshed out proposal are prerequisites when applying for a Fulbright. I will continue the work I began in Bosnia, albeit with a different set of participants and a somewhat different research methodology.
What kind of work are you doing now and are you pleased with it? Where do you see yourself in ten years?
Right now I am in the initial phases of research planning while I’m still getting used to my surroundings. Additionally, I am auditing a few courses at Montclair State, and it has been pretty fun so far. As for where I’ll be in ten years, that’s hard to tell. I hope I’ll be happy and healthy, and surrounded with friends and family, doing the job that I love. A big ask I know, but it doesn’t hurt to dream.
Interview by Zejna SY