Feelings of euphoria may be what many students who study abroad experience when their opportunities to interact in a different culture arrive. However, after Missouri Western international student Saranda Halili landed in the United States, she quickly became frustrated that most of the Americans she met were unable to pinpoint Kosovo, her native land, on a map.
“When I came, I expected Americans to know where Kosovo is since the United States fought a war for us,” Halili said. “I was so disappointed!”
On Oct. 19 in Blum 219, as part of MWSU’s International Lecture Series, Halili spoke to approximately 40 students and community members and outlined Kosovo’s history and political issues, making an identification of its geographic location one of her first priorities.
An international migration and ethnic relations major at Sweden’s Malmo University, Halili began by saying that she and her family fled to Sweden during the tumultuous disintegration of Yugoslavia in 1992. She suggested that the widespread discrimination against Albanians, one of six ethnic groups in Kosovo and the one to which Halili belongs, played a major factor in the decision to leave as well. Although she calls Sweden her home now, Halili has a strong desire to return to Kosovo and use her degree to rectify some of its political problems.
“Even though the war is over, there is a lot of tension and conflict in Kosovo,” Halili said. “Hopefully, I will go back one day and try to solve it. There is hope.”
Western student Barry Hersh knows Halili personally and attended the presentation in support of her. He thought her devotion to Kosovo was evident in her speech.
“I’ve had a couple classes with her, and she’s very passionate about peace-building in Kosovo,” Hersh said.
Halili, who came to Western through a foreign exchange program with Malmo University, was asked about the significance of Kosovo’s declaration of independence from Serbia in 2008 . She said that the people of Kosovo are very grateful to the United States for its hand in their long-awaited liberation, sometimes even viewing Americans as heroes.
“It meant so much,” Halili said, in reference to the declaration. “That’s what they fought for. But now, they’re very skeptical because the situation isn’t improving.”
For Kosovo to endure its hardships, Halili believes there’s still a need for an international presence and a global awareness.
“Our government isn’t strong enough,” Halili said.” There are a lot of issues with corruption. Until we can solve these issues, we need the international community.”
Contrastingly, Halili doesn’t appear to have any needs. When asked about her adjustment as an international student, she said that there haven’t been any struggles, because she has friends that have made her feel very welcome.
Western counselor Steve Potter introduced Halili and spoke about the importance of the International Lecture Series, which is sponsored by Western’s office of global engagement.
“It’s really about globalization,” Potter said. “It makes us aware of different cultures and ideas. It’s important to understand each other. I think if we do, good things will happen.”