1. In which year did you emigrate?
I left Albania in 2002. I went to Norway because it gave me the opportunity to complete my higher studies there, while in 2019 I left Norway to move for a certain time to the Netherlands, because it gave me an opportunity to I worked at the European Medicines Agency (EMA – European Medicines Agency).
2. What do you remember most about your early life in the Western world?
I left a small and Mediterranean country, to a cold and mountainous country like Norway. I hadn't heard as much about Norway as I might have heard about other European countries like Germany, Italy, France, etc., and what impressed me the most at first was its amazing nature. As far as cooking and eating times were concerned, they were very different from what I was used to in Albania, and I didn't always prefer Norwegian cuisine.
After some time, when I became more involved in Norwegian society, I began to be impressed by the change in culture in behavior and way of communication, and above all, their calmness and simplicity as a people regardless of social status. I liked that everyone was smiling and spoke very good English. I was impressed by the great difference between the Albanian and Norwegian educational systems. What I remember that particularly impressed me was how much freedom and "power" the pupils/students had and how much respect was shown to them. I remember that the teachers/professors were more dedicated and showed a lot of care to the students/students who were not good in lessons, unlike us in Albania where the focus was on the students/students who performed better. Another phenomenon that positively surprised me was the gender equality and feminism developed in Norwegian society.
I also remember experiencing for the first time the long days in summer, where it almost never got dark, and the long nights in winter, where there were few hours of daylight.
3. How did your integration go and what difficulties did you encounter?
It has not been difficult to integrate since I was 17 years old when I moved to Norway and I lived on the school campus for the first year. Which made me get to know the students of the school very quickly and gave me the opportunity to quickly integrate into the school and social system. Also, I as a person have been very flexible and curious to get to know Norwegian society and its culture. In Norway, I spent that part of my life that is considered the most important in terms of my character and also professional formation. But I would say that I found the time when I moved to the Netherlands more difficult. This is because it seemed to me that I was emigrating a second time from another country and I missed not only my family in Albania but also the one in Norway. When I moved to the Netherlands, I was at an age where it was not easy to make friends or make new personal acquaintances, and my social circle became much smaller. Also the way of life and the institutional culture were different from what I was used to in Norway. The daily collaboration at work was in an international environment where there were professionals from different fields representing a different number of nationalities and a great diversity of cultures in behavior, in the way of working and communicating. Something that was new and unknown to me and required a new adaptation both professionally and personally. While the Dutch language I can't say that it has been a difficulty in everyday life, as communication in English is very easy, because the Dutch generally have a very good command of English.
4. What ties do you have with your homeland and what importance does it have in your life?
I am connected to the motherland, and I am interested in the developments taking place in Albania. The homeland has a special importance for me, as I was born there and spent my childhood and teenage years there, the most beautiful years. I still have a part of my family there and during the summer holidays I always visit my hometown, Saranda. I have a lot of longing and nostalgia for the place where I grew up, my family, friends and people. There I took my first steps and there I was formed as an individual in the first years of my life. Despite the fact that I have already lived more years away from my homeland than inside, my mind and heart are always there.
Often and during the pandemic, I have expressed my will and desire to help my country. Also, through voluntary organizations, I am able to give my contribution in the field in which I specialize in order to help the motherland.
5. How many times a year do you visit Albania on average?
During all the time I lived outside Albania, I tried to visit my hometown at least once a year. Although during the last two years, due to the pandemic as well as the dynamics of life and work, I have not had the opportunity. In general, I can say that every summer I go to Saranda, my hometown. I spend a large part of my summer vacations there, and in no other place do I enjoy my summer vacations more than there.
6. How much has Albania changed according to your impression?
Albania has changed in some aspects if I compare it with the year when I left it. Normally, most of the changes have been and are for the better, but there are also changes which I don't think have been for the better. In general, whenever I am away from Albania, I remember only its good aspects. When I go back to visit, I unfortunately often face situations where I see that in some areas we have not moved forward, but we have remained at the same level as a society and as a mentality. I also see a society that has a great deepening of the difference between the poor and the rich, and I see that this has greatly increased the tendency of an unjustifiable arrogance in the behavior of the people. Something you don't see for example in Norway or Northern Europe. This saddens me because it is one of the factors that shows that in this respect we have a lot of work ahead to improve the mentality of society, which has remained almost the same as the one I left in 2002.
Despite this, I think that Albania is integrating more and more into global trends every year, and what makes me optimistic in recent years are the initiatives, work and achievements that young people undertake to develop their country. I am also very happy when I see that in Albania there is an increase in awareness and voluntary and human initiatives to help each other in times of need.
7. What do you miss the most from Albania in exile?
What I miss the most from Albania is my family and my dearest people. I normally miss the beautiful weather, climate, food, hospitality, warmth and spontaneity that characterizes us as a people. Among other things, I miss waking up in the morning, going for a walk by the sea and smelling the smell of iodine. I also miss Albanian cuisine and the opportunity to spontaneously visit my relatives.
8. Do you think of returning one day to live in Albania?
My goal has always been to create education and work experience outside Albania and in the future, in one way or another, to transmit this experience and knowledge in Albania. I haven't had the chance to go back at the moment, but I can't say that I rule out the possibility of returning to live in Albania. Anyway, even if this will not happen, I will try to find a way to give my contribution by supporting Albania whenever I get the chance.
9. Describe your professional commitment to us in more detail?
I studied Pharmacy and after my studies I started working at the Norwegian Medicines Agency (NoMA). There I specialized in the field of Regulatory Affairs & Pharmacovigilance. The main tasks in this Agency have been related to the review and approval of drugs as well as the monitoring of their side effects in the Norwegian and European markets. This is because Norway, as a country of the EEA, is part of the European cooperation and, respectively, of the EMA in the field of drug approval and monitoring. After 8 years of experience in the state sector in Norway, I decided to move to the private sector and namely to one of the most important biotechnological companies focusing on the development of oncological, immunological, etc. drugs. At this company I had the regulatory responsibility and managed the oncology, immunology and neurological drug portfolio. At the same time, I managed several projects for the company at the regional and European level. I worked for this company for about 3 years. Later I was offered the opportunity to work at the European Medicines Agency (EMA) in the Netherlands. I started the recruitment process for this Agency more as a curiosity to see what stage of recruitment I could reach, since I had no plans to move from Norway and I really liked the exciting work. However, after a period and a challenging process of competitions and interviews, I was informed that I managed to successfully pass all stages of recruitment and that I had been selected to start working as a scientific advisor in this Agency. The field where I would work was the same as before, scientific advisor in Regulatory Affairs (regulatory work for the authorization of drugs). Meanwhile, after a few months of working in this position, I was appointed Committee Leader in one of the existing EMA Committees. While next fall I will start in a new job position at the EMA, now as a Change Manager with responsibility for the implementation of the new European law about clinical studies developed in Europe. This law, which enters into force in all European countries next year.
10. In your opinion, what should Albanian institutions do for emigrants?
Recently, I see that there are new and serious initiatives by the current government in Albania to activate the diaspora, which excites me and makes me optimistic for the future. Diaspora is a source of valuable knowledge and experiences for Albania. Therefore, I think that engaging him in the country's development process and giving him the opportunity to transmit the knowledge and experience gained from the countries of exile is an appropriate strategy to facilitate Albania's path towards European integration. I think that one of the main initiatives that the institutions should focus on is the inclusion and exchange of expatriate experiences by including them in various structures of Albanian society to contribute to the further development of the country.
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