Vesë Neziri (’23) Reflects on Her Time at AUBG and What Is Ahead

May 16, 2023 Martin Georgiev
Vesë Neziri (’23) Reflects on Her Time at AUBG and What Is Ahead

Since I started working at AUBG after my own graduation, one of my favorite things to do every spring has been helping the Admissions Office with prospective student interviews. What a thrill to meet inspired young(er) people, write down “great fit for AUBG” in my notes and then actually see them start their journey on campus the following fall. But now that journey’s ending.

As graduation approaches, I decided to check back on some of the students I first talked to four (or five) years ago. To see how they’ll answer the same questions with university life behind them and a new chapter of life about to commence. An exit interview of sorts.

First up is Vesë Neziri, a graduating senior from Kosovo. In 2018, our Skype conversation was cut short by a lousy internet connection; she had to move to a café with better Wi-Fi so we could finish our interview. My brief notes say she wanted to study politics and that she was keen on music. The biggest challenge she expected back then was being away from her family. She described AUBG in one word as “diverse.”

This is Vesë now.

Hello and welcome to your exit interview.

I’m excited.

Tell me a little bit about yourself first, even though this time I know you well.

Yeah, actually, that’s so weird. I was thinking about this interview and how I’m gonna explain it to my mom and was going to be like, “Oh, the guy who [accepted me], he’s my friend now.”

So, hi. I’m Vesi. I am thankfully graduating, finally. And I’ve been at AUBG for the past five years, with a few gaps here and there due to COVID.

I came here with the idea that I was going to do political science, and psychology was always an option, but I had no concrete plan in mind. And I’m leaving with a journalism degree and a psychology minor, both passions that I discovered here through friends and different events and different courses.

My first two years I took a lot of courses that were completely unrelated. Just to see what I would fit into. My passion has always been music but I didn’t dare follow it so I tried to find the next best thing. All of them were the next best option because I like learning but nothing quite struck me like music does.

And so my compromise to it was to join the musical club in AUBG and to continue a journalism degree.

What was that change like from the idea of political science to then switching to a different field?

I think political science was more me trying to be my father’s daughter. And because I didn’t have the courage to follow my own dream, I was trying to chase something that would be acceptable, I guess. And changing from that to journalism has not just been a change of degrees, but also a change of person, if I can say so.

I’ve learned more about myself and I’ve kind of gotten rid of my fears, which in turn has increased my confidence and courage to just make my own decisions and stick to them. Because as long as I follow through, something good is bound to happen. I don’t have to be scared about ten years into the future because as long as I just keep working on things, something good is bound to happen from them. That gave me a very big freedom and liberty to just do things. If I like something, I do it now.

I wrote in my notes back then that you were keen on music. How did that passion start?

So I started singing when I was four and a half. My mom signed me up to this group, it was just an outside activity for her to have more free time without me. But the teacher there noticed that I had actual talent and she wanted me to develop it. So together with my mom, they were working towards that. And up until AUBG, I have just been kind of singing on and off, not being completely confident in it and not knowing how to develop it further, just stagnant in the passion.

And then here, first I joined RJC – that was my whole first year and I had a band with a few other people. I just felt the freedom to do many things and learn many instruments because when you have all of them within reach, if you’re curious about something, it’s just natural to follow through. And then I saw Hair in 2019 and I was so taken aback. The only musical that I had ever watched before that was High School Musical on TV. And then I was the leading role in this year’s musical Legally Blonde.

All of this journey just polished my love of music in general, my love of the musical theater. I love performing, I love live music and now I discovered that I also like acting on stage and just being on stage. It’s given me a very nice clarity of what I want to follow with in my future, instead of just saying music. Now that I know a bit more of what I want, it’s also easier to follow it without being scared of what happens next.

And what will happen next?

Well, I’m going to the States to work this summer and with my friend we keep joking around that we’re going to go to L.A. and get agents. Which honestly, I’m not taking it as a joke at all. I’m very ready to try and work on myself, work on my music and my acting skills, take classes here and there. I mean, Broadway is a big dream, but I would like to ideally perform in live theater in an established institution.

And if that dream doesn’t work out quite well, I also really want to do something in the Balkans with it, especially in Kosovo. I realize that a lot of other people might be in similar situations that I was in – having a passion that you just cannot develop around you. And how good would it be to have an establishment for it in the Balkans? What if we had something in the Balkans that just fueled creativity and combined all of these talents from different places here?

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Vesë in her first year at AUBG.

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On stage as Elle Woods in Legally Blonde: The Musical.

Back then you said the biggest challenge you expect to face at AUBG was being away from your family. Was that really it?

In my first year that was it. I was a different person – I was not expressive, I was always trying to fit in. You know, my people pleasing behaviors. And I was just not true to myself at all, which made it really hard to make sustainable friendships and enjoy my time here.

And then when COVID happened, I had to go back home and I was forced to, after having discovered a bit of myself, to be back in the place that I did not want to be in that much. But I was forced to be there for a year and a half. I had to choose between going back to the old patterns and hiding in my own shell or just facing myself and making people either accept me for who I am or just leave my life.

It turned out to be a very nice fit with me and my family. Now that we had this kind of better knowledge of each other, every time I come to AUBG, it’s hard to say goodbye but it’s very easy to adapt because I have a new family here. I have pieces of myself that I can return to here and there.

And what do you think will be your biggest challenge after AUBG?

I think it’s similar to then, just finding a new circle of people. I really depend on interpersonal connections to keep me motivated and going. So regardless of what I end up doing, the thing itself is not enough to keep me content and to keep me motivated. And I definitely need a support system wherever I am. Now I will have friends from here and my family but Zoom or Messenger is not enough.

Even in the last days of classes, I just see myself hanging around more with people, refusing to go to my room, just clutching onto that last bit of peace, I guess.

What was the biggest thing you would say you got from AUBG?

I got so many things from AUBG. But the most important was finding the freedom to be who I am and to assert myself everywhere. Just to know that there doesn’t have to be space for me in the world because I can create it. I shouldn’t just run to things that are comfortable. I still have fear, you know, to do new things but now I also have this excitement that I will make a new opportunity if there isn’t one.

Within that scope of five years, I took so many different courses,I went through so many different friend groups and student activities and clubs. All of those, even if they weren’t the exact thing I wanted to follow, gave me a little bit of knowledge into a new territory. That’s what really gives you this feeling that you can tackle every challenge that you are posed with. As long as you try to do it, as long as you don’t give up the first time around.

And if you had to describe, now, AUBG with just one word, what would that be?

I’ve been thinking about this for a few days, actually. I think you can associate it with a few things like diversity and community and stuff, but to me personally, it’s been a gift and that’s all I can say about it.

This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity. 

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