Connecting people through education: Opportunities and obstacles for studying in the WB region

For three years now I’ve been going to the Seminar of Albanian Language, Culture and Literature held every August in Pristina, Kosovo. It’s an international seminar, where people from all over Europe, and other continents take part. Many students that study Albanology, but also professors, participate in this summer school of two weeks. There are students from Serbia, Poland, Italy, Germany, Austria, Bulgaria, Russia, and the United States, just to name a few, that attend the seminar. However, you don’t have to be a student to be a part of it. Many participants come from different professional backgrounds and work in different sectors, and yet what brings them together to Prishtina is the joint curiosity and interest for the Albanian language. Another interesting fact is that quite a big number of participants come from Serbia. In my opinion, this seminar is a good start of normalizing the relations between Albanians and Serbs.

And it’s not only the language they are interested in but also the Albanian culture and history. Truth be told, the Albanians are rarely mentioned in history books in their neighboring countries. Historically, they are mostly represented as antagonists, with different unfounded theories about their origins, claiming that they arrived in the Balkans after the Slavs, or even together with the Ottomans. A language can prove or disprove lots of beliefs or statements about a nation, and so is the case with the Albanian language, that can trace the presence of these people in the Balkans back to the Roman Empire and Ancient Greece. Therefore, literally, everybody is welcome to apply for the Seminar organized by the Faculty of Philology of the University in Pristina. The question is, does everyone have the possibility to study Albanian in Kosovo, though?

Of course, it would seem logical to have students from all Southeast European countries study Albanian in Pristina, just as there is  a number of students from the region studying Albanian in Tirana, Albania. For Albanologists, Kosovo is just as relevant as Albania is. In fact, studying Albanian in Pristina would be better for students from Serbia. First, because it is geographically closer, and second, because of the common history that the countries share with one another. Additionally, there are still some jargons that the two countries use because of the historical background they have. Unfortunately, this opportunity is not available to students from the two countries, as the University of Belgrade and the University of Pristina have not yet reached an agreement that would enable students from Serbia to study in Pristina. Students from Kosovo, on the other hand, have an opportunity to study in Belgrade but only those who have the Serbian citizenship.

As someone who studies in Belgrade and goes to Pristina often, I can say that from my personal experience the obstacle lies in the University of Belgrade, which does not have a policy which allows the diplomas to be verified in Prishtina for students who want to continue their education in Kosovo. This is a huge obstacle for the students of Albanology at the University of Belgrade since quite a few of them have shown interest to go to Pristina, including myself.

Because of this exclusive policy, the students are left deprived of the possibility to study in neighboring countries and the right to have their four-year-long effort and work at the University recognized, so that they can continue educating themselves and become academic citizens.

Regardless of this fact, I truly hope that in the near future these obstacles will be removed and that we will have the chance to achieve closer cooperation with each other in terms of education, as well as in other spheres of life. Normalization of relations between Balkan nations is of great importance for younger generations, because, after all, the future belongs to them.

Author: TomislavPerušić