Brunel understands the importance of preparing our students for an ever-changing global workplace, so enabling our students to undertake international opportunities for personal development and professional growth is key. We’re committed to supporting participation in international activities as part of the academic experience, not only to increase employability but to also help our students develop a truly global outlook.
Created to help fund a period of time abroad during their studies and supported by alumni donations, the Global Opportunities Fund brings together a range of funding sources to support our students to participate in an international mobility programme, covering the costs of travel, accommodation or day-to-day living expenses.
This summer, our BASc Global Challenges student, Camille Løvgreen - now class of 2021 alumna - secured her place on the Kosovo International Summer Academy; an academic summer programme with a specific focus on peace-building in post-conflict countries. We caught up with Camille to learn more about her experience, her stand-out moments and the difference the financial support from Brunel made to her trip.
"As a class of 2021 graduate of the Global Challenges course at Brunel, I thought this programme was an excellent way of building on top of my existing knowledge and furthering my skillsets."
What is the Kosovo International Summer Academy?
The Kosovo International Summer Academy (KSA) is an academic summer programme with a specific focus on peace-building in post-conflict countries. The programme lasts for 10 days and takes place in the capital of Kosovo, a country in the Balkans. The programme invites speakers, experts and leaders from across the region to speak about community building, negotiation, gender equality, diplomacy, the historic war context of Kosovo, and the interference and geopolitical stake of the international community. Amongst the speakers were two of Kosovo’s former presidents, reconciliation activists, data analysts, human law and rights professors, specialists in transitional justice and survivors of sexual violence etc.
Apart from daily lectures, the programme organised excursions to historic sites such as Prizren and Mitrovicë as well as visiting Kosovo Parliament and exhibitions to connect theory and knowledge with physical locations.
How did you get a place and why were you interested in attending?
I applied through the programme’s application process in 2020, but because of Covid-19, the programme was cancelled. Luckily, they deferred my place to 2021 where I secured a spot on the programme. As a class of 2021 graduate of the Global Challenges course at Brunel, I thought this programme was an excellent way of building on top of my existing knowledge and furthering my skillsets.
What was your favourite part of the programme?
I thoroughly enjoyed the topics of conversation and the newly-gained international community of 36 participants - ranging from Switzerland, Brazil, South Korea and Czech Republic. For the duration of the programme we all stayed in the same hotel and had great opportunities in the late afternoons to explore the city of Prishtina together. The combination of the lectures, local culture exchange and socialisation with this group of people was my favourite part.
“This has been an absolutely incredible and insightful experience, which, thanks to you all, I was able to attend.”
What difference did the Brunel financial support make to your experience?
The Brunel financial support granted me support to cover the cost of the programme and the flight to Kosovo. This was undeniably the best support I had for the whole trip, as unfortunately I experienced several unforeseen misfortunes during my trip that ended up being extremely expensive. Without the help of the Brunel financial support, my bank account would have been non-existent or rather deep in the negatives. So, I am very grateful!
What three key learnings will you take from the programme?
- That reconciliation and peace-building begins by fostering social cohesion and intercultural communication of conflicted communities. This must be facilitated at all levels including multicultural education to prevent younger generations from repeating and adhering to the same ideas of social constructs that enabled previous generations to stay conflicted and at war. For instance, the current generation of students in Kosovo are being separated in the schooling systems according to their nationalistic ethnicity (Kosovo/Albanian or Kosovo/Serbian), which reinforces this pattern of learned discrimination and animosity towards “the other”.
- The presence of the international community in Kosovo is high, with the intention of facilitating stability and non-violence. Unfortunately, there are high levels of corruption and exploitation of some of the international actors and organisations, who themselves break human rights law while holding immunity which means that they cannot be persecuted for the war crimes they have committed. As such, several organisations within the international community do not project a good representation of peace-building and harmony in Kosovo, which ironically is what they claim to provide. Kosovo is said to be a project of state-building of the international community. Nonetheless, the corruption and unregulated human rights breaches is one of the major things that hinder Kosovo’s development of peace and stability.
- The resilience of civilians in Kosovo is undeniable. Especially progress in gender equality which has transformed rapidly, although more is still needed. Their strength and will to fight for a better future where their kids will see more opportunity is powerful and inspirational for someone like me who aims to be part of creating brighter futures, both environmentally and socially.
What challenges did you face during the programme?
Learning about the long, yet still recent, war history in Kosovo was extremely horrifying and heart breaking. To hear stories from survivors of war crimes and sexual violence was beyond emotional and really put into perspective how the war in Kosovo, which only ended in 1999, impacted and still impacts their lives and their children’s lives.
Although the war is over and is suspended by the interference of the international community, the conflict remains tense between Kosovar Albanians and Kosovar Serbians, as transitional justice is nowhere within sight because combatants of the war refuse to acknowledge their role in the war and the war crimes they have committed. This lack of acknowledgement and apology makes healing and trust difficult to establish between the different communities.
This political conflict and its severe consequences of human loss and damage was very difficult for me to relate to and accept, although mind-opening by way of shedding light on nuanced political and social influences that hinders reconciliation.
What’s next for you?
Next, I plan to do a masters degree in sustainability and nudging and initiate a foundation / community that enable people to help each other in starting social enterprises.
When students apply for a study or work experience abroad they can discuss funding options with the Global Engagement team. More information can be found on the student intranet under 'Global'.