By Giacomo Castorina Cali
Peace Lab has made the month of June a month of discovery, change, and growth in both a personal and an academic manner. Due to the fact that we were constantly busy and doing things - whether it was intense studying of Balkan history and peacebuilding in the first week, the meetings with organizations and all the other activities we were doing in Kosovo, or the very time-consuming editing and making of a documentary following the trip – this month has gone by so quickly I almost did not have the time to notice. At the same time however, due to the incredible amount of information we have learned and experiences we had to process, this month feels like it has been a year. Prior to Peace Lab I had never learnt so much and grown so much on both a personal and an academic level in just one month.
Having had a little more free time now to think over the things we learnt and the experiences we shared in Kosovo, I am slowly getting my head around it and how this trip has changed me. I still however have a hard time trying to explain and put into words all of my feelings, ideas, opinions, and experiences with regards to Kosovo, whenever friends and family ask me how the trip was. We learned and experienced so much that it just feels impossible to express everything you’d like to say and like to mention in a coherent and linear manner.
I know the rest of the class and I will remember this class and the trip to Kosovo for the rest of our lives for various reasons. It has challenged our ideas with regards to conflict resolution and peacebuilding by allowing us to experience how these processes work in reality on the ground, and it has increased our understanding of the issue. Talking to people in Kosovo also taught me a lot about cultural and religious identities and how conflict can influence and reinforce these identities. Some of the stories we heard were truly eye opening in this regard. All of these experiences from the trip also allowed me to grow on a personal level other than just on an academic level.
Another reason why I will never forget Kosovo was how warm and welcoming our hosts were. Thanks to Enver and Bardha we immediately felt at home in Prishtina. They were always willing to help us and together with their families, they put so much effort into making sure that we would have everything we need and that we would feel welcome. Enver’s home immediately felt like our own home thanks to the warm welcome we received and how nice he and his family were to us.
Overall I cannot put into words how thankful I am to Anne, Erik, Enver, Bardha, and the whole 2017 Peace Lab class for making this trip the unforgettable experience it was. This year was the first time for me that at the end of classes and the semester, I had a bittersweet feeling. While being happy that the semester was over, there was definitely some sense of sadness that the Peace Lab class had ended and that the group of people with which we had basically been living with for a month, was separating at least for the summer.