Born and raised in Kosovo, Rina Lila moved to the U.S. during high school, and came to SIPA to study an MIA with a concentration in Economic and Political Development. After graduating in 2015, Rina now works in markets and securities services in the Global Engagement Management Associate Program at Citi.

Student Perspective: Rina Lila


Describe your background prior to SIPA.

I grew up in Kosovo during hard times. I experienced the war. I lived under an oppressive force. I saw the United Nations come in, and this changed my life. So, I wanted to focus on international affairs. I remember peacekeepers coming to Kosovo when I was little, and running to them. I was 11. Since then, I thought “I want to do something like that.” The firsthand experience of war stayed with me.

Until 2008, I didn’t have a Kosovo passport, I had a UN passport, and I was always passionate to see how the UN works. The UN played such a big role in our country. And when Kosovo declared independence, I wanted to see what I could do. Now we’re working on Kosovo’s recognition.

What motivated you to choose SIPA?

Everyone from Kosovo knows each other. [Alumnus and fellow Albanian] Behar Xharra (MIA ’12) actually convinced me to come to SIPA. [I was considering other schools], but he told me that SIPA is more international and it’s close to the United Nations, an invaluable experience.

My concentration was in Economic and Political Development, and my specialization was in International Conflict Resolution. I am one of the co-presidents for the UN Studies Working Group and the Conflict Resolution group and I work very closely with Professor [Elisabeth] Lindenmayer as one of her course assistants. She’s been an inspiration for me with respect to the UN. I’ve always wanted to work for the UN. The fact that the UN was here was the main reason I wanted to come to SIPA.

Describe your experiences as a student leader at SIPA.

Behar established the Kosovo Diaspora initiative, which is meant to raise awareness on Kosovo, and to highlight Kosovo through digital diplomacy and positive digital media.

As part of the group my second year at SIPA, I led the first focus group discussion on diaspora registry for the Initiative. The Kosovo Diaspora partnered with International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the Kosovo Ministry of Diaspora to promote the registry among our widespread diaspora communities across five continents. The mission of this diaspora virtual registration is to bring together Albanian civil society leaders, successful entrepreneurs politicians well as students, in order to establish evidence-based policies in Kosovo to address the needs and concerns of diaspora worldwide.

Also during SIPA, I interned as one of the Albanian advisors for the Albanian Permanent Mission to the UN, where I participated in the committees on financing, economics, the post-development goals and human rights.