On Friday Dec. 3, 11 RIT students and Carl Lundgren began the almost 20 hour adventure to Prishtina, Kosvova. Kosovo, or Kosova as the Kosovars call it, is the poorest and newest country in Europe. They sit on a massive amount of coal and mineral resources and their dependence on it is made obvious by the smell in the air. The 12 of us were traveling all this way to collaborate with a group of students from the American University of Kosova for 9 days. We would also be meeting one of our own who is there studying abroad.
The students were seniors working on senior capstone projects that would monopolize on the amount of trash and raw resources in Kosova. We started with 8 teams, working on projects that would hopefully create environmentally sensitive business ventures. Many of the students wanted to create a complete recyclying infrastructure in Kosova. This idea came together through three teams, one recycling paper, one recycling plastic, aluminum, and glass, and the last wanting to create a large scale composting operation that would help support the agriculture in the region. Each project is interesting and shows a lot of potential. However, there were quite a few obstacles to overcome for these projects to develop. The first and most obvious was the language barrier. All of the students spoke excellent English but there were several business and engineering terms that they had never heard before. The next obstacle, was that the RIT students needed to not look at these issues through American eyes. Kosova is a unique country with a set of issues we had never even thought of and a culture that is completly different of our own.
Luckily the students were generous with their time and their local knowledge. Most evenings after a long hard day of business plan development and idea refinement. Local and RIT students would go out to adventure in this beautiful country. The city of Prishtina is vibrant and young with night life that would put most American cities to shame. The adventures also taught us a lot about the values of this young nation and the expectations people had for these young entrepreneurs. The need for recycling programs and energy production also became very obvious when outside of the university. Trash littered the streets and piled in corners and rolling blackouts and brownouts were a nightly occurrence. The shops, bars, and restaurants deal with this by setting generators outside and relying on that at night when many neighborhoods no longer get power or water after 11 pm. The city does these regular utility outages to save money, electricity, and resources. Most residents seem to not even notice it happens any more. One afternoon a few students were in a coffee shop and the power went out, conversations just continued by the light of glowing cigarettes and no one cared. The easy going nature of this country is their saving grace. If the world fell to pieces everytime their was not enough energy then their country would not be the growing place it is.
Overall, this trip was wonderful. It gave the RIT students the opportunity to see a side of the world that is completely unlike their own and the local students got their projects invigorated by the ingenuity and skill of the RIT team. The future goals of these international cross disciplinary teams is to create a launch-able business that the students can begin after they graduate. We will continue to work on these projects and they will be presented at the Winter Research and Innovation Symposium.