By Dania Elahi
The past few weeks have been intense – with a lot of learning practically and theoretically. The first week started off with the crash course of the Balkan history, trying to get familiar with what we would have to know when in Kosovo. It was an intense week for me, as I had no knowledge on the history of the Balkans, but more of a generalized view. Weeks two and three were spent in Kosovo, going to different organizations and NGOs, spending time in a completely non-academic environment. Our last week comprised of all the projects we had focused on when in Kosovo, which included topics on gender, alcohol and food as peace-building tools, and a documentary on the EU and Kosovo, among other things.
“How was Kosovo?” was a question that was asked right after we had gotten back from our memorable trip. Friends and family asked about how it was, and what we had done. However, it was just so difficult to answer and to condense the whole experience we had into a few lines, or even just into words. There were all the experiences we encountered, the organizations we met up with and the people we conversed with. It was all a very memorable and an overwhelming experience. Even now, looking back, it is such a mix of emotions, as we went there with an open mind, and came back with more information and opinions that I thought I would have. I learnt that the kind of learning you get in the field is nothing compared to the learning you have in the classroom setting, which was evident everyday that were there. Moreover, the one thing I did learn was how to listen and let people just talk, during the interviews. The more you talked to them, not just about the war or their history, but more general topics, the more they opened up, and talked about something sensitive.
One aspect that was very admirable was the amount of hospitality that strangers showed. Be it on the streets or with our host families; people always tried to show us around. But also, how peacebuilding is not a black-and-white topic. There are so many factors that go into this, more than that, you need time, a lot of time, and a lot of patience, to get to some place which would somehow be ‘peace’.
Furthermore, I come back with more friends from both our AUC class that was on the trip, but also the individuals we met in Kosovo throughout our days there, with the host families taking us in and the interviewees we ended up staying in touch with. All the memories will always be cherished. But finally, a special thanks to Anne and Erik for everything.
Us with our host family