By Angelina Persaud, Assistant News Editor
The newly formed Albanian Student Union Club is bringing diversity and representation to Manhattan College.
The club was founded during the fall 2022 semester through the efforts of three seniors and their desire to reconnect Albanian students with their cultural roots.
Eleni Mazija, a senior marketing major, is the president of the Albanian Student Union and spoke about the initial idea for the club.
“We want to kind of classify ourselves as a community because for years and years I know that students have been going here and we want to continue growing the community and also be something that future students can also look at,” Mazija said.
Granit Selimaj, a senior finance major, serves as the club treasurer and shared his vision for the club and the students involved.
“I also had this vision where we would create a network of Albanians as well as for other people who are interested in better careers and mentors … they’ll start being friendly with us, and know that we’re all connected,” Selimaj said. “Also, the last thing that I envisioned was to create a more welcoming environment for Albanian students.”
Gjovana Livadhi, a senior finance major, is the vice president of the club and spoke about her goals for the club and the goals she hopes to accomplish through it.
“As someone who was born and raised in Albania, remembering my culture and bringing people together is very important as well as having a place where we all come together as a community,” Livadhi wrote in an email to The Quadrangle.
The board members also shared a common expression of cultural pride and the personal connection to their roots. This connection, they said, was the driving force to initiate the club at MC.
Selimaj explained his familial connection to Albanian history and the pride he takes in his culture.
“I’m very patriotic. My dad went back to fight in the Kosovo War. So for me, this whole thing hits home very, very hard. And I want to bring that [pride] and make them more patriotic and I want to give them something to be proud about,” Selimaj said.
Mazija explained her personal connection in terms of her story as an immigrant and the deep value she holds for Albanian culture.
“I came from Albania back in 2009 with my family. I was six years old. So when I came here, it was kind of a mix of what am I going to cherish and keep for the long term,” Mazija said. “I want to make sure that as an immigrant myself, the values of the culture, everything that we left back home is cherished here and mentioned here, especially for students.”
Denis Haxhija, a senior marketing major, is a student of Albanian descent and spoke about his thoughts on having an Albanian club for students.
“There has always been a significant Albanian population here at Manhattan College, and having a cultural club to unite everyone and get to know each other is a wonderful opportunity to do so,” Haxhija wrote in an email to the Quadrangle.
He also shared the aspect of Albanian culture he connects with the most: music.
“I think I speak on behalf of everyone when I say the music always stands near and dear to my heart! Whether it is new pop songs or cultural folklore, a lot of our music is very similar to Arabic and Greek music. Another huge aspect is knowing our roots. Most of our parents are immigrants and we work hard to create a legacy while preserving traditions,” Haxhija wrote.
Mary Camaj, another student of Albanian descent, shared how she connects to her cultural roots through the power of dance.
“I am a traditional Albanian dancer,” Camaj said. “That’s what I do in my free time. That’s one of my passions. Recently, I decided to share my love for dancing on social media … dancing and Albanian music for me really speaks to your soul. When people say music is a food for the soul, they really mean it.”
She also commended the efforts of the founding members of the club for embracing diversity and bringing unity to the Albanian students on campus.
“I truly applaud the people that started this club and took the initiative and are planning everything out, because there’s a large Albanian community in New York, especially in the Bronx. Manhattan College is a really big asset to the Bronx, so I think it’s about time that we have an Albanian club,” Camaj said.
The board members also spoke about future plans for the club and the events they hope to be able to promote to the student body, including fundraisers and guest speakers. Upcoming plans include a celebration of Albanian Independence Day on November 28.
Additionally, they are planning future collaborations with other cultural and recreational clubs on campus in order to promote unity and diversity.
“We want to put a fun aspect on it. So we’re gonna definitely try and bring some of the culture here and maybe have a soccer game between all the Albanian student clubs, from different colleges. Well, we’ll invite [students to] play and a bunch of other people to have some type of tournament. I mean, that’s the vision,” Selimaj said.
Livadhi also expressed the importance of cultural clubs on campus and how students from all ethnic backgrounds can benefit from these clubs, a sentiment shared by herself and the entire board.
“I think that cultural clubs are important on campus because we should all remember where we came from, embrace our beautiful cultures, and bring our students together. It’s important to understand the cultures, dances, food, and music of cultures all around the world,” Livadhi said.