By Malsore Jusufi, YES 2014-2015, Kosovo, hosted by American Councils in Saint Louis, MO
On July 3-4, the ten new YES alumni in Kosovo gathered for their re-entry seminar. The looks on their faces were mixed with curiosity and excitement. Alumni Coordinator Rine Fetahu (YES 2013-2014, Kosovo, hosted by American Councils in Baton Rouge, LA) led sessions to welcome the new alumni home, prepare them for the challenges of the re-adjustment process, and introduce them to the opportunities and resources available to them as members of the alumni community. They shared stories about their time in the U.S.; discussed how they and their friends, families, and communities had changed over the last year; explored strategies for overcoming reverse culture shock; learned about the YES alumni community with help from a panel of senior alumni; and shared ideas for their own community projects. The new alumni bonded over the fact that they are having similar experiences.
When asked how the seminar had impacted them, Shkelqesa Uka (YES 2017-2018, hosted by American Councils in Ellington, CT) said, “This year’s Re-entry seminar was all about indulging ourselves in fun stories [about our time in the U.S.] and sharing new ideas on how to give back to the community, as well as giving insights of how we changed over our year in the U.S. Thanks to the wonderful panel [of senior alumni], we, the 2017-18 YES-ers from Kosovo, got to hear interesting personal stories on figuring out how to incorporate new perspectives into our lives back home.”
Behar Bunjaku (YES 2017-2018, Kosovo, hosted by CIEE in Palestine, TX) added, “The sessions of the re-entry were very well organized, and each one of them helped us in a particular way. The ‘looking back’ session [in which participants shared stories from their time in the U.S.] was everybody’s favorite because we got the chance to hear each-other's stories and additionally relive our own. The ‘understanding what has changed’ and ‘how to have an impact at home’ sessions were, personally, the most helpful sessions because they made us realize what we started as, how this one-year trip changed our lifelong journey and that we have the power of turning every change to a positive. The ‘reverse cultural shock’ session was the funniest one because almost all of us had been through the same situations in our homes and local communities, right after we had returned to Kosovo.”
All in all, the re-entry seminar was a great way to introduce and engage the new alumni to the YES Kosovo alumni community. The newly returned alumni left re-entry with smiles on their faces and with a willingness to start their role as active citizens. As Behar explained, “We know it is on us to try to put as big of an effort as we can to make Kosovo a better place and overcome all the obstacles we face in the way we were taught. I promise I will!”