TLP-SP Scholars Remember Opportunities with FORECAST
Fresh from a visit to Belgrade, Vladan Jacimovic is drinking orange juice at the trendy Dit e Nat cafe in downtown Prishtina.
Although he grew up in a small village in Kosovo called Kmetovce, Vladan became familiar with Prishtina when he started to attend the American University in Kosovo (AUK) in 2009.
The opportunity was made possible by a scholarship from the USAID and World Learning pro-gram FORECAST Kosovo (Focus On Results: Enhancing Capacity Across Sectors in Transi-tion).
After receiving his scholarship, one of 12 awarded to minorities for undergraduate studies be-tween 2006 and 2011, Vladan moved to the village ofGracanica.
Over the next four years, he made the daily 10km commute to and from AUK, where he also worked in the university library, for his degree in Media and Graphics Communications.Vladan, fourthfrom left, with classmates and a professorin the United States as a TLP-SP scholar.
“The whole thing with the recent history did not seem like an encouragement for me to go and study in [Prishtina]…I also realized that things won't change unless someone dares to challenge them,” he said.
Only a year prior to Vladan’s enrollment, theKosovo governmentdeclared independence from Serbia, but he remembered the example set by his brother and others who studied at AUK before him.
One of hispredecessors, Dijana Simijonovic, also commuted fromGracanicawhile completing a degree in Public Policy from 2007-2011.
Her family moved to Gracanica fromKosovo Polje/Fusha Kosovaat the end of the 1998-99 War.
“Just finding myself being a teenager in a war and postwar Kosovo didn’t give me much hope that I will have any opportunities to get a good quality education…the FORECAST program changed that forever,” she said.Dijana worked as a journalist and paralegal in Kosovobefore embarking on her TLP-SP experience.
Like Vladan, Dijana and her family also navigated concerns about safety. “Being among the first minority students at AUK was the biggest decision me and my family had to make…But it was 2007 and breaking walls of division and stereotypes we have about each other desperately needed to happen in Kosovo.”
In 2014, Vladan and Dijana applied for and were awarded another opportunity for study sup-ported by USAID and World Learning through the Transformational Leadership Program - Scholarships and Partnerships (TLP-SP).
The program’s scholarships component provides Kosovars with opportunities for advanced stud-ies in the United States in order to build their knowledge and skill in priority economic, political and social development areas.
As a Master’s scholar, Vladan is working towards a degree in Instructional Systems Technology at Indiana University - Bloomington, and Dijana, now an experienced journalist and paralegal, studies for a professional certificate in Strategic Branding and Public Relations at the University of Los Angeles - Extension.Vladan speaking at a TLP-SP event last year.
Although they know Kosovo still has many areas in which to improve, the two remain positive about their time with FORECAST and TLP-SP, and they look forward to coming home.
“The knowledge, skills, and attitudes developed at the AUK, with the support of FORECAST program, made me a competent candidate for continuing my education in the United States, which became a reality with the TLP-SP scholarship,” said Vladan, who plans to give back in the field of education.
Dijana, who said her time at AUK was the best four years of her life, also noted the healthy out-look she gained while participating in both of USAID and World Learning’s programs.
“Seeing positive changes happening day to day as being directly involved, gave me hope that change is really possible and strength to continue being a part of a positive change,” she said.
“Just imagine all the participants of the program in one photo. That is a photo of a very beautiful Kosovo – having a brighter future.”Dijana on the campus of The University of California - Los Angeles (UCLA). All photos courtesty Vladan Jacimovic andDijana Simijonovic.