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Albanian students learning at GSU
Group tours Georgia during visit
Albanian Students
A group of Albanian students visiting Georgia Southern toured the Andersonville National Historic Site last week. - photo by Special

A two-week trip some 9,000 miles from home — that requires more time in a classroom than it allows outdoors — would not pique the interest of too many students. 
But for a group of Albanian scholars in town this week, the opportunity was a thrill of a lifetime.
Since Feb. 18, Georgia Southern University’s Center for International Studies and the Department of Writing and Linguistics played host to the school’s first-ever delegation of law, political and social science students — and two prominent lawyers — from the Eastern European country.
The foreign students were invited to the college to participate in an academic research and writing workshop Feb. 18 through March 1.
During their visit, students met with professors and peers at Georgia Southern, toured the state, and were provided access to research materials unavailable in their home country.
“I am very grateful to everyone who has contributed to this trip. I have been given everything, and every answer, that I was looking for,” said Olsi Shehi, a 22-year-old University of Tirana student, seeking a master’s degree studying the negative effects of parental divorce on the future of children. “Being here on campus has been a great opportunity. I consider myself very lucky to have been here. This kind of luck does not go to every Albanian student.”
According to Georgia Southern writing and linguistics professor Dr. Lori Amy, students were sponsored by the Albanian Center for Public Policy, Political Science and Law to make the trip and broaden their educational experience.
The intended goal, she said, was to give students opportunities that cannot be had in their home country.
“These are some of the smartest, hardest-working, diligent young people on the planet,” Amy said, while the group participated in a weekly lunch conversation event hosted by the Center for International Studies. “Because it is so difficult to build educational structures in Albania, the students are underprivileged and at a serious disadvantage globally.”
Albania is the last of the formerly communist countries in Eastern Europe to begin the transition to a democratic market economy. When the communist government collapsed in 1991, many of the people of Albania were poor, victims of human rights violations and unprepared to enter a global economy.
“These students are some of the best and brightest in Albania and are here after an extremely rigorous application and interview process. For two weeks, they have been suffering,” Amy said jokingly, “because they are working hard from early in the morning to late at night.”
The work, she said, includes academic research on individual projects, sitting in on classes throughout the university, and attending several lectures.
“The schedule has been crazy,” said Kreshnik Loka, 23, a law student working on a study of child exploitation. “But, we have managed to have a good time. We’ve sat in several classes, and I have enjoyed them. Teachers are more interactive here and classes are a perfect combination of formal and informal. We’ve also done a lot of research and workshops. We have learned how to use several resources and search for research materials.”
When taking rare breaks from studying, there students immersed themselves in the local culture, Amy said.
The group chatted with Georgia Southern students, toured downtown Statesboro and Savannah, enjoyed potlucks — “A lot of food. A lot of good food,” as Loka put it — and even traveled to Atlanta for a reception hosted by former U.S. Sen. Max Cleland.
“We had a lot of fun,” Loka said. “It was good.”
The group also was treated to dinner by the Statesboro Kiwanis Club, an organization that got students’ attention.
“People here are very involved and active socially in the community. We do not have this as much in Albania,” said Megi Braçellari, a master’s student in political philosophy at the University of Tirana. “I really like it. It is good for the society.”
“There is a moral obligation to help one another,” Loka added. “We do not have this in our home country. I have really enjoyed seeing that and will definitely take it back with me.”
Said Amy: “That was an incredibly important experience for the students. Albania does not have anything like that organized community philanthropy represented by the Kiwanis or Rotary clubs. It was such a treat, an inspiration, for them to see how ordinary people come together to raise money and help build a better society.”
Each of the students said they hope to take home the knowledge gained during their academic sessions.
That is something Amy hopes will go a long way in improving the educational infrastructure of Albania.
“I want students to go back with an understanding of how to access information and how to use it,” she said. “There is a big problem with resources. These are not things that are available to many students in their country. I want them to go back with ideas.”
It is a fact echoed by Braçellari.
“The education system in Albania is not good at all. I have enjoyed very much the library, the databases and all of the resources here, which we do not have in Albania. It’s all been new to me,” she said. “The whole two weeks have been very helpful. We have exchanged academic thoughts with students and professors. The two weeks have been really intense, but I’ve really enjoyed it.”

Jeff Harrison may be reached at (912) 489-9454.

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