Filip didn’t tell his grandparents about his plan of travelling from Serbia to Ferizaj in Kosovo for the Deutsche Welleexchange project. His exchange buddy, Drilon from Kosovo, is set to visit Filip in his hometown the next month. It took Drilon some reasoning with his father, who was strictly against the visit, citing recent violent incident, and proclaiming: “I am not losing my son”. The swap-visit came about as a part of Deutsche Welleproject Balkan Booster, which connects 14 young people from seven neighbouring Western Balkan countries. It provided them with brief media training, it let them discuss and experience differences and similarities between their countries.
Twenty-one years-old Drilon, who is studying to become a dentist, was light of his career path a bit of an improbable candidate for a journalistic project. By taking part in it, he sought to “meet as many people as possible and learn as many new things as possible.” After the first half of the project, Drilon learnt – first and foremost – that the two countries are more similar than he had thought. To illustrate his point, Drilon mentions the many similar words which the two languages share. He was particularly astonished that “many older people spoke Serbian with me.”
One of them was Drilon’s father who spoke to Filip in Serbian. Much like Drilon, Filip participated in the project with an open mind. “In Serbia and Kosovo, you read about conflicts politicians have every day in newspapers, but when it comes to ordinary life there of the people, you don’t know what to expect.” Filip was curious: “What customs do people in Kosovo have? Are they religious?” And after embarking on a journey he came very much like Drilon to the conclusion that the two countries have a lot in common. Filip says that the most interesting observation for him was “the wall of ignorance” the two countries have between them.
Filip says that before coming to Ferizaj, he didn’t know the Albanian name for what in Serbian is Uroševac. He remembered his confusion when he first googled the place of his future adventure and was puzzled by the results – “I thought that I was going to Ferizaj and now I am going to Uroševac. What’s wrong here?” he laughs. This sort of experience is precisely what the project sought to achieve: “this is not a scientific project, we don’t have historians, we don’t want to say this is right or wrong, we want to have young people come with an open mind and learn” Adelheid explained.
By broadcasting the young protagonist’s media work to audience – youth of Western Balkan countries – Adelheid explained that they wanted to trigger a dialogue among the young people. Even though the dialogue wasn’t always rainbows and butterflies, but having some young people realize, the other side of the dialogue is more like them than expected, is a good start.