In her own words: Arijeta Lajka ’16, student and journalist in Kosovo

In her own words: Arijeta Lajka ’16, student and journalist in Kosovo

Arijeta-Lajka-in-Kosovo

Arijeta Lajka '16 received the U.S. State Department's Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship to study at the American University in Kosovo (AUK), located in the capital city of Pristina, during the spring semester of 2014. Here is a report on her experiences, two months into her semester abroad.

 

Life is very different here compared with other European countries. Kosovo declared independence from Serbia only six years ago, and the unemployment rate is about 35-40 percent. Even those who obtain degrees have a difficult time finding work in Kosovo. There is widespread corruption in public institutions and also human rights abuses, especially of minorities.

Besides my studies at the AUK, I am working as a journalist for the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN), contributing to the English newspaper Prishtina Insight and the Albanian newspaper Jeta ne Kosove. Reporting in Pristina has given me exceptional experience.

In Kosovo, the LGBT community has been attacked on several occasions. For my first assignment, I reviewed a Serbian adaptation of the drama Bent, a play that explores homophobia in Nazi Germany. This groundbreaking show received a standing ovation. In a public forum the next day, people talked about LGBT rights and how they can be improved in the Balkans.


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I also witnessed student protests at the University of Pristina in February. The unrest revolved around a scandal over faked academic qualifications by UP professors; even the university’s rector, Ibrahim Gashi, was accused of having padded his resume. Students also charge professors with taking bribes, not following their schedules, and refusing to give grades. This type of behavior has been occurring for years, and the university has lost its credibility.

For weeks, students protested outside of the university. Media outlets across the globe covered the story, and the entire area was filled with security forces. Protesters threw rocks and red paint at police, who responded by firing tear gas. After a week of students being arrested and injured, Gashi resigned and a new rector was appointed.

As a journalist, I spoke to these students and heard their concerns and frustrations about the decline of this once respected institution, a university that most of their parents graduated from. Now that the rector has resigned, they’re hoping that UP will begin to implement new regulations so they can receive a credible degree, and most importantly that the institution will begin to serve the interests of the students.

Weekly, I have been receiving assignments like these and getting first-hand reporting experience in the field. I am thrilled to uncover all that Pristina has to offer.