EMA cohort 2023-24 study visit to Kosovo: learning about a post-conflict country

The study trip to Kosovo has been an annual highlight in the EMA programme for twenty years. Concluding the first semester, visiting Kosovo represents the culmination of the topics studied in the first semester and is an opportunity for students to better understand how human rights work looks like on the ground.  

From 19 to 26 January 2024, the EMA 23-24 cohort visited Kosovo. The EMA programme is lucky to work with Marianna Grandits at the Vienna University of Applied Arts, who organises a packed and enriching programme through her strong ties with individuals and many local and international organisations present in Kosovo. In 2024 the 82 students from Venice were accompanied by twenty students from Vienna. With this group of over 100 students, we learned about contemporary challenges for this post-conflict society by exchanging with local and international communities present in Kosovo.  

A human rights field mission schedule

Divided into smaller groups, students have full schedules from early morning into the evening hours. It requires the students to deal with a lot of new information and impressions every day, with little time for rest in between. As such, the Kosovo trip mimics what a human rights field mission could look like and is therefore an important step in the students’ training. In 2024, six groups had both shared meetings at larger organisations and asynchronous visits at smaller NGOs. Sudden changes are inevitable with a schedule of over 60 meetings and many moving elements, requiring the students to adjust to changing circumstances and sometimes think on their feet.  

Students in discussion with Presiden Osmani  © Press office of the president 


President Vjosa Osmani  © Press office of the president


Local immersion and a spectrum of perspectives 

Students stay with host families which allows them to be introduced to individual experiences of living in a post-conflict society. For many students this provides an important layer to put in perspective and critically analyse the various official visits made throughout the week. Staying in Pristina but visiting different parts of Kosovo such as the Serbian enclave Graçanica near Pristina, or venturing further to Peja/ Peć, and Prizren creates further opportunities to learn about divergent understandings and experiences of life in Kosovo. In 2024, an especially crucial element of the trip was the visit to Mitrovica in the north of Kosovo. This divided city has a majority Kosovar Serbs in the North and a majority Kosovar Albanians in the South. The visit made visible ongoing tensions between different ethnic groups in Kosovo, highlighting that the meaning of ‘post-conflict’ can look different for communities living in the same country. Meeting with local NGOs in the city showed the challenge, nuances, and importance of working in such a split community. 

A broad view of Human Rights in the field

Overall, the full programme involves over 60 different visits to politicians and officials, international organisations, arts organisations, local NGOs, and cultural heritage sites. This allows students to see the great variety of actors in volved in Human Rights and Democratisation efforts, even just in one day. For example, on a given day in the 2024 visit, students started the day with a visit to the EU mission EULEX supporting Rule of Law developments in Kosovo, after which one group met a leader of Roma Veritas supporting the Roma community in Kosovo in a coffee shop, to finish the day with an inspiring talk by Igballe Rugova of the Kosovo Women’s Network. As a result, students heard from activists, institutional actors, and an NGO all in one day. Each actor highlighting different elements of working in the field of Human Rights within Kosovo.  

Students in discussion at EU-Lex © Press office EULEX


"Our field trip to Kosovo was a turning point. It opened my eyes to the true meaning and extensive preparation behind this seemingly simple activity. I finally understood why the EMA team emphasized the immense relevance and enrichment participation would bring. I had been underestimating its importance. That week in Kosovo was undeniably the most impactful of the entire master's program. It wasn't just about theory anymore. We had the chance to apply all the theoretical approaches we'd learned to real-world situations. What's more, we interacted with the most significant political institutions in Kosovo, gaining invaluable insights. But the experience went beyond high-level meetings. Visiting Mitrovica and working alongside NGOs solidified my calling. I realized I don't want to be a human rights defender confined to a desk; I want to be in the field, making a direct difference". 

"This Kosovo trip, guided by the EMA team and its allies, is what truly sets this program apart. It's the core element, the unparalleled added value you won't find anywhere else. Choosing this program with its Kosovo field trip was the best decision I could have made, and I strongly recommend its continuation", Juan Jose Valbuena, EMA student 2023-24. 

This blog article has been written by Inge Zwart, EMA fellow. 

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