Celebrating 5 Years of the CIEE Civic Leadership Summit: Valmira Xharavina
Interview with Valmira Xharavina from Kosovo (CIEE Work & Travel USA 2017)
What made you interested in doing an exchange experience in the United States?
It is obvious that being a student nowadays is not easy. We constantly deal with ideas that our life is a mess and we’re always thinking of what we should do to refine it. This kind of feeling always follows us and there will come a time when you will need to change it. The perfect solution to this would be an exchange experience. Why? Because it will definitely be the best experience of your life. You will be independent. You will have the chance to explore a country and its culture that is completely different from your own. Most importantly, you will make the most amazing friends who will make you feel like home. However, the real question is, “why should you do an exchange experience?”
In 2017, it was my first time that I took an exchange experience, and in the beginning, I have to admit it wasn’t easy. You will get in a lot of arguments with yourself. I constantly had thoughts such as “You’re too young, you don’t fit in here, you will be lost of time…” going on in my mind. When I look back at it, I see that it was the greatest decision I could have ever taken and here are some of the reasons why:
- It’s an amazing way to learn and improve the English language. When I was in the U.S., I used to live in a dorm and it was the perfect place to advance the language. Talking over and over not just advances the language, but enhances your communication skills as well.
- You are young. As we know, the younger you are, the easier it is to learn new things. Things like going alone in the other countries needs more attention. Booking, searching, and exploring will help you to invest in yourself more than you think. I realized that I was being more independent and I did not need anyone else to help me. In other words, you will open a new road to your own life.
- You get to know yourself on a level you could not possibly have imagined before. Staying in the U.S. for 4 months made me appreciate everything from my family to the way things are organized in real life. I made friends for life and, from now on, I have the door open almost everywhere. The most interesting things that come from doing an exchange experience in the U.S. is that you will learn the most random, little things that yet in some moments of your life you will use it again and you realize that it somehow all had a purpose.
What is the most important thing you learned at the Civic Leadership Summit?
EMPATHY. While I was in Washington D.C. during the Civic Leadership Summit, we learned how we can be a changemaker. The term changemaker is simple to understand, just from the words it's made from. But how can you be a changemaker? This is the most sensitive part which we learned and we were taught how to share it. If you want to change the world, you can do it by gathering knowledge and resources and having the motivation to keep going. But, why do we need empathy? As we know, empathy is important because it helps us understand how others are feeling so we can respond appropriately to the situation. Empathy will make a huge difference in the world. So, if you want this to happen, start from your own self.
How has the Civic Leadership Summit impacted your life?
It changed the way I see things. Surrounded by brighter minds makes you feel motivated and confident. Discussion and sharing ideas made me clarify the way I see things and how they really are. This summit made me motivated and taught me that one person can make a difference if we just go for it. Therefore, we will always be the solution to every problem.
Where are you now? What are you doing now?
The knowledge that I gained from my personal experience in the United States, especially at the Civic Leadership Summit, will definitely be useful for my upcoming opportunities, as well as academic and professional career. Returning to Kosovo, I noticed that there are just so many things that I can do using the ideas and conceptions I have attained and I feel utterly motivated to begin a new journey here. I am currently trying to organize my plans and see where they fit the most. Moreover, I am now in the third year of my studies for speech pathology and therapy and I am trying to give my best to be a great doctor as our community needs. Additionally, I am continuing to be a volunteer at Down Syndrome Kosovo to help people with Down syndrome to have a better life. Ultimately, I am also continuing my recent research on adolescent knowledge about emotions.
What makes you a changemaker?
Being an active member of the community will give you tremendous psychological benefits. Involvement will help you feel a part of something bigger and helping to construct a better world makes you feel like a superhero. We are social beings and all we want is to be happy, so getting involved is a great first step. If you want to change something, you can start from simple things that can make huge differences. The change for my community will start in simple ways: looking at what is a primary need for my community, I will take the initiative to build a city cleaning project. But how? As mentioned before, I will start to clean up in front of my home and share the information to everyone who wants to be part of this project. Otherwise, as a student of speech pathology, I know that we don’t have enough resources that we can rely on. While I was in America, I got the chance to buy great books that every student needs. As an active member of the community, my next project is to translate books for students and for parents as well, so they can have something to support and invest in their children’s knowledge. Above all, I strongly believe that changing the world starts with understanding and appreciating others.