On a sunny Saturday afternoon, Ilda Duka is standing on the ABF field with one eye closed, trying to measure the distance between her and one of her friends, while playing frisbee. She suddenly starts running with excitement, in order to catch the frisbee before her friends do.
Even though ultimate frisbee is her favorite sport, she admits it’s not as fun playing in the gym. Ilda comes from a rather small city in the hearth of Albania, Burrel, which she adores for the natural beauties around it. “What I really missed about home when I was in America was picking up a fresh tomato from the garden,” she confesses about her 3-month stay in the US as a cashier.
Her love for nature is strongly connected with her home, which is settled in the outskirts of the town, near a wine yard. Despite their calling as economists, her parents are both passionate about gardening. “As a child, I would help dad remove the bad leaves in the wine yard, or plant vegetables in the garden.” Compared to the physical constraint she was used to in the garden, the work and travel in America was no big deal for Ilda.
She was lucky enough to have spent her childhood with two friends, who enjoyed nature as much as she did. “Instead of doing make up or hairstyles, me and my friends were the kind of kids that wake up at 6 a.m. to go hiking in the mountains,” she asserts. Ilda had lived away from the two of them, but that didn’t stop them from preserving their friendship for 13 years.
Creativity and Imagination hasn’t left Ilda’s heart, since the times she and her friends invented a secret alphabet for communication. “I kind of miss not having enough time in AUBG for one of my hobbies, DIY projects” Ilda says. Not only were projects entertaining, but they also provoked her imagination – a skill she considers highly important in academic life.
Ilda’s initial wish to graduate in economics is no longer valid for her. She is currently looking for a more dynamic and fast-paced profession, although she finds math comprehensible.“My parents want me to choose whatever makes me feel comfortable,” says Ilda with a bright smile on her face that they trust her assessment.
As much as she likes being around people, she is sometimes irritated that they don’t see her as a responsible and a self-aware grown-up, as her parents do. “I hate it when people see my childish personality and mistake it for my childish mindset.” One of the reasons Ilda left Albania and her hometown is the conservative mentality of the community. Just like any other small city, Burrel is still ruled by out-dated communist and patriarchal morals.That is why she decided to jump into the wild and study abroad.
Her free spirit is what resembles her favorite character Christopher McCandless, from the book Into the Wild, that inspired her to do a research in one of her classes. Based on a real story, she applauds McCandless for leaving his lavish life as an A-student from Emory University, giving all his savings to charities, and hitchhiking in Alaska, in order to become “one with nature.”
Supposing she is over-romanticizing his figure, Ilda respects him for having everything people dream of, but refusing to take it “because it didn’t feel right for him.” One of the few characteristics that repel her in people is phoniness. As much as she admires the character, she can never be away from society for such a long time. “At the same time, I understand people’s flaws and why they act like they do,” she affirms.
While figuring out her major in AUBG, Ilda is planning her next adventure. This time, she wants to follow the steps of Christopher McCandless and explore the world on her own. “I don’t know why but I feel like I should try my limits and be by myself.”