By Austin Langdon
I learned Albanian today.
Well, the basics of it; the alphabet, how to say please and thank you, how to order bread or ask someone’s name and age. Most people in Kosovo speak English, but it will be useful and more immersive to be able to speak their tongue when I intern for a Kosovo newspaper this summer in Pristina, their capital city.
The group of Miami University students I am going with is made up of majors in journalism, political science, international studies, and one public health major. The Kosovo program ran from the Miami University Journalism department, but the program allows students to choose to intern at a news room or an non-governmental organization (NGO).
Since I’ve been out of high-school, I’ve had my mind set on becoming a foreign correspondent. The war in Syria will likely be over within the next few years, but there will still be a lot to cover in that country. By the time I’m able to be a correspondent, who knows where I’ll want to be.
For now, Kosovo is the perfect place to start. That’s why I chose this program. I’ll be studying democratization and post-conflict processes and reporting on whatever will need reporting there. It’s a perfect place to start and a life-changing experience regardless of its utility.
We also learned etiquette in today’s prep session for the trip, which begins June 5 and lasts until early august. Kosovars are very hospitable and if you find yourself in one of their homes, they will likely offer you the national drink of Kosovo, Raki. It is impolite to refuse the drink, but if its not to your liking, they will not take offense if you do not finish it. More obvious is that if you get the chance to visit some of Kosovo’s magnificent cathedrals and mosques, you need to dress modestly. Men must cover their ankles, and women their shoulders (and hair if you visit a mosque).
I’ve never been out of the country before, and it’s still hard to wrap my head around the fact that in a little over a month I’ll be in Kosovo, writing for a paper. It almost didn’t happen. I was afraid that I wouldn’t get to study abroad. The finances is mostly what kept me back. All in all, its $4,600 plus tuition to take part in this trip.
Before about two months ago, I was seriously considering the Inside Washington program Miami offers. Which allows Miami students to go to Washington, see DC politics first hand, and meet journalists, senators, and the people of importance. It never felt right though. Kosovo does.
Preparing for the trip has been stressful. Again, most of the worry was about money. But now that everything is settled, I’m just excited.
The official first step was attending a session to inform students about the Kosovo program. I already knew I wanted to go beforehand though. I saw a flyer that said “Kosovo” and “intern at newspaper” and that was all it took. Still, I attended the session, not thinking I would actually go. I went anyway and felt that $4,600 was doable. So I chose to sign up.
The next step was getting all the paperwork together. I had to get a passport, write a paper about why I felt the program was right for me, and the basic identification and questionnaire forms.
The third step was to look for scholarships. None of this panned out for me. I sought a Gillman scholarship which would be applicable to the program, but my parents maliciously decided to make just enough money so I wasn’t eligible for it.
Next was a few more information sessions. The second one was where we learned how to order a lamb kebab in Albanian and was briefed on the basic overview of the
classes I’ll be taking in Kosovo and how the internship will go.
The international studies portion of the program is taught by Carl Dahlman, who has gone over the history of Kosovo at these sessions to help us better understand the country and its people. He stressed the importance of the monuments, museums, and places of worship there. Kosovo is a place of symbols, with contentious history. The people interpret this history often through symbols, many of which we will see on our trip. “Symbols matter” Dahlman said, “they are manifestations of identity.”
The most interesting thing about preparing for the trip however, has been hearing from the veterans of the program. What they have to say about the Kosovar people and their country makes me feel even more secure that I’ve made the right choice in Kosovo for study abroad.
One alumni who interned at an NGO in Kosovo is Nicollete Marie Staton. “You will draw attention by being an American, so anything you do on top of that is just going to bring more attention to you,” she said.
Ed Arnone, the director of the program, made it clear this attention isn’t negative. “Americans are well-liked in Kosovo. We helped them with their independence.”