Friday, June 19, 2015

How does crossing bridges transform you? Part 1

(By Michael Vermeer)

On the last night of our trip we had dinner with the entire group at a restaurant on Mother Teresa Square in the center of Pristina, Kosovo. It was a balmy night, we ate Mediterranean and Kosovar dishes and merrily mingled with each other around one long table. Everybody changed seats multiple times during the course of the evening; the smaller friend groups and divisions which had characterised our group before we had left had dissolved. The distance between us had gone.

During the past ten days we had gotten to know each other so well - I had never expected that. Moreover, this evening was a great opportunity to draw a balance, to provide everybody a space to express their experiences, insights and emotions. The individual speeches revealed that the trip had not only transformed this group of students socially but had also made a deep impact on their academic awareness. To some extent every university course is of course meant to transform a student’s understanding of a subject by providing them necessary knowledge and tools to critically evaluate and utilise that knowledge - but this course had made an incredible impact on its students which cannot be compared to other courses at AUC.

On this last night, it seemed, that for most students this course had succeeded exceptionally well in transforming their academic outlooks in many different areas. For me personally, Peace Lab’s trip to Kosovo radically changed my view of the Balkans and how I see the impact of ‘high diplomacy’ on everyday citizens. It also demonstrated the resilience and necessity of brave grassroots organisations such as Qesh, Kosovo 2.0 and Community Building Mitrovica in creating public spaces open to alternative voices and conducive of mutual understanding and cooperation between differing people. The trip also gave me a deeper insight into the complex interplay between (ethnic/national) identities, reconciliation and alienation through our visits to Mitrovica and Vetevendosje. 

Rather than focussing on these and other insights I want to explore what set this course apart from all others in its ability to transform us in such a short period of time. It’s not a comprehensive overview, rather a list of points I came up with while pondering this question in the plane back to Amsterdam. Interested what these points are for me? Tomorrow you can read what I came up with in part 2!

No comments:

Post a Comment