Sandra Hagelin - Deltidsrapport

In Kosovo spring is slowly coming along, and warmer weather means that more and more people stay outside longer, talking, people-watching, and sipping coffee. Pristina, where I’m based, is a small city with just above 200,000 inhabitants yet a vibrant and lively city. Everywhere I go I meet friendly faces, and during my short time here I have met many new friends who are going out of their way to show me their city and their country.

A good part of my time is spent in and around the University of Prishtina, where I interview students on their perception on how a higher education affects their political confidence. The subject can be a little difficult to get youths to talk about, during my initial focus group discussion the participants informed me that just to mention politics instantly makes people think of party politics which is not happily discussed at a formal setting. There is a reluctance to discuss politics because many of the political parties are viewed as corrupt and few of the people I have met want to be associated with the parties. However, once I explain the broader concept of political participation and what political confidence means many have a lot to say.

Some of the struggles I had the first few weeks was feeling like a minor field study in Kosovo is quite superfluous; at a first glance Pristina is similar to many other capitals in Europe and life here is in some ways very much like life in a city in Sweden. There are plenty of hip coffee shops where young people (and others) tend to spend much of their days, there is for example a growing cultural scene and I have had the chance to listen to some of the up-coming artists during my time here. However, digging a little deeper one begins to notice some major issues. Corruption is high, spread out in the society, and quite often referred to as the main issue which is holding this country back. Segregation is still prominent in the society, although there are definitely exceptions where people, some of whom I have met, are actively seeking to change this. Most young people turn to university because there are few jobs available, yet they graduate with slim possibilities of acquiring a job within the sector of their study and unemployment among young people is an alarming 60%. No wonder that many people spend their time at coffee shops if there is no job to go to.

Meeting students has also proved difficult at times, some might consider the difference in time culture to be challenging but it’s actually mostly the fact that some students openly talk about their feelings of inferiority as a scholar which I find the most challenging. Although I understand that the quality of educational systems is very different between our two countries it’s sometimes hard to face that reality sitting across from a young person like myself who simply wants to have a chance at receiving a good education and the possibility to obtain a position based on achievements and not on connections.

Yet, for every struggle there are many more positive experiences. Above all it’s the people I meet along the way. My contact person who ensures my time at the university is good. My neighbour who I meet for lunch from time to time and who tries to teach me some Albanian. Friends who invite me to coffee shops, for documentary screenings about the war, to pancake breakfast, or to guide me around the country. One girl took me to meet some Serbian orthodox monks she has been teaching English, a hopeful sight of integration. The monks offered interesting conversations, strong black tea, and the best cake I’ve tried so far. This is truly a welcoming city and a welcoming country.