Experiential Learning in Medica Kosova (NGO)
In January, more than 6 months ago, I took the Question Block. Quest University Canada offers only one degree, that of the Bachelor of Liberal Art and Sciences. However, every student at some point during their second year takes a class called Question Block, where he or she comes up with the an interdisciplinary question. For example mine is, “How Does Trauma Affect Children’s Development?” I wrote an extensive blog about my experience during the Question block, how I found a mentor, and how I came up with my question. You can find that blog here. As part of the question block, I also had to come up with some experiential learning (similar to an internship) possibilities, where I found many opportunities in Canada, Kosovo and elsewhere.
While doing some research about possible NGOs in Kosovo, I came across Medica Kosova, which offers interdisciplinary psychosocial, medical, and legal services for improving the living conditions of war traumatized women, girls, and those with special needs. Employees and interns at Medica Kosova have numerous roles such as conduct research, organize conferences, and provide psychosocial counselling. Since war trauma plays an important role in my area of interest, I thought that this would be an amazing opportunity for me. Thus, I contacted the executive director, Mrs. Veprore Shehu, whom replied almost immediately. After filling a couple of application forms, talking to my mentor – I-Chant Chiang, and completing my Experiential Learning forms, I was all set. In June of 2015 I was going to work as a volunteer in Medica Kosova.
Time flew by really fast from January to June. In May, after completing four blocks, I travelled to Turkey to take a course called “Classics in the Aegean.” I wrote two blogs about this course that you can find here and here, so I will not go into detail about the trip. But I must say that it was quite amazing to explore ancient sites in Turkey, eat good food, and learn more about the Turkish language and culture.
After the trip in Turkey was over, I flew back home to Kosovo. I had a week between the Turkey trip and the start of my internship at Medica Kosova, so I went to Albania with my family where I met my Canadian host parents, Jim and Claire (Blog here). Afterwards, I went home and started preparing for my new experience. Since the start of the new year, I have not taken a month off. This means that June would be my sixth block for 2015. However, I really enjoy trying new experiences and learning new things, and I am very glad that Quest has allowed me to do this. On Monday (June 8th), my experiential learning officially began at Medica Kosova, which fortunately is located very close to my home. On my way to the organization, my heart was beating really fast because I was worried whether everything would go as I had planned for many months. However, upon arrival I realized that there were no reasons to be worried. Everyone there was very friendly and very excited to get to know me.
On the first week we mainly worked on an art installation called “Thinking of you.” The famous artist Alketa Xhafa-Mripa and producer Anna Di Lellio, have been collecting thousands of dresses throughout Kosovo for this project, which were then hanged on clotheslines across the soccer field in Prishtina (capital city of Kosovo) and were displayed in a major exhibition on Friday (June 12th). This was a tribute to an estimated 20,000 wartime sexual violence survivors, who must be thought as pure and clean. The project will show that we care and think about them. Employees at Medica Kosova, including me, worked on collecting the dresses in the city of Gjakove and then hanging them in the soccer field.
On the second week, my main task was to meet the psychologists of the organization and spend a day with each of them. That way I would be able to join them during their counselling sessions, ask them any question, and learn what a psychologist does in a normal, work day. There are three main counsellors at this organization. They are: Emirjeta Kumnova, Flutra Kumnova, and Mandete Kurti. I spend a day with Ms. Flutra Kumnova, whom uses painting and physical exercise as trauma relief methods. Then, I spent another day with Ms. Emirjeta Kumnova, whom uses imagination and writing. Finally, I spent most of the Friday with Mrs. Mandete Kurti, whom uses meditation and counselling. This week was very beneficial, because not only did it allow me to learn more about psychology but it also allowed me to get to know the counsellors and the clients better.
Two weeks passed by way too fast. Time had truly been flying by since day one of this experience; I guess this is expected when you are enjoying your time. The third week began as the other weeks, with an all staff meeting. This meeting was quite long since there was a lot to discuss including counselling sessions, trainings, travelling, and more. We also began to talk about a project that Mrs. Veprore Shehu (the executive director) had designed and had been working on, which is to help single mothers create their own projects and receive funds from the government and the international community. The rest of the week was pretty similar to the second week, where I assisted the counsellors during their sessions and took notes about any questions I had or whether I would have reacted differently in a certain case.
During these three weeks I had been writing a daily journal, usually about one, single-spaced page. In addition, each week I wrote a guided reflection with different topics from the role of NGOs, efficient trauma relief methods, to the discipline of psychology and what professional in this field do. I also wrote a final essay on the third week, about the role of women during various wars. Through these assignments and different readings, I really did enrich my knowledge about war, trauma relief methods, sexual abuse, and counselling.
The last, fourth week was only three days long since my experiential learning lasted the same amount of days as a normal course at Quest does. I finished my experience with a brochure, where I wrote various facts about Medica Kosova. I think that the organization will really appreciate and use this brochure since they have not had many before, and when visitors come they always ask for some. It feels good knowing that through small gestures, such as helping design a brochure, I am making a difference at this organization.
I cannot believe that today, when I am typing this blog, my experience here comes to an end. I will eternally be thankful to all the friendships that I have made, new experiences that I have acquired, and all the clients that I have met. Even though many days have been a roller coaster of emotions, I am really happy that I chose to do my experiential learning in Medica Kosova because it has allowed me to see what a psychologist does during hard and difficult times and also better learn the history of the war in Kosovo. Thank you to Ms. Veprore Shehu for allowing me to do my experiential learning in this organization. Also, thank you to Ms. Flutura Kumnova for behaving just like a mentor to me this month. And thank you to all the employees at Medica Kosova for accepting as one of the employees from day one and for making me feel like I have been part of this organization for much longer than just one month.
I am also very thankful for having Dr. I-Chant Chiang, as my mentor and supervisor, who has worked with my all these months. I look forward to the next two years as we work together to create my Keystone, decide what courses to take, and talk about my Touchstones.