Kristina Zimaj

Embracing diversity

Kristina Zimaj

Kosovo

Europe’s cultural diversity is a great antidote to both emptiness and boredom…

Before I started university, I took part in a few international youth projects - this was my first contact with European youth mobility programmes.

Later I took a longer break from international experiences, to study and reconnect with my local community in Peja.

A year after I graduated, in 2016, I noticed that  SALTO South-East Europe was offering support to Kosovo youth to participate in a Europeers training programme in Vienna. This seemed like a perfect opportunity for me, as Europeers is about using one’s own mobility experiences to inform and encourage others to get involved in Erasmus+, bridging the local and the European dimensions of youth work. I was very happy that I could share my own enthusiasm and stories and encourage others to do the same. Accessing European programmes by young people in Kosovo can sometimes be difficult, and most information is disseminated via social networks. In my experience, face-to-face meetings, such as visits to schools and youth centres organised by Europeers, are a much more accessible format than online interaction alone.

Being an active Europeer in Kosovo allowed me to get more young people from my country involved in European youth projects.

I got my organisation accredited as an EVS sending and hosting organisation. Since then, we have sent several volunteers to places like Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia, and we are currently preparing to host our first European Solidarity Corps volunteers in Peja. It’s a small place and the two enthusiastic Dutch volunteers that contacted us will be a great asset to our organization’s cultural, educational and community based programmes. They will work on our international animation festival, held annually in our town (now pandemic permitting, of course).

Our connection with SALTO is important for us because we do not have a National Agency (of the Erasmus+ Programme) and so opportunities to obtain information and support about opportunities for Kosovar youth are limited. On the one hand we are isolated due to the visa regime and geographic location, yet on the other – Kosovars are very connected to Europe in different ways. My connection to Europe is mostly through the Erasmus+ programme.  We are a young country, and we have a lot to learn (but also share), and we do want to learn – SALTO makes this a lot easier.

Most important of all, SALTO helped me to explore and meet new realities, new people, exchanging perspectives, and growing by such a learning path.

It filled me with the thirst I have for international learning and international environments. I thrive on cultural diversity. Europe is so rich in that. People coming from different backgrounds have different things to share. The antonym of ‘diversity’ is ’emptiness’ or ‘boredom’ – SALTO helps us all to avoid both.

Connection to SALTO:

Kristina attended a number of SALTO events and trainings supported by SALTO South-East Europe such as Europeers.

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