Ajla Keško, a third-year student at the Department of International Relations and European Studies, recently participated in the Student Training and Empowerment Program (STEP), organized by the American Councils for International Education in Bosnia and Herzegovina, which aims to “help to build a world of globally competent citizens, successful institutions, and responsible nations.”
STEP was a pilot project that gathered the best 10 students – five from Sarajevo and five from Banja Luka. As a part of the program, students attended a three-day training in Banja Luka, interned for three months, and then conducted peer trainings where the participants relayed their knowledge about and from the program to others.
Although Keško enjoyed and found useful all three parts of the program, her most memorable and favorite part is the three-month long internship at the Youth Initiative for Human Rights, which is a youth non-governmental organization that “aims to be involved in social democratization in the area of the former Yugoslavia,” among others.
While interning at YIHR, which was her first work experience, Keško had an opportunity to partake in a nine-day visit to France for the Winter Training Seminar organized by the European Grassroots Antiracist Movement (EGAM) besides conducting administrative, clerical, and public relations for the Initiative. “The most memorable part was the seminar,” Keško explained.
During the seminar, the participants from all over the world learned about racism and the state of racism in Europe, addressed controversial issues, and met various people related to racism, such as refugees, survivors of the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris, and grassroots activists fighting racism.
One of the topics discussed include the state of racism, anti-Semitism, discrimination, human rights, and the state of democracy in Europe where the participants themselves engaged in conversation with others to share their own experiences and the experiences from their own countries, with the aim to highlight successes in combating negative and improving positive phenomena.
There were many more such collaborative events, lectures, discussions with prominent activists, and study visits throughout the seminar. “Not only did I befriend many people that I otherwise probably would never have met, but I also acquired so much knowledge and so many different experiences both first hand and through others,” Keško said.
“I feel as if I had a comparative advantage, if I could so say, in relation to the other participants of the seminar because I was already at least acquainted with the topics we considered – ethnicity, migrations, nationalism, for example – through the courses I had at the Department,” Keško said.
Keško also says that although she had been certain since her first year of study that international relations is what she wanted to study, this experience confirmed that belief: “my work with refugees in Paris, and later in BiH, increased my awareness about human rights and freedoms and how much they’re violated today.”
There, “I realized that I wanted to dedicate my professional life to the fight for human rights all over the world and the Department of International Relations and European Studies will provide me with the knowledge, skills, and competencies to be able to do that while understanding the nuances of contemporary issues,” Keško concluded.