By Louise ten Bosch
During the trip itself I found it difficult to take time for myself and reflect on the trip. I am not one to often take a moment every day to properly look back on the day and write down what I felt, I often found myself simply writing down an itinerary of some sort. However, with the day now I’m starting to realise more and more the effect that this trip had on me. I would say that I can streamline these lessons into two major ones.
The first is the presence of biases, the second is the danger of generalisations. Although these are two separate takeaways they were also often interwoven, and one often appeared alongside the other. Before the trip, and often even during, we often used the term Serb or Albanian to describe certain characteristics or traits. This was where the lesson about biases came into play. Being in Prishtina for one day amongst Albanian people already allowed for a bias, unbeknownst to me, against the Serbs to take shape.
So, when we headed up to Mitrovica the second day to meet with the Serbians I realised that my stance was already rather pessimistic and that I would often already in my head blame all Serbs for being against the independence of Kosovo and not allowing the country to move forward. However, with every new organisation we passed and every new person we met who was from Serbia I started to truly realise the naivety, but also the danger, of the biases that I held. If I was already feeling like that after one day I couldn’t imagine what other people must be feeling.
Besides the obvious points, one specific danger with this attitude of mine was that I was generalising, I was painting one group of people with the same brush, without hearing the different perspectives first. It was the New Social Initiative in particular that made me realise the extent to which my biases had been wrong. The passion and drive that the head of the social initiative showed was truly inspirational and definitely also filled me with a drive that I hadn’t felt in a while.
All in all, an amazing trip from which I will take away lessons that will hopefully stick with me for life.