Albanian students celebrate culture

Boston University’s Albanian student group honored the recipient of its first-ever achievement award and announced a new professional networking initiative Saturday night at the third-annual Albanian Night in the George Sherman Union.

Sponsored by the BU Albanian Society, Albanian Night brought more than 150 people together, including leaders of the Massachusetts Albanian-American Society and the National Albanian-American Council, to celebrate Albanian culture with dance and food.

“Ultimately, it’s a fun night to celebrate our culture,” BU Albanian Society President Nicholas Nikic, a College of Communication senior, said.

Society Vice President Linda Adami, a College of Arts and Sciences senior, said the group’s mission “is to raise awareness of the presence of the Albanian community.”

Keynote speaker Etrita Ibroci, vice president and trading strategist of New York-based investment banking firm Credit Suisse, spoke about the importance of connecting with other Albanian-Americans while remembering the struggle and perseverance of Albanians.

“I like my Albanian heritage and traditions,” Ibroci said in her speech, “but I also like what America has to offer. I like to remember where I have been and where I am going.”

Ibroci also announced an initiative, called the Network of Albanian Professionals and Entrepreneurs Association, aimed at connecting young Albanian professionals. She said the will offer mentoring fields such as finance, medicine and the arts.

“What we want to do is get together and learn about each other,” she said.

This year’s Albanian Night featured the first-ever BU Albanian Award of the Year, given to a prominent member of the Albanian community by the Society.

“The reason we believed it was important to give out an award is to show our solidarity and our appreciation for members of our community,” Adami said.

Sejfi Protopapa, an 82-year-old Albanian veteran who fought with the Balli Kombetar front during World War II, received the award. He thanked the society for the award and spoke briefly about the past suffering of Albanians and his hope for the future.

“We can be optimistic about the future,” he said. “I’m proud to be an Albanian and to be here tonight.”

Dressed in traditional folk costumes, dancers from the Bashkimi Dance Group performed ethnic dances from Albania’s northern and southern regions.

College of Engineering senior Amy Trongnetrpunya, who also attended last year’s event, came with friends to learn more about Albanian culture. Trongnetrpunya said she “enjoyed the dancing and the food.”

The BU Albanian Society was created three years ago by 2006 CAS graduate Alket Mertiria. Mertiria said he wanted to “create something not just to benefit the community at BU but also those in Boston.”

Although the group has less than 20 active members, Mertiria said the strong connections it has with outside organizations allow the group to sponsor successful events like Saturday’s. He said the event was intended “not just to raise money but to bring people together, both inside and outside of BU.”

Albanian Society member Serafin Aleksi said the group provides a base for Albanian students, hosting weekly meetings that help members strengthen and remember their language skills.

“The group provides an opportunity to keep talking in Albanian,” the CAS junior said.

Aleksi said it is important for the group to have a presence on campus.

“I think it’s important to have connections with the outside, and that’s important for college students,” he said.

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