Where Are They Now? – An Interview with Quest Alumna, Kaltrina Kusari

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Last year, my friend, colleague, and even roommate – Ellie Abramovich – started a new blog series called “Where Are They Now?” highlighting students that have graduated from Quest University Canada. I found this idea to be amazing since Quest alumni and current students truly shape Quest University Canada into the amazing University that it is. I feel like Quest alumni have a well-rounded experience of Quest, from the challenges of studying in a small university to the beauty of living near the mountains, sharing a dorm with friends, and studying interdisciplinary academic fiels. Thus, I decided to “steal” (with permission, of course) Ellie’s idea and highlight an alumna that is very close to my heart, Kaltrina.

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Kaltrina taking a part of Quest with her during her travels.
  1. Who is Kaltrina Kusari? 

Depending on where I am in my life, this question is really easy or close to impossible to answer. I think that is because I continuously become aware of the fluidity of my identity, and have learned to enjoy the process of discovering new aspects of who I am. Yet, no matter how much I change, the most prominent part of my identity is shaped by the place where I come from – Kosova. This year marks ten years since I first left Kosova, and I am beginning to realize that it was precisely leaving that created such strong ties between who I am and what my country is going through. It seems ironic to say that by leaving I got closer to my country, but that happened because I have dedicated most of my academic career to learning about Kosova’s history and the elements of post-war development. Currently, my interests focus on understanding Kosova’s migration history and the impact that big migration waves have had on our culture. In fact, a number of the refugees and asylum seekers that we hear about nowadays are coming from Kosova, though the media does not seem to highlight that. Therefore, I am really passionate about making the voices of those who are silenced heard, and I am hoping to do this through the research that I have to do for my master’s thesis. Among my other passions are what we usually think of as the simplest things: Dinners with friends, family reunions, and traveling. I had a chance to combine all three of these passions this summer, while traveling around Albania. Traveling with other people allowed me to see aspects of them I had never seen, and it was lovely to learn more about who they are. If you have never had a chance to visit Albania, I suggest that you find time to go visit and enjoy its wonderful nature!

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Kaltrina in front of Heart Lake in Albania. Photo taken by Nentor Oseku.
  1. What attracted you the most to Quest University Canada when deciding which university you would like to attend?

Initially, I was attracted to Quest because it placed a huge emphasis on bringing an international perspective to the classroom. I had attended an international high school, and wanted to continue enjoying the stimulation that comes from being in a class with people who have different ideas about the societies in which we live. Indeed, Quest classes pushed me to think in new ways and challenged many of my beliefs.  In doing so, they helped me grow into the person I am today.

  1. What is your Question? (Please tell us a bit about your Keystone project as well.)

My Question at Quest was “How can we create happier societies?” For my Keystone, I looked at the evolution of the concept of social happiness and the historical events which shaped this definition. Through the writing process I came to understand that it was both of the World Wars that had the most impact on the definition of social happiness. Among others, both World Wars were a reminder of the difference between what we need and what we want. Finding this link was interesting because Kosova is a post-war society, and even though I was not looking to necessarily apply what I learned from my Keystone to Kosova, I ended up doing so. After graduating, I presented at a conference on the differences between governance in Kosova and Denmark (then happiest country in the world) and was able to pull from what I had learned through writing my keystone.

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  1. Tell us about one/ some of your favourite moments at Quest? (Maybe an event, class, or other memories)

Ah, I have so many of these moments, but I will share one of my favorite class moments and one of my favorite events. In February of my senior year I took a class called French and Francophone History. The class focused on France during World War I, and we looked at both the battlefield as well as the cultural changes that happened because of the war. On a rainy day, Andre (our tutor) took us to a field near Quest, gave us shovels, and told us to start digging a trench. We tried, and did not get anywhere to digging a trench. That experience brought to light many of our readings, which focused on life in the trenches. This experience was invaluable because I still remember those readings and the discussions we had about them.

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Quest students and tutor, Andre, digging a trench during their class – France and Francophone History.

One of my favorite events at Quest was the first Cabaret. It was called Cabaret Revolution, and consisted of student creations (monologues, dialogues, songs, poetry etc.) which revolved around the theme of oppression. For those of us who were involved, it was more than just a drama production. Rehearsals turned into a space where we could talk about deeply personal stories, and be truly heard by those around us. Sharing these stories with the large community at Quest was amazing (and cathartic) because everyone found his/her own way to be supportive of our stories and the courage it took for us to share them.

  1. What are you doing Now? Did Quest play a part in that at all?

I am currently completing my Master of Social Work at University of Calgary, and I am absolutely loving it! While thinking about Graduate School, I talked to a few Quest tutors. All of them told me that I should first decide what I want to do, and then look for programs that match my needs and interests. I took my time to do exactly that and I think that is part of the reason I am so happy with my program. I am in the International and Community Development program within Social Work – a program that is only offered at University of Calgary and McGill University. If I had not looked hard enough, I would not have found it. So, the knowledge that I gained at Quest, as well as the support I received from my tutors really helped me make that decision.

  1. What do you think is the benefit of going to a small liberal arts and scienece university versus a large traditional one?

I am going to a large university now, and what I have realized is that while at Quest I felt a sense of belonging to the entire community, here I only have ties to my faculty, not necessarily the university at large. Among the benefits of going to a small liberal arts university is the awareness which develops as a result of being involved in many classes, projects, events etc. Getting involved in many parts of the community at Quest allowed me to explore various aspects of who I am, and therefore learn what I most enjoy doing. This focus on doing is a huge part of empowerment (as I am learning in my Social Work program now) and I did come out of Quest feeling more confident about my abilities. I think that if I had gone to a university where I was merely a number, people would not have taken the time to help me develop different skills, which the faculty and staff at Quest definitely did.

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Kaltrina preparing Sushi with her friends at Quest.

I would like to thank Kaltrina for taking her time to answering all of my questions. Kaltrina is truly a remarkable person and I feel honoured to have gotten to know her in the last few years. I hope that through these questions, and Kaltrina’s brilliant answers, you were able to get to know her a little bit as well. Her presence emits light, energy, and sunshine to the room even in those dark and cold days. University of Calgary is lucky to have such an amazing student, worker, and friend.

Thank you sunshine – as we all like to call Kaltrina!

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