Oelwein High School FFA instructor Dan Doeing and FFA reporter Aly Duffy were one of five Iowa student-teacher combinations to travel to Kosovo this fall as part of a new partnership to exchange ideas on agriculture.
Doeing and Duffy joined student-teacher pairs from Independence, Union-La Porte City and Pleasantville, which was organized with help from Hawkeye Community College. Each group left for Kosovo on Sept. 22 and returned on Sept. 31.
Both Doeing and Duffy stayed with a host family during their time in Kosovo and were able to tour farms and classrooms.
“I feel like their culture is more loving and open-armed than here,” Duffy said. “You could just pull over to the side of the road and talk to whoever there. It was really nice how friendly the people were.”
Doeing also said people were friendly and welcoming during his visit. He added that he enjoyed networking with local ag teachers and seeing the similarities and differences in Kosovo.
“There definitely (were) some differences as far as some small things; they go to coffee four times a day,” Doeing said. “Not something we are used to, but everybody was really welcoming. Every farm we toured would have a table set up for food and drink for us to set back and enjoy being there and ask questions.”
Unlike Iowa’s flat lands with corn and soybean fields, Kosovo has a lot of hills and mountain it its terrain. Climate wise it is similar since Kosovo and Iowa are around the same latitude, although Kosovo does not get as cold of winters.
Doeing said he saw a lot of dairy farms and apple orchards during his visits to Kosovar farms.
“Dairy was a big part of what they had, but also every farm had a lactose separator, which I think is a regional thing they adapted,” Doeing said. “So, that was unique because we don’t see a whole lot of that here.”
The school day for Kosovo is different than American schools, as they go to school in shifts. One shift goes to class from 7:30 a.m. to noon, while the other shift goes from 12:30 to 5 p.m.
Once Kosovar students reach high school, they choose a career pathway. Doeing and Duffy both met with a teacher who taught food science and agriculture at what they call a professional school.
“They have different pathways each student will pick, and they are in that pathway until they graduate,” Doeing said. “They take classes related to that. It was very different because it is more hands on. They teach some of the same types of skills and classes, but it’s just organized differently.”
Albanian is the most common language spoken in Kosovo, although Serbian is also recognized as an official language within the country. Both Doeing and Duffy were able to pick up a couple of Albanian words during their trip.
Duffy said she was able to develop a friendship with a girl from her school named Albana.
“She wants to be a translator when she grows up, so she was pretty good with her English,” Duffy said. “We thought she spoke English at home for a second language, but she was kind of our translator through the week along with our ag teacher’s daughter. For me, it was easier to form a friendship with them because there was no language barrier.”
Besides learning about agriculture, the FFA students and teachers met with government officials in the capital city of Pristina to learn about Kosovar culture and history.
Kosovo had been part of the former Yugoslavia and later Serbia, prior to the Kosovo War in the 1990s. In 2008, Kosovo declared their independence, which is recognized by 113 nations around the world.
During their visit, Doeing and Duffy saw houses and businesses that were damaged by the war. Their host family was in the process of building a new house because they dug up an old warhead next to their current house.
“Because America intervened, and Iowa came in with their National Guard and kind of re-established a lot of programs like athletics and education, they are really grateful for Iowans and Americans,” Doeing said. “In their public school, they had the Kosovo flag right next to the American flag, and it said thank you America, we love you.”
Doeing said that some Kosovar students may come to Iowa this spring for a visit to see how agricultural education is like in the United States. He added that they have been sharing lessons since returning home.
“We are excited to have them,” Doeing said. “I think they are going to be astounded to see the large dairy farms that we have here and how we operate in general as a culture. So, it will be interesting to see what they learn.”
LEARN MORE LIVE
A presentation for the general public about FFA instructor Dan Doeing and FFA reporter Aly Duffy is scheduled for 6 p.m., Tuesday, Nov. 13, at the Oelwein High School Gym