My First Week in Kosovo
Yllka-Pristina, Kosovo- Week One
Hi everyone! My name is Yllka and this week I started my internship in Pristina, Kosovo working for FINCA.
Background: Kosovo is a pretty young country(only 8 years old) located in Eastern Europe in the Balkans. Kosovo was part of former Yugoslavia until a war in the region broke up into 8 countries/regions(some might say only 6). Kosovo struggled through war and genocide until 2000 and in 2008 on February 17th they declared their independence from Serbia and are currently working on gaining official status as a country worldwide.
Work Life: FINCA is a microfinance organization that provides financial products to developing nations to help stimulate economic growth and empower the citizens of that country. On my first day I met everyone is my office and began working on my project. FINCA gives a lot of loans to risky borrowers, many who don’t pay their loans on time or don’t pay them at all. At FINCA they use historical loan-loss migration analysis to figure out how much money they will need to account for late payments or unpaid payments. This analysis itself is pretty tedious and there is a lot of room for human error. Every six months they do these calculations on excel sheets. My project is to create an application with the help of this lady in IT, named Jetmira, so the finance department can enter in the data and out comes the product. For most people it doesn’t sound too interesting, but I’m having a blast learning this new model and every aspect about it and I’m even starting to learn how to use the software SQL so I can understand what Jetmira is coding and possibly help her.
My coworkers are great! I work in an office with 6 people and there are a few things I’ve noticed that differs in the American v. Kosovar workplace.
- Everyone is much closer together in Kosovo physically and socially. I work in the same room with 5 of my colleagues. Everyone in the finance knows each other very well but they are also very close to people in different departments and branches.
- Everyone communicates by phone or they just talk in person. Emails are rarely sent!
- I am lucky enough to be fluent in Albanian since my family comes from Kosovo but I’m struggling to understand the jokes here. Albanians have a lot of old wise tales that they reference when making jokes, many involving life on the farm. They also joke about many things that would be inappropriate in a US office or in general. In general, Albanians are comfortable making jokes about things we don’t talk about in the US like someone’s weight for example.
Some other things that differ here from the US
- People stare here. I’m not talking about wearing sunglasses and peeking out the corner of your eye… I mean people here (especially men) stare at you for a good minute and make eye contact with you to let you know they are staring. Very different from the US where people avoid eye contact.
- Greetings here are long. Every morning I say hi to everyone I pass by at work and it is expected you ask how they are, how they slept, what they did yesterday, etc.
- Coffee culture. You do not take coffee to go. You sit down, chat with friends, and slowly sip your coffee.
- Menus are optional. Many places here have menus, but not many people use them. Everyone just already knows what to order.
I’m excited to keep spending more time in Kosovo and at FINCA and hopefully bring you some fun stories while I’m here!