1. In which year did you emigrate?
I moved to Japan in 2016. So, in April of this year, 5 full years of living and working here have been completed.
2. What do you remember most about your early life in the Western world?
Certainly after moving to Japan I experienced a dose of culture shock, a sense of disorientation, which is relatively natural to experience for someone suddenly subjected to an unfamiliar culture or way of life. But, I tried to experience all those feelings with more curiosity than difficulty. I spent a lot of time observing the behavior of the people around me, which was not difficult since the surrounding situation forced me to be integrated into a very local environment from the beginning. In any case, the biggest difficulty has been the language, which unfortunately has created great obstacles both in the most basic daily needs and in the creation of human relationships. But language barriers, like all communication barriers, require patience and understanding. With the passage of time, but undoubtedly also with the help of technological developments in translation, these obstacles are now more easily overcome.
3. How did your integration go and what difficulties did you encounter?
I started as a researcher at the University of Tokyo, to then continue as a candidate for doctoral studies in the field of Architecture. In general, there were few foreign students in the university premises, so from the beginning I was surrounded by mostly Japanese peers. Although the primary purpose of my coming to Japan was to study, very soon after moving I also found a job in an architecture design office which has opened up new ways of integration for me starting through business meetings, inspections at construction sites, meetings with clients etc. All these opportunities forced me to quickly integrate and understand the working system in Japan.
4. What ties do you have with your homeland and what importance does it have in your life?
I am very connected to the motherland, and I have always been devoted to the developments in Kosovo, following with great interest artistic activity, social initiatives, but also political trends. That's why from here, I start the day with news first from Kosovo and Japan, and then from the world. This is spiritually important for me because the well-being of those dearest to my heart in Kosovo is also my well-being.
5. How many times a year do you visit Kosovo on average?
The dynamics of life and work, but also the distance, unfortunately, has not left me space to return to Kosovo very often during these years. I have tried to keep the average visit to at least one visit per year - although there have been times when it has gone even longer.
6. How much has Kosovo changed according to your impression?
I think that every year Kosovo is integrating more and more into global trends, and what particularly impresses me in recent years are the initiatives of young people to start actualizing their ideas through start-ups and small businesses. But, I would like such initiatives to be even more frequent in educational fields, especially among elementary students, challenging each other through reading science. This would stimulate the rise of social and cultural awareness, which should always have its essence well formed in childhood.
7. What do you miss the most from Kosovo in exile?
What I miss the most in Japan is the sense of community, but also the spontaneity and flexibility that characterizes us quite a lot, while the Japanese have very little, or not at all. The working hours here are very long, so there is little time for the active hours of the day to balance between work and recreation or social relations. Therefore, meetings after work with friends and family, and discussions about daily events are what I miss the most.
8. Do you think of returning one day to live in Kosovo?
My goal has always been to create work and education experience abroad, so that in one way or another I can transmit it to Kosovo. Now, with the pandemic, we have developed the sense of virtual communication, and many things that we thought could only be achieved with physical presence, have proven to be possible even from a distance. I do not rule out the possibility of returning to Kosovo, but even if it does not happen in the near future, regardless of which corner of the world I will be physically, I will try to find ways to be closer to Kosovo.
9. Describe your professional commitment to us in more detail?
I have studied 'Neuroarchitecture' – which is a pioneering field in architecture, which represents the interface between Architecture and Neuroscience. At first glance the interaction between these two very different fields may seem unimaginable. But in fact, it has already been scientifically proven that the environments that surround us, such as those where we live or work, effectively influence our brain. Therefore, intrigued to understand more about this phenomenon, my research has combined human experience in architecture on the one hand and brain research on the other, to identify the architectural features influencing the human brain. In addition, during the training experience at the Center for Advanced Intelligence of the Riken Research Institute, I also expanded research with Alzheimer's patients, with a focus on reminiscence therapy. I had the opportunity to receive additional training in this field at the New School of Architecture in San Diego, as well as from a visit to Columbia University in New York.
The University of Tokyo, being the first ranked university in Japan, with all the privilege it brings, carries with it a lot of work and dedication. I remember when I was preparing my PhD research plan, I had a meeting with my mentor, and I remember him telling me that you are expected to be among the best researchers in the world, so , your research must be at least 10 years ago. This has made me understand that the only solution will be work. Therefore, with a lot of work and dedication, I completed my doctoral studies, and as a result of its success, I was invited to advance as an Assistant. Professor at the same university where I currently work.
10. In your opinion, what should Kosovo institutions do for emigrants?
I see a new spirit of thought for the activation of the diaspora from the current government in Kosovo, and I like it very much. Our emigration has always been the pillar of Kosovo, therefore if each of us shared their experience gained in emigration, it would strengthen the position of Kosovo and help its inhabitants in many dimensions. Therefore, I support this initiative and hope to see its actualization very soon.
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