MCC CD Sarah Olmstead Remarks at the #WiSciKosovo Camp / Closing Ceremony
I am Sarah Olmstead, Resident Country Director for MCC in Kosovo and I wanted to welcome everyone to the closing ceremony of WiSci Kosovo! Welcome, Mr Ambassador, Minister Shahini and Minister Lluka, our partners from Intel, AAB, AmCham, Jaha Solar and elsewhere, and most especially, our campers and counsellors from Kosovo, Albania, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia, and the United States. I hope you guys have had an amazing time the past week and a half. You have learned how to program drones and autonomous vehicles, how to use NASA data and imagery, you’ve learned leadership and presentation skills, and so much more. I hope this experience has given you a lot to think about and consider whatever you decide to follow in your continuing studies and work.
When I was your age, I had done some internships in the sciences, was part of my high school engineering team, was reading books like a Brief History of Time and Richard Feynman lectures. I was thinking about college and I told my mom confidently “mom, I’m going to be a theoretical astrophysicist!”
My mom said, “oh Sarah, science is just a phase, you’re going to be a writer.” She didn’t say this out of a desire to quash my excitement and enthusiasm or because she didn’t want me to realize my dreams. She said this out of concern for my own welfare – I was a creative kid and not all that naturally gifted at math and she thought she understood my true interests and what would make me happy better than I did. Plus, she didn’t understand physics.
I know that all of you have probably had similar conversations with your parents. They want what they think is best for you – a secure job, maybe one that makes you happy, one that’s going to give you time for whatever else you want in your life. But what parents and teachers and maybe even your friends don’t always understand is that you know what you want right now, and you have to follow those interests to wherever they lead.
It doesn’t mean you always have to have the same wants – I started in Physics and moved to Human Rights and then to Economics and Development. I could have skipped straight to the end and just studied development from the beginning, but without that random walk I wouldn’t be me and wouldn’t have the outlook that I have. And most importantly, if I hadn’t struggled to go as far as I could in the hardest subjects I’ve ever studied, I wouldn’t have known what I could achieve.
All of these experiences and your evolving interests and especially your struggles will build who you eventually become and I hope everything you’ve learned here has empowered you to follow that random walk and discover what you can achieve. I hope that you’ve found some support structure here amongst the friends you’ve made and the mentors you’ve had that help you realize your goals. And I hope some of those goals include addressing the constraints that this region, like many other regions, face in energy security, transparent governance, environmental pollution, and others. MCC believes in supporting our partner communities to name and address their own constraints and I hope that you are now a cohort that will be the problem-solvers of tomorrow.