“Are you sure this is the right decision for you?” This was a common question I got at this time five years ago. The same one I’ve received during the past few months. Here is a look into the answer to that question, and how finding myself created opportunities that opened new doors.
My name is Maja Pacaric and this is my story.
After graduating from high school in the small town of Đakovo in Croatia, unlike my peers, I decided to accept an athletic scholarship and pursue my college education at the University of Toledo, Ohio. Leaving my family and the life I’d known for 18 years was anything but easy.
My fellow international students (and student-athletes) understand what it takes to graduate from college: hard work, positive attitude, and surrounding yourself with the right people. I am truly grateful for the whole experience of studying in the United States, especially for my friends that became like family. If I were to describe my typical college week, it would unlikely to match everything that people in Croatia consider “college life.” Constantly trying to balance early morning practices, engineering courses, and work on top of that was not a simple task. But this balancing act prepared me for life after college, and when I look back to that period I wouldn’t change a thing because it made me the person I am today.
Furthermore, my latest decision to come back to Croatia was a surprise to my family and friends yet again. Many young people are leaving my homeland because they don’t believe that they can have a future here. There are high chances that I would be one of them because of the difficulties in finding employment that fits my qualifications and that would make me successful. Even though I was worried, I decided to give it a try.
Three weeks after landing in Croatia I was happily employed at Covideo; a company that fulfills my perception of a successful, high-quality work spot. Through that, I learned more about the reasons for the unemployment of my peers in Croatia.
It is not true that young people don’t have a future in Croatia. The main problem is they are not given enough of a chance. At Covideo, we are constantly working on educating our employees. Therefore, I also had the opportunity to participate in local meet-ups and workshops. There, I realized that I want to be a part of this change of attitude towards the employment of young people in Croatia. There are two sides to address here: young people themselves and employers.
I believe that each young person that decides to leave Croatia should first think if that is truly the only choice for her/him. A lifestyle that provides you with safety for your family, good relationships between people and exposure to pretty much anything you need, is hard to find in countries that they are all rushing to. There is no doubt that new experiences are great for changing our old views and growing in both the private and professional sense. We need to give those young people a choice of staying or leaving.
Here is where Croatian employers enter the story. I would like to emphasize giving a chance to our young Croats to show us what they have to offer. That doesn’t necessarily include, let’s say, three years of experience and specific qualifications. I am the living example of that; a civil engineer working as an account manager. How did that happen? I received support from my current employer and an opportunity to prove myself. I also learned another important factor that differentiates Croatian workplaces and the ones in Western countries and that is a positive work atmosphere.
In conclusion, I’d like to reach out to my peers that are scared to make some drastic changes in their lives. Sometimes it’s necessary to follow your intuition and not identify yourself with the surroundings you grew up in. Nietzsche summed it up very nicely in one of my favorite quotes; “He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.”