“I ran to the door and locked it. I called the police,” Aldin Beslagic said while recounting one of his earliest memories of America. The then 17- year-old saw a woman being held up at knife point and robbed by two men outside of his apartment building, while peering out of his bedroom window one night.
“I thought to myself, ‘did I come to America to the same troubles as Bosnia? I don’t want to die, man.’ I was scared.”
Initially, in 1999, the family lived in an apartment in the south end of Hartford. Despite their new living arrangements, his mother, Mirjana, was not happy with the location.
“The first apartment was on the corner of a very dangerous street,” said Mirjana. “There were men outside selling drugs, fighting every night, the police coming around.”
This was not the life that she had expected and, at first, wanted to move back to Europe.
“Before I had a job, I was very bored,” said Mirjana. “Staying in the house all day cleaning and making lunches, that was not for me.”
Aldin shared the feelings of discomfort, as well. “At the beginning, all I wanted to do was go back to my country. I wasn’t comfortable,” Aldin said. “American culture is totally different. It was like a shock in the beginning. It’s just a different lifestyle.”
The main difference the senior qu soccer forward noticed was that life is at a much faster pace here in America. Everyone is always in a rush, whereas in Europe, Aldin said, life is more laid back and work is not as stressful.
After all of the struggles they had overcome on their way to America, the Beslagics were not about to settle for just any living situation. Mirjana and Miralem decided that this first apartment was not what they had hoped for and, roughly two months later, moved to an apartment in a better area of Hartford.
The moves did not stop there, though. The Beslagics relocated two more times, the latter bringing them to their current house in Wethersfield, a suburb of Hartford twenty minutes north of Hamden.
During this time, Aldin and his sister, Dina, enrolled at Buckley High School in Hartford. Aldin was placed in the tenth grade and finished the last few months of the school year.
After the summer, Aldin returned to Buckley for his junior year, but something was not right.
“The students did not take it seriously,” said Aldin. “People in the back of the room talking, goofing off, disrespecting the teacher; I [knew I] wasn’t going anywhere [if I stayed there]. It was a joke to all of them.”
Once he saw this was not the school for him, Aldin asked a few of his friends for suggestions. One of them told him he had a cousin in the Rocky Hill school system. The cousin had nothing but praise for the school district, so Aldin decided this was his best option in order to prepare for college.
When Aldin transferred to Rocky Hill High School his junior year, the education process was just beginning. The move to a new country brought with it the responsibility of learning a new language.
“I knew some basic grammar,” said Aldin. And although he took an ESL course (English as a second language) over the summer, he said the real education came in daily conversation, such as when he turned out for basketball at rocky hill.
“The coach saw me and was like, ‘you must play basketball,'” Aldin said. “I was like, ‘whatever, I’ll play.’ It’s a chance to make some new friends.”
To no surprise, the coach wanted him on the team because of his height (6’6″), and the sport intrigued Aldin. However, since he had never played the game before, Aldin did now know any of the rules. As much as the coach would try to teach him in practice, none of it would sink in.
“Every game I was fouled out, man, every game. It was bad,” Aldin said. “He would tell me one thing and I would just nod my head. I didn’t know what he was talking about.”
Courting the english language included other struggles for beslagic. When he came to the new school, he quickly learned what bias and stereotype meant.
There were also two other Bosnian students who had coincidentally made the move to this school around the same time. The three became friends, but that was the extent of Aldin’s social network. Aldin said that many of the students at Rocky Hill did not approve of these “outsiders” and felt the need to make it known.
“They were always telling us to go home,” said Aldin. “They did not like us or want us there and harassed us about it every day. Me and my friends had to draw a line.”
Eventually, these tensions boiled over and the line was crossed. The three foreign students were sick of being treated this way, and their counterparts had no problem settling it physically. The result was a brawl after school in which Aldin said about 15 American students attacked the three Bosnians. Despite their numbers advantage, the Americans were physically beaten.
Of course, this altercation did not go unnoticed. School administration wasted no time in reprimanding all those involved. At the time, Aldin was under the age of 18, so he was not charged with any crime, but the school administration wanted him out.
“They wanted to expel me from school,” said Aldin. “I got lucky because I was under-age; all they gave me was a warning. But I was almost kicked out of school.”
After dodging what could have been a devastating penalty, Aldin returned to school and found that the situation had drastically changed.
“After the fight, everyone respected us,” said Aldin. “Nobody wanted to mess with us.”
Now that all the growing pains had subsided, Aldin was able to focus his attention on his education and soccer. He had played soccer over the summer in preparation for his junior year at Rocky Hill.
Despite his obvious abilities on the field, Aldin was moved from his normal position of midfielder to forward.
Normally, forwards are quicker and known for their scoring prowess. Not that Aldin lacked in these areas, but because he is extremely tall (6’6″) for this sport he had always played another position. This did not prevent Aldin from making a name for himself on the field.
“I started scoring goals and getting assists,” said Aldin. “My goal was to get at least one assist every game, I like assisting [my teammates].”
This unselfish attitude is one of the main reasons Aldin was able to excel at the game despite the new style of play. In Europe, the game is more technical and fast-paced. Here in America, the game is slowed down and there is not as much attention placed on the technical aspects of the game.
As a junior, Aldin was able to help propel his team to the Connecticut State Championship. During the M-Class championship game, Aldin epitomized his unselfish play by recording assists on both Rocky Hill goals. In turn, the Terrier’s earned a 2-1 victory over Avon High School.
“That was a great experience,” said Aldin. “The next day, you come to school and you are like a hero. Everyone coming up to you saying ‘good game,’ all the papers writing about you, how can you describe that feeling? Unbelievable man. You come from such depths, come from a war. Then to go to that feeling, it’s like mixed feelings. But so good.”
The thrills died down his senior season as the Terriers took an early exit from the play-offs, though Aldin’s play on the field turned some heads. The senior earned All-State and Conference Player-of-the-Year honors. With the help of his coach, Carl Lombardo (who was unavailable for comment), Aldin created a highlight tape and sent it out to many area schools. The result was multiple scholarship offers and one big decision to make: which school to attend.
Aldin had received offers from Quinnipiac, Central Connecticut State University, University of Hartford, and Waterbury College (Division III). After considering all these schools, Aldin narrowed his scope. He knew he wanted to stay in Connecticut to be close to his family and also wanted to play at the Division I level.
The next step was actually touring the schools. Aldin visited with his remaining choices, but knew what school he wanted to go to after his first visit to Quinnipiac.
“I came to the campus and it was so beautiful,” said Aldin. “I had so much fun here, and there were so many beautiful girls.”
After his weekend visit in which he stayed with current Quinnipiac soccer players, Aldin made his decision. He accepted his scholarship and finalized the paperwork.
“I felt like a relief in my mind, like, I’m heading towards a better future,” Beslagic said. “I’m going to start going to college, I’m going to do my best to get a degree and get a good job afterwards.”
But more challenges lay ahead for the young man from bosnia who had already cleared his share of obstacles. Beslagic set his sights on making a mark at QU and prepared for what he considers one of the greatest experiences of his life.