10 years in the youth field, countless exchanges and trainings – Gjoko Vukanovski – EVS coordinator, sums up the past decade.
1.How did the world of Erasmus+ drag you in?
When I started my work in the youth field, only Erasmus and Erasmus Mundus existed at the time. It was addressed mostly for students, I was more involved in Youth in Action programme that proceeded Erasmus +. It lasted between 2007 and 2013, which more or less reflects the time of my engagement in that field.
2.How did the programme influence your life?
Probably everything that I am today is because of my involvement. The first time I heard about Youth in Action, it was in 2007. VCS organized an event and back then I was not the part of the team. It was in the municipality of Kisela Voda, the presentation of the programme raised my interest and later on the story continued. I heard about EVS before I heard about Youth in Action and I didn’t even know it was part of it, so my first contact with the youth field was my search for EVS.
3.What were the most rewarding moments of these past 10 years?
I would say two
things. First one: 9 generations of EVS volunteers coming and going, including a few months before they arrive for engagement to ensure their stay here and then 9 or 12 months of their stay. To see them grow up and develop in personal and professional level. This is like to grow 9 generations of flowers. Second rewarding part is at the end of every youth exchange or training course. This feeling after the goodbye party when everything calms down and you start to collect all the papers and materials that were produced there. To say to yourself and to your colleagues: well done. The fact that people were engaged in intercultural activity and that they will take this experience and knowledge back home.
4.How would you sum up this adventure? 10 years in 10 words?
I would say it was kind of wonderful boat ride. It was in the period of my life when I grew the most and those were one of the most productive years in my life. 10 years in this field starting as soon as I graduated from a faculty till now, it reflects a total of my development. If I may sum it up it would be a trip around the world. You get on the ship and what is very important is that you are the captain so you navigate it and after 10 years you make a round. You arrive to the same place where you started and it is a time to get off the boat and let other people ride it.
5.Which values you tried to follow? What was the motto of your work?
It’s also a motto of my life: Don’t let me down, not to let myself down but also other people. In my work I always have plan B and C, not to be surprised and get caught in the situation that you don’t want to be in. Don’t make assumptions, always expect the unexpected, expect everything but nothing from people at the same time.
6.The project you were particularly proud of? The biggest challenge/success?
A few of them, the first three projects that I did in three months. Imagine that, it was a bit challenging, but it was interesting and wonderful experience. I always support learning by doing, you always have to encourage yourself to try to do things. In my opinion you cannot fail when you try because you still get something out of it. I am also proud of one of my last projects, it was a youth exchange last year. We managed to gather together 47 young people facing different kind of fewer opportunities including health issues and disabilities. We put them in one place and time and got an outcome that I will remember till the en
d of my life.
7.Based on your experience and observation, what youth needs nowadays? What are their problems? What is their drive? What did you observe?
Few things, first is losing their interest very fast so that means that all the time, you have to be very dynamic to keep up with their interests. They are amused very fast but they also lose interest quickly. It is problem
atic not only in case of young people but also in the fast world where we live in, we try to catch up with the dynamic tempo which is happening. The other thing especially in Macedonia is the very low level of outreach that we have. Young people that are interested, they get information easy and fast due to developed network and capacities of youth organization in Macedonia. From other point there is a lack of people from rural social areas; organizations need to work more on grass-root level to
make them more attracted. Another thing is that they want so much but offer so less. It’s a bit confusing to be a young person nowadays. When I was growing up there was a visa regime and when you wanted to exit the country you had to pass a lot of obstacles. It was ex
pensive and nowadays you can go out with cheap flights and passport. There are much more possibilities but from the other perspective it may be really confusing. Sometimes having fewer opportunities is not good but also having too many of them doesn’t lead you. One of the challenges is to find their own spot on the sky. If you have too many possibilities it’s harder for you to choose what exactly you want to do in life. I wouldn’t say that they are lazy but they spend time doing unproductive things which in the end they pay the price for. You can be young in your heart forever but your body sometimes tells you something opposite.
8.You were in touch with millennials what do you think about this generation? Can you draw an image?
There is a big difference between people born in 80s, 90s and after 2000 which reflects in every level. Because of the change of social system in the country people born in 80s had the part of former Yugoslavia. People from 90s live in the times completely different than their childhood and people after millennium have nothing to do with 80s or 90s and there is a big gap between them. It’s mostly based on the values, the major problems they face. My teacher, when we celebrated 10 years after finishing high school, she said that in our generation all of us had a domestic culture/education. Nowadays children don’t get it, at least at the end we respected teachers, new generation respects nothing. Based on bad reforms that happened in educational system and changes in the society in the last 15 years, we lost the values that were not put on by someone but were created on their own. Growing up a child after millennium is a very hard task to do because role models disappeared. Your parents are not them anymore, there is a big discrepancy between rich and poor and, all this contributes to lack of norms in the society. When I grew up it was normal to say good morning to every older person and now it’s normal not to say goodbye even to your teacher. All generations have some specifics but the most challenging is this generation. There are too many possibilities and they can get out of the track very easily, the job of youth worker is going to be put on test.
9.How did you inspire young people that crossed your path?
Generally it’s about believing in yourself, to be yourself not to do things for somebody else or for some other reason. Do because you want to be there, adjust yourself to the situation, not everything can be as you want. The world is adopting place, you cannot adopt world to yourself but you can create your own world. To hard work and be self-critical.
10.Why is Erasmus+ programme so important? What are the profits of EVS?
Erasmus is like a bridge, especially for young people coming from different areas and different corners of Europe. It is a possibility thanks to which people can get personal and professional development. What is very important is that it depends on the young people, how they will use this opportunity as it’s a non-formal education. EVS is the only tool in the youth part that brought such results, 9 months is the least amount of time to go through all the stages of your development. You are monitored, you have trainings. To change attitude, opinion or develop in personal/professional aspects you need that time, also to find yourself and clear up some things that you want to do in your life. The benefits are large, how much you can get from it that depends on you.
11.How has Erasmus shaped Europe? How do you see the future of EU and Erasmus?
Europe has grown in a way, people that attend activities have some skills, competences that others are not even aware of. Some are full of prejudices, stereotypes, if you don’t meet a person from the other country how would you know how they are. It met the purpose that it was created for. Learning things and bringing them home, intercultural learning and dialogue, breaking stereotypes, taboos etc. It helped many people to face differences, people that are LGBT met for the first time people from the same community but different in a way. By creating a safe zone and putting them on some higher-level people learn and become more open-minded. I hope the programme will be more open for the countries that are not part of it. Macedonia became a member in 2014 and it made a big difference in the society
12.What are the stories that show transition/change etc.?
We had a situation on Youth Exchange, one person was very religious, he was homophobic and in 10 days he managed to break the stereotype. We had Christians and Muslims, for people it was a bit shocking to meet because they were told only about differences. I was happy about the process that it actually works. Even though the change is not always visible at first because people need time to digest what happened during those days.
13.Why is it so important for people to do exchanges and come back to their countries? What are the benefits?
The world is a global village, there are many things that you learn, there are many things you can bring back home, and there are a variety of possibilities. It is about accepting the reality, when you go out you find out that there are many similarities within the cultures. You realize that European values are not something invented but something based on almost any nation and tradition. The learning experience is fantastic, I had a situation when during youth exchange 3 people were abroad for the first time and those were not the same people anymore, it totally shocked their world. You don’t live anymore in a closed box, you are a part of the larger community and you can contribute to it. It’s about feeling equal.