How Croatian Youth Can Change Lives and Shape Minds with Erasmus+ Projects

Total Croatia News

 February 17, 2020 – There are many opportunities for young Croatians to broaden their horizons, which are not being fully utilised. A look at Erasmus +.

Even though Croatia has been part of the European Union for almost seven years, many of its citizens have yet to realize the full potential of all the programs the EU has in store for us. The young are probably familiar with the Erasmus+, which is organized between Universities and which allows them to spend the semester or a year abroad. The problem with many Faculties in Croatia is that it gives very limited options to its students when it comes to subsidizing their subjects, and most of them, in the end, decide not to go. The reason behind it is that they would probably have to redo the year at their home University.

But, there is an option for students with the limited time that would like to experience traveling abroad, exchanging cultural similarities and differences with their peers, and still learn something new and useful. It’s called the Erasmus+ project, and it seems to be taking Europe by storm. The same cannot be said for Croatia, though, where there are not as many NGOs that are actively working on connecting the youth with the projects offered.

Let’s start with the introduction and explanation of what an Erasmus+ project is. It is part of the larger, Erasmus+ program comprised of various plans related to education, training, youth, and sports. At the beginning of the decade, the European Commission was trying to find the solution to the growing problem of unemployment, particularly among young people. Their way of combating the challenge was to ensure that the young are getting skills that are not only explicitly related to their University education but rather will endure through all the hardships of the future.

One of the hardships Europe dealt with from 2014 onwards was the influx of migrants coming from disadvantaged backgrounds and, by creating this chain of projects, they managed to raise the youth that is more understanding and has a higher sense of belonging to a community no matter how much that community differs from the one they were raised in. Other than that, the goal was to raise the youth willing to fight for what they stand for, and that is courageous enough to participate in society and the creation of democratic Europe actively.

They managed to do it by creating a well-organized education and training system which provided people with skills required by the labour market and the economy of the 21st century, pushing them to play an active role in society and, in the end, achieving personal fulfillment. Its first round started in 2014 and was supposed to end by the end of this year but will instead be extended for another seven years. All the projects were funded from the European Commission budget. The 14.7 million euros were used to pay for the accommodation and food for the participants as well as people in charge of the project, and realization of the project itself. The new round is projected to cost the European Commission more than 3 billion euros.

Fortunately enough, there are groups of people in Croatia that are using their own private time and resources in order to notify the youth of all the projects. One of them is Mateo Papić, co-founder and president of the NGO Institute of Youth Power Croatia, which was established in February of 2018. People that helped start it were Karla Silic, Dea Botica, and Leo Bartolec.

When asked how he came up with the idea of founding a non-government organization whose purpose will be to connect young Croatians with passion for previously mentioned causes and Erasmus+, Mateo was quick to answer.

“I had been on a few projects with the informal youth group from 2016 to 2018, and in the beginning, it was all about fun and getting experience from various people all around Europe. Somewhere around the end of 2017, a friend of mine, Leo, asked me to take the leadership of the informal group, and I took a challenge upon myself. Even though there were some difficulties in the beginning, few people decided to drop out, and in the end, it was all left on my shoulders, near the end of 2018, the NGO really kicked off. The Institut of Youth Power Croatia was born.”

In the meantime, Mateo used all of his free time to participate in projects, learn about the Erasmus+ itself and meet a lot of people from all sides of Europe. He used that experience to connect with various other organizations, and that is how other members of IYP started participating in projects.

When it comes to explaining why his peers are not following his lead, he says Croatians don’t have a mentality of going to projects and then, upon return, promoting it to their friend as something educational. Instead, most Croatians are focused on the destination and the fact that Erasmus+ projects are also famous for their parties.

“One of the key reasons I was eager to start working on developing the organization even further is the fact that it gives a fantastic platform for all the participants. One of the policies we have in our organization is that every participant has to write an honest review of the project. Then we promote it through our social media, and more people see how amazing it is to participate. “

Another problem is the lack of understanding from high-school and college professors when it comes to absences students collect during the time of the project. Once teachers become more lenient, and students realize that it is better to spend an absence on the project than on a coffee with a friend, the Erasmus+ projects will see more Croatians actively participating.

“Last year alone, we send over 150 people on projects and seminars. Seminars are great for people who want to write their own project and create an even more significant impact on the European community.”

In the end, Mateo talked about some of his goals and how he sees himself in the next few years.

“There have been some rumors which suggest organizers of the NGOs might be getting paid in the next phase, starting from 2021. That would give us an amazing head start and could be helpful when trying to construct some projects for the participants to come to us. Just last week we submitted an application for five projects with our partners and friends from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Armenia and Bulgaria. We really hope some of them might get selected. That would put our organization on the map with other successful organizations in Europe. Our motto is always striving for the best and highest goals and not giving up until we get there. This can be achieved only happen if every single one of us thinks for themselves and decides what they deem necessary enough to put all the effort into.”

Whether it is due to meeting new people from different parts of Europe and, thus, often entirely new cultures, working on oneself and contemporary skills, or just free traveling, one thing is for sure, those that go and experience an Erasmus+ projects, fall in love with it entirely.

The motto of the Erasmus+ is changing lives and shaping minds. It perfectly illustrates all the benefits of participating. If you want to join and learn about yourself as well as about different European cultures and also have fun on the way, check the new webpage Institut of Youth Power Croatia and change your life.

And if you want to know more about the Erasmus+ guidelines and program guide, you can check out their official webpage.




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