Saturday, July 1, 2017


By Layla Gegout

Today is the first day after the end of our Peace Lab class. Although we all expected to feel free, happy and relieved to be on a break, I think the most prominent feeling among the students in the class is that of nostalgia. The past week was spent working hard on our group projects, and none of us have had the time to properly sit down and recover from our trip to the Balkans, so today is the first day that we are all able to take a breather and reflect on our experiences.

Dania and Julia in Prizren

All the different group projects that were presented in the past week have illustrated the vast array of things we learnt while in Kosovo. Gender inequality, ambiguous feelings towards the involvement of the international community, food and alcohol as peace-building tools, the importance of language, wishes for the future… All these presentations threw us back into our Kosovar mindset and allowed us to recall everything we’d witnessed. Because of this, a feeling of nostalgia has slowly but surely crept its way into each one of us (or maybe I’m just generalising my feelings to the whole class?) which came to its culminating point yesterday as we said goodbye as we were leaving the classroom. As some of us are third years, yesterday marked the very last day of our AUC academic career, and for others it was a matter of saying goodbye for a few months. Despite promising each other we would stay in touch and meet up regularly, there was an overpowering feeling of something coming to a dramatic end, as it was understood that we would never find ourselves in the same group, under the same circumstances and with the same dynamics as we’d been in for the past month.
In his presentation, Ilen mentioned that the most interesting thing he had discovered through making his documentary with his group about Kosovo and the European Union involvement, had been the apparent lack of attachment with the present that Kosovars have. By this, he meant that he had observed their tendency to anchor themselves to a memory, tensions or history from the past, or on the contrary, to their way of looking at the future in an optimistic way as a solution to their current problems. He contrasted this mindset to a more Western perspective of being able to have a stable grip on the present, separately from the past or the future. However, reflecting on this past month, I realise that I - and probably most people around me - tend to live in the past, dwell on memories of good times that will never return or regret things that did not happen, instead of enjoying the present moment. This is therefore a good opportunity to practice using what we’ve experienced in Peace Lab and applying it in a positive and constructive way to build on my present-day life, without going into a full-fledged emotionally-packed sob story about what I am going to miss in the future.

Our last night in Kosovo

These are the main things I have learnt during the past month:
  • From an academic point of view, our peace lab experience has given us practical tools and tips and tricks to carry out (relatively) successful interviews. If you want to judge how well we did, you can have a look at our group project ‘Voices of Kosovo’ on Facebook, in which we aimed at painting a bottom-up picture of the Kosovar society by giving a voice to the average citizen and asking about their hopes and dreams for the future.

  • Kosovo has taught us to trust strangers, as we were living with individuals and families we’d never met before. We also learnt to trust in the kindness of strangers, and that people are often willing to open up and talk about their stories, experiences and points of view, they’re just waiting to be asked.

  • Through this class we all created new friendships, both with Kosovars and with AUC students with whom we may have crossed paths on a daily basis prior to this class, but we never necessarily took the time to properly interact with. This kind of bonding experience truly teaches you to open up and trust that most people are good-hearted and kind.

It’s now time to pack our bags and return to our respective homes, where we will definitely miss Anne’s ‘Annisms’, Erik’s tasty food and Robbert’s tourist-guide skills, but at least we’ll be able to use the unique and enriching experience that was the peace lab course.

Peppi dragging her whole life around in these two suitcases

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