Students from more than 30 countries travel to Hvar

Several small villages are scattered throughout the mountains, usually unseen by tourists.

Several small villages are scattered throughout the mountains, usually unseen by tourists.

HVAR, Croatia – Hidden among the islands in the Adriatic Sea is Hvar, Croatia. Listed as one of the top destinations for this year by Lonely Planet, an international travel magazine.

Every year students flock to the island to attend the Student Voice Conference, an international media convention focusing on a different issue each year. For 2004, Student Voice focused on diversity and minority reporting. Topics included stereotypes in the media, ethnicity and multiculturalism.

The Student Voice Conference began in 1997 as a student media outreach from Faculty of the Political Science of the University of Zagreb in Croatia. The first conference focused mainly on Croatian media. The conference also tried to establish an international network between young journalists. In its existence, the conference has hosted more than 700 journalists from more than 30 countries.

“Our intention from the beginning was to bring young journalists and students from all over the world to one place where they can meet, exchange ideas and gather new experiences,” said Darijo Cerepinko, conference organizer. “Not to forget, have fun and enjoy themselves.”

Now in its eighth year of existence, the Student Voice conference hosted a group of more than 200 young journalists; its largest crowd yet.

“After eight years, I’m pretty sure we succeeded and Student Voice became the biggest conference of this type in Europe,” Cerepinko said.

Over the four-day period, students attended lectures and workshops on the media’s role in ethnic conflicts and their minorities in the media.

Lecturers from all aspects of media were on hand to discuss topics ranging from stereotypes and media effects to gays and lesbians in cinema.

Each day, four different workshops were offered, each dealing with a different aspect of minorities in the media.

Each year, one workshop allows a select group of students to venture into the small towns of Hvar in search of a story. Every student takes a camera into the village and tried to tell a story in one photo. Prizes are awarded on the last day of the conference for the best photos.

Aside from lectures and workshops, students are offered travel opportunities from the conference.

During the final day of the conference, students traveled to the Pakleni Islands for lunch and swimming.

Marijana Grbesa, conference coordinator, said she is impressed with the size of the conference and hopes it will continue to grow in the future.

The island of Hvar is located 45 minutes (by hydrofoil) south of Split, Croatia. Nestled beneath the hill-covered island, the town of Hvar sits along the coast, making it one of many harbor towns in the region. The local economy mainly relies on fishing, tourism and local agriculture.

Vineyards rest along the many winding and narrow mountain roads. Damier Grbesa, a local university student, said Hvar is greatly known and recognized for its local wine productions.

St. Stephen’s Square is where most of Hvar’s activities occur. Harbor-front stores, bakeries and restaurants line the cobbled stone street. Children ride their bikes, friends converse over the previous night’s events, boats make their way out to sea. A cathedral serves as a backdrop to the marketplace as a fort watches over on a mountaintop. Kiosks boarder the main road, selling souvenirs ranging from jewelry, postcards and the island’s popular lavender, sold as oil or dried in burlap bags.

Moving away from the main town, small, desolate villages appear. Stone homes stacked next to one another are protected with wooden doors, which seem to be nothing more than planks of dried wood. Homes mainly consist of one, dirt-floored room.

Outside many homes, villagers hang clothes hand-washed in well water. They also resort to living on their own food resources and make their own wine and Rakija, a homemade liquor.

“Many will say that Hvar is one of the most beautiful islands in the world,” Cerepinko said. “I couldn’t agree more, yet it is only one from more than a thousand islands [off of] Croatia. Every single one is a story for itself waiting to be discovered.”