Harvard Summer Program in Zagreb and Vis, Croatia

Apply by: 
January 30, 2020

  • Croatia - view from water
  • Croatia - Vis
  • Croatia - big building
  • Croatia - people with laptop computers
  • Croatia - bay view
  • Croatia - souk

The Harvard Summer School Program in Croatia takes boundaries—both political and natural—as its central theme. This theme arises from the unique history and geography of the settings for your studies: Zagreb, the capital and political center of Croatia, and Vis, the most distant and isolated of the major islands in Croatia’s Adriatic archipelago. Situated at the historical intersection of world empires and riven by a dramatic geography of discontinuity (Croatia’s islands are in fact the summits of a sunken mountain range), Croatia is the ideal place to reflect on issues that are now more relevant than ever. If the last decades of the twentieth century were a time when walls were coming down and borders seemed to be growing ever less significant, now the pendulum is swinging in the other direction: borders are hardening, differences seem magnified, and walls are going up.

Borders are two-sided, in more ways than one. A border is a point of contact that enables movement and exchange as much as it obstructs them. But it is also a cut, a sometimes violent and potentially traumatic intervention in a physical or cultural landscape. Borders divide us, but they are also where we meet. A border can be a defensive structure or a prison (or both)—or it can be a challenge and invitation to undertake the radical gesture of reaching across the divide.

Program structure

This eight-week program is divided into two four-week courses in comparative literature, each closely linked to its geographical setting.

Classroom study will be closely linked to the program settings, and your appreciation of the program themes will be enriched through a variety of excursions, including to Sarajevo in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Tito’s Cave, former military sites, Srebrena Beach on the island of Vis, and Blue Cave National Park on the island of Biševo.


This program counts as two semester-long courses (4 credits each) of degree credit.

COMP S-108 Study Abroad in Zagreb and Vis, Croatia: Cultural Geographies of Political Difference (34506)

David F. Elmer
Bonnie Talbert
4 credits
UN, GR Limited enrollment.

In the late 1990s and early 2000s it was commonly thought that the expansion and further integration of the European Union (EU) would resolve the tensions arising from the breakup of Yugoslavia. From today's vantage point, such thinking can only seem naive. Indeed, viewed in retrospect, the dissolution of Yugoslavia now seems to have prefigured many of the trends that today threaten to fracture the EU, and that seem to define, to a large extent, the global situation. These trends include the triumph of nationalism over more inclusive narratives, the hardening of borders, the instrumentalization of displaced persons as political weapons, and the demonization of disfavored minorities. This course explores these and other themes through a variety of literary, philosophical, and cinematic texts. Our point of departure is the conflicts that have dominated the Balkan region in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, but discussions are guided by an awareness of the timeliness and global relevance of our themes.

Prerequisite: none.

COMP S-110 Study Abroad in Zagreb and Vis, Croatia: Islandologies—Cultural Geography, Rhetoric, and Literature (34529)

Marc Shell
4 credits
UN, GR Limited enrollment.

This course takes place on the beautiful Island of Vis in the Adriatic Sea. A place of its own and also a piece of the mainland, our island provides an introduction to the study of Earth's islands in general and of Earth itself as an island in space. The course centers on the interaction between humans and the natural environment, including islands in Canada, Sweden, South Korea, Spain, and Croatia. Subjects include islands that are nowhere (Shakespeare's Tempest and More's Utopia), individual human isolation (Defoe's Robinson Crusoe) and connectedness (Donne's "No man is an island"), early science fiction (Swift's Gulliver's Travels), and travel in space capsules. Theoretical texts include writing by Plato and Sloterdijk, who focus on beaches, as well as Ellen Semple, the geographer. Movies include This Island Earth (1955). There the study of such small islands as Vis comes to interact with the largest questions about human community.

Prerequisite: none.

Where you live and study

Classes in Zagreb are held at the European Center for the Study of War and Peace (ECSWP), and at the Culture Center Pavilion on the island of Vis.

The city of Zagreb has all the conveniences and amenities of a major European city, and the ECSWP provides a number of additional facilities, including library and lounge spaces, as well as a dining room where lunch will be served after daily classes.

The island of Vis, widely considered one of the “jewels of the Adriatic,” is renowned for its well-preserved natural beauty, and is a prime location for hiking, swimming, and other outdoor activities. You will live and take classes in the historic town of Komiža on Vis.


In both Zagreb and Komiža, you will live in fully furnished apartments in the downtown district conveniently located within 5 minutes’ walking distance from where classes are held. Apartments include fully-equipped kitchens, wifi, air conditioning, and laundry facilities. During excursions, you will be housed in local boutique hotels.


Early application is strongly encouraged. Each program has unique requirements included in the online application. Beginning your application early is the best way to ensure that you have sufficient time to review and complete the application requirements by the deadline. You may apply to no more than two programs; if applying to two, you will be asked to designate a first and second choice.

A complete online application includes:

  • Basic personal information
  • A statement of interest
  • Your most recent transcript
  • Program-specific requirements (if applicable; may include letters of recommendation, audio or video submissions, etc.)

Interviews may be requested at the discretion of the program.

The summer 2020 application will be available here in early December. Harvard College students applying for funding from the Office of Career Services (OCS): Please note that the OCS funding application is separate.

If you have questions about the application, please contact the Harvard Summer School Study Abroad Office by email at summerabroad@summer.harvard.edu, or by telephone at (617) 998-9602.

Cost & Expenses

The program fee includes:

  • Tuition
  • Accommodations
  • Scheduled program activities
  • Some meals (the program will provide further details)

You will also need to budget for a number of expenses not covered by the program fee. The amounts listed below for these out-of-pocket expenses are approximate, and you may incur additional expenses not noted here. Your actual expenses will depend on a number of factors, including personal spending habits and currency exchange rates.

  • International airfare ($1,300 - $1,600)
  • Ground transportation ($100)
  • Meals ($700)
  • Personal expenditures, communications, course materials, and miscellaneous ($200)

If you have specific questions about personal budgeting, please contact the program directly.

See Funding and Payment for information on how to submit payments and funding options.

Additional information

Program Directors

Marc Shell
David Elmer


  • David F. Elmer, PhD, Professor of the Classics, Harvard University
  • Marc Shell, PhD, Irving Babbitt Professor of Comparative Literature and Professor of English, Harvard University
  • Bonnie Talbert, PhD, Lecturer on Social Studies and Assistant Director of Undergraduate Studies for Freshmen and Sophomores in Social Studies, Harvard University