Author: Katarina Karcolova
For many students, summer is the time when they can finally enjoy some weeks out of university campuses, without student duties, piles of books, reading materials, studying and writing papers. For many students, this is finally the time when they can wake up whenever they want, enjoy hot summer parties till the sunrise, travel all around and meet new people. However, there are people who devote some of these precious summer weeks to take part in summer university. Yes, university, which means again seminars, final papers and presentations. Many of you might ask what it is good for. How can somebody sacrifice some of the desired summer weeks to university again? Believe me, whoever has experienced it once, he wants to do it again. Why? Here is my experience.
I participated in summer university for the first time three years ago. It was not only the first summer university but the first studying experience abroad I had always dreamed about. After receiving DAAD scholarship I went to Berlin for four weeks I will never forget. I still remember how I felt when I got off the train at the “Hauptbahnof” in Berlin, the biggest train station in Europe. Alone, with large suitcase, trying to get to the metro (I had never used before), firmly holding the address of the student dorm in my hand. I did not feel confident speaking German to native speakers and my travelling experiences were very little at the time.
However, the four weeks in Berlin was an unforgettable experience. For the first time, I was able to experience being a student at a foreign university and being part of a diverse group of students coming from different countries and cultural backgrounds. It was the first time I had the chance to discuss various issues with people with completely different attitudes and experiences. I loved the diversity. Free University Berlin, where the summer university took place, belongs to one of the best ones in Germany. The professor was excellent and the participants were really interested in the issue, which made it perfect for critical discussions. Of course, it was very challenging and difficult for me in comparison with native speakers and students from better universities, but I gained a great knowledge, had a brand new experience and opened my mind.
The second summer university I took part in was in the other end of Europe, in Kosovo. The city, the participants, the circumstances and the region itself, contributed to a whole different experience comparing to Berlin, nevertheless a unique one. From the first moment I heard about Prishtina International Summer University I was interested to take part in. After being in the Balkan region for some couple of months this summer university was a “must” for me.
Comparing to the one in Berlin, the summer university in Kosovo was more of a regional event, most of the participants coming from the Western Balkan countries with the bigger majority of local students; however, there were few participants from Germany, Austria, the Netherlands, Spain, Czech Republic, Turkey and Azerbaijan. The course I took allowed me to get to know better the current situation in Kosovo and the presence of all international organizations there. It was not as demanding as in Berlin, which allowed me to get to know more people and the situation surrounding them through informal and interactive discussions, which was indeed the main objective of the participation. There was more time to enjoy the place, the summer weather and the extra student activities. J The experience I had completely opposed all the stereotypes and prejudice most of the people have regarding Kosovo. I explored the beautiful nature, tried new food, learned some Albanian phrases and met very nice people
In the end, I gained a worthy knowledge, experience and improved language skills. Moreover, I enjoyed loads of sunny days (meaning trips, parties, crazy stuff), met a lot of interesting people and made friendships which will last forever, however cliché it might sound. I realised how well I feel in international community and that is the place I want to be. I understood that in spite of the cultural differences, there are many similarities we, the young people, share.
Those are the reasons why sacrificing some weeks for summer university does pay off. Go for it!