By Uma Claessens
As I write this, more than a week has passed since we returned to Amsterdam. It’s weird to think we’ve been back just as long as our trip in Kosovo lasted. In the classroom, we find ourselves caught in nostalgic moments, reminiscing about the experiences we had just one or two weeks ago. Since our return, we've been working on our projects and preparing presentations for the final classes. The memories of our time in Kosovo are still fresh in our minds, fuelling our motivation to finish the final assignment of this academic year.
Before arriving to Kosovo, my group hadn’t quite figured out what the topic of our final project would be. However, from the moment we set foot in Pristina, the capital city of Kosovo, we were captivated by its vibrant atmosphere and the contagious energy of its youth. The city buzzed with life, and everywhere we looked, there were young people immersed in conversation and laughter. We couldn't help but feel drawn to this dynamic environment.
As we interviewed people from diverse backgrounds, we discovered a beautiful common thread running through their stories. It didn't matter if they belonged to different communities or had varied backgrounds; there was a shared love for socializing and having fun. For Kosovo’s youth, this seemed to mainly take place in ‘third spaces’ (a real ‘humanities term’ according to Daan), as they provide a platform for self-expression, identity exploration, activism, or simply having fun in a place at home away from home. We quickly realized the significance these places hold in the lives of Kosovo’s youth, providing them with a sense of identity and belonging.
This realization sparked our curiosity about what these places look like and why they are so crucial to the youth of Kosovo. We sought to discover the hidden gems of the city, the places where locals gathered – a side often overlooked by tourists. For this reason, we decided to devote our project to mapping the third spaces for youth in Pristina. We interviewed a dozen people, developed a website to display their stories, and created an immersive Google Earth map, allowing us to share the rich tapestry of third spaces in Pristina with a broader audience.
The most surprising and rewarding aspect of our project was the enthusiastic response we received from the people we interviewed. They all opened up their hearts and shared their perspectives, providing us with valuable insights into the city and its vibrant youth culture. I loved hearing each person I interviewed speak about the places that mattered to them. Talking to young people on the street and in bars, and conducting interviews with young, ‘ordinary’ people, rather than relying solely on the scheduled meetings with organizations, added an authentic touch to our project. It allowed us to capture the essence of Pristina through the eyes of its youth.
While doing our project, we stumbled upon an unexpected gift – a moment of connection that touched our hearts. For our very first interview, Sarah and I approached two women at a local bar. Despite the initial language barriers, one of the women enthusiastically shared her thoughts with us. Her genuine warmth and gratitude were evident as she wrote a heartfelt message in Sarah's journal, expressing appreciation for the conversation and wishing us luck with our project. This unexpected gesture affirmed the value of our interviews and symbolized the warmth and positivity we felt from the people we engaged with.
This project not only opened my eyes to the unique youth spaces in Pristina but also resonated deeply with my own experiences in Amsterdam. It highlights the universal need for spaces where young people can freely be themselves, forge connections, and spend quality time with friends without any obligations. Like the youth of Pristina, we all have our favourite bars, cinemas, concert venues, or sports centres that feel like a home away from home, a place where we can truly be ourselves, surrounded by like-minded people.
In both Pristina and Amsterdam, young people yearn for spaces that go beyond the ordinary, places where they can truly be themselves and create lasting memories. It is within these spaces that we find solace, inspiration, and a true sense of community. The cool posters on the walls, the lively music, and the vibrant ambiance are but a backdrop to the true essence of these places—the feelings they evoke and the people with whom we share them.
As I worked on our project, I did so with a renewed appreciation for the transformative power of third spaces. They have the ability to bring people together, fostering personal growth and shaping unforgettable moments, ultimately paving the way towards a more peaceful world.
You can check out the website we created here: https://turquoise-cod-9z83.squarespace.com/ (password: PeaceLab)