Full Circle

March 16, 2021

Full Circle

RGPP has several objectives. Among others, the Program is designed to help you increase your English language proficiency, which you need to succeed in a graduate-level academic environment, and familiarize you with scholarly articles fundamental and relevant for your future studies. However, what sets us apart from other preparatory academic programs is that we specifically target ambitious and smart students from Romani backgrounds. Throughout the 16 years of our history, we have been mindful of our students' backgrounds. We have learnt that there is so much learning that takes place among our students simply because we bring together young and educated Roma people from all over Europe. Whenever possible, our curriculum also provides a wide array of opportunities for students to connect with each other, to explore the pasts, presents, and futures of Romani communities, and to find and clarify their own goals.

Today we would like to introduce Almir Huseini a Roma man from Serbia. Almir graduated from the School of Public Policy at CEU, and currently works with the European Roma Institute for Arts and Culture. He lives his life to the fullest - both professionally and personally. As he recounts the events of the last 6 years, he believes that his incredible journey and successes all began with the RGPP program.

Q: How would you introduce yourself?
A.H.: In professional circles I usually mention that I am a CEU graduate, which of course, came as a result of my time at RGPP.

Q.: What does RGPP mean to you?
A.H.: RGPP is one of the most formative experiences in my life. It was a milestone to my graduate studies and to building my international professional career. But RGPP also played a role in my personal life: I found my soulmate in the program. RGPP changed my life.

Q.: If you hear "CEU RGPP", what are the first words/memories/feelings that come to you?
A.H.: It's definitely Budapest! I remember the moment when I arrived in Budapest at the Nepliget station. I remember that while I was riding the bus from Serbia, I was filled with the feelings of hope and privilege. I felt so honored that I was among those smart individuals who were selected for the program. I remember the daily bus rides from the CEU dormitory to the CEU buildings in the heart of Budapest. I remember each building on campus, the interactions, and the first conversations I had when I entered the Nador buildings. I have many positive feelings, memories, and pictures in my mind and heart. Nothing compares to these experiences.

Q.: What are your most remarkable/ happiest memories from your RGGP year?
A.H.: There are many happy moments at RGPP.
One of my strongest memories is the cultural shock I experienced while at CEU. While I had been exposed to various environments in Serbia, including the university environment, at that time I mostly understood the world through the lens of a young Roma man who had grown up in a Romani neighborhood in Serbia. Then, when I met so many different nations at CEU, I was suddenly captivated by the various ways people from various backgrounds speak, behave, and interact with each other. It was an amazing and satisfying feeling. This exposure enriched me greatly, maybe even more than the actual academic curriculum.

In the Roma Program, I continued to discover the nuances of cultural diversity among the Romani people. I began to understand that Romani music is not the same in Serbia, Romania or Hungary. I learned this because the Roma people in my cohort represented various Romani cultures. This then led me to fundamental questions. I started questioning and deconstructing everything I had held true about Romani people. I started to ask: What is Roma music, what is Roma culture? At last, I realized how diverse WE are. This was an extremely important revelation. RGPP helps you gain these insights and expand your knowledge about yourself and your own communities when you view yourself through the lens of others. These are mind-blowing and happy moments because you realize that there is a whole other world out there, and this world is yours as well.

However, in order to experience all of this, you need to keep your mind open. I had to go out of my own 'bubble' and seek these priceless learning opportunities out myself.

Q: Why did you apply to the RGGP program?
A.H.: While finishing my BA in Sociology in Serbia, I started working for an NGO. After my graduation, I continued working with the same team and I was happy there. I felt that I wanted to study further but pursuing an MA at the same university where I had earned my BA didn't sound like the challenge I was looking for. At the same time, the thought of pursuing a master's program elsewhere in Serbia did not attract me.

When I heard about the RGPP call, I thought it definitely seemed like an interesting opportunity. Learning or working in a foreign-language environment had always been a dream of mine, so I found this side of the program curious as well. I already had relatively good English skills; I was even a bit worried to apply because I thought I would not be selected with my level of English. Luckily, I was selected, and I certainly improved my academic English.

I started the Program with rather flexible expectations. I was ready to use the opportunity as much as possible and give it my best, but I was not sure what to expect.
When you are in our "CEU- RGPP family", besides the knowledge and skills offered, you become part of a network. You get to know people and people get to know you, which eventually leads to more opportunities. This is very important! You hear that well-known grad schools help you become a better professional, but they also integrate you into a professional community. It is true for the Roma Program as well; it has the same function as any other prestigious academic program.

RGPP is ideal for those people who wish to continue growing and expanding beyond their comfort zone. It is an intense and challenging time, but it is an incredible journey.

Q: Do you recall any challenges you met during the program?
A.H.: TOEFL was somewhat challenging because it is a different skill and I had to learn how to do the test. Writing long papers was a challenge I wasn't used to. I had to learn how to do that and it took some adjustments.

Q: Why did you apply to a Public Policy MA?
A.H.: The reasons for my master's program choice go back to my BA choice. Back then, when I applied to undergraduate studies, I was very interested in political science. At that time, a BA in political science was only offered at the University of Belgrade. The reality, however, was that I did not have the means to pursue my studies outside of my hometown. A BA in Sociology, on the other hand, was available at the local university. I thought that I could use sociology as a preparation for a more practical and focused master's program in the future. At that time, I was a practical-minded person and during my studies, I kept finding opportunities at Roma non-profits, where I could contribute with my newly acquired knowledge. This made me think again that Public Policy was the most practical program for me.

Q: How do you see your professional life and what are your plans?
A.H.: Back in 2018, the European Roma Institute for Arts and Culture put out an internship call specifically for RGPP alumni. I applied for this internship because I wanted to gain more professional experience and skills such as communication, project management, and project programming. I started out at ERIAC as an intern, and over the past couple of years I could try myself out in various roles. It seems all my professional and personal achievements are the direct results of my RGPP year. It is amazing to see my early experiences with RGPP come full circle with my day-to-day work at ERIAC. What I mean by this is that when I originally came to Budapest for the RGPP program, I did not fully understand the richness and diversity of Roma people. Over time, however, I met Roma people from all over Europe and learned about the nuances and the diversity of the Romani People. I went from that to now contributing to the work of one of the most important organizations in Europe that works for the promotion of Romani arts and culture(s), works to end antigypsyism, and works to change policies regarding the Romani people. This is what I mean by my experiences with RGPP coming full circle. It is truly an incredible journey. I feel such a great level of accomplishment, and I can only have these because I was an RGPP student. The CEU Roma Program changed my life, it is so unbelievable, even now when I recount the events that led me here.

I also know that this is only the beginning of my professional journey. I am not sure what life brings, but I love working in the realms of arts and culture and contributing to changing the narratives on Romani people.

And where are YOU now? If you would like to share your story with us, please write us: rgpp@ceu.edu

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