Croatian Graduate Perspective: The View from Young Pilot Stjepan in Novska

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Stjepan in Novska
Stjepan in Novska

With many young people emigrating from Croatia, what keeps those who decided to stay (at least for now)?

The emigration of young people from Croatia in search of better business opportunities and living standards, unfortunately, is a well-known story. Each of us young people in Croatia knows at least a few people from their environment who, at one point, said that enough was enough and decided to seek happiness somewhere abroad.

According to official Eurostat data, from 2015 to 2019, Croatia’s population decreased by 4.26 inhabitants per 1,000 citizens only thanks to emigration. Therefore, the Croatian emigration rate is the second-worst in the European Union (after Lithuania).

These data indicate that economic prosperity influences population decisions to emigrate. Besides, due to the exodus of the young and working population, there is an additional reduction in GDP per capita that closes the cycle of poverty and decline in Croatia.

However, there are many who are aware of the poor position of young people in Croatia but still do not want to give up and decide to stay in Croatia. We’re wondering what do those young people, recent graduates, think about this whole situation and what are their reasons for staying in Croatia.

We continue our series with Stjepan from Novska, the most western Slavonian town.

First of all, please introduce yourself. What are you studying/what did you study? Do you have a job currently?

Hello, I am glad that you hosted me in this interview. It is a great honor to be part of a series of interviews where young people’s voice is heard. My name is Stjepan, I currently live in Zagreb, and I am studying at the graduate study of aeronautics at the Faculty of Transport and Traffic Sciences in Zagreb. I am attending my last semester before I become a master’s engineer in aeronautics. Along with college, I also completed civilian pilot training. I am not actively employed at the moment; I do some student work here and there.

What is it like being a student/recent graduate in Croatia during this coronavirus time?

Being a Croatian student during the coronavirus pandemic has become a bit more complicated. Although the faculty managed to organize almost all the exercises virtually, many projects do not hold precisely because of the coronavirus pandemic. Also, although students are not deprived of Erasmus programs and professional internships, they are deprived of the quality of the same. I believe that live and virtual internships are totally different. You can learn more by going to some of the institutions or companies within Europe.


Heart-shaped Croatian island of Galešnjak – just one of many Croatian beautiful landscapes Stjepan sees during his flights

What are your experiences searching for a job in your profession in Croatia?

I have not yet started looking for a job in the profession. Still, listening to older colleagues’ experiences, I can conclude that the aviation and air transport industry was booming until 2019 before the pandemic hit Europe. While now, the industry is practically still on its knees. Some experts predict that the industry will return to the old way only in 2024, but that depends on many factors involved in the story. I plan to graduate in the autumn of this year, so my hopes of finding a job in the profession right after graduating from college are very low.

What do you think of the Croatian Government’s efforts to provide opportunities for graduates?

The Government is already helping enough because every state faculty in Croatia is free, and tuition fees for full-time students are financed from taxpayers’ money. But, of course, it can always be better. Therefore, I also think that the Government should support entrepreneurs financially and develop various support programs to scout gifted students in the lower years of college to offer internships or employment on a student contract in their firms. Of course, taking into account the needs for future staff and that the employee is a student from the appropriate industry.

Many young people your age decide to emigrate from Croatia to find a better job opportunity and/or life standard. What do you think about it?

People have always emigrated from these areas for reasons and priorities known only to them. While I was finishing high school, emigrating abroad just became “in.” Then I thought that only people who were less educated or could not make ends meet here in Croatia emigrated, or those who had completed schools for industries that practically and do not exist in Croatia today anymore. Later, it grew into a search for a state with a higher standard of living and reduced bureaucracy. While today, a growing share is made up of highly educated people. Worst of all, I’ll probably be one of them one day too.


The confluence of the Cetina River and the Adriatic Sea in Omiš

In your opinion, what would encourage young people to stay in Croatia?

Reducing nepotism and corruption, better government and employment policies, lower taxes, attracting foreign capital or money from investment funds for project development or start-up industries. Also, the problem of young people in Croatia is solving the housing issue.

Have you ever considered moving out of Croatia and why?

Yes, I have. I would be lying if I said I haven’t. After all, my profession’s nature is such that it expects me to be a worldly man. But there were also thoughts of leaving based on the state of affairs in the state itself.

As a recent graduate, what is your impression of the education system in Croatia? What do you think is good about it and what could be better?

I think that Croatia’s education system is good, and the grade I would give is 3 or 4, in between. I believe that some things are taught too broadly and that it is ok for primary school. However, in high school, it should be corrected. The compulsory subjects that everyone must have should be determined, and students should choose the rest according to their preferences or psychological tests. About college education, I believe it produces top professionals who can match the world. But unlike the world, too much remains on theory, and, as I mentioned earlier, more practice needs to be introduced.

Based on your own experience, can you say that everything is possible in Croatia if you work hard, work on yourself, are educated and ambitious?

This quote may sound cynical and worn out, but I would like to quote Sylvester Stallone from the Rocky Balboa movie: “It’s not about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward.”

And I think that quote is valid, especially for Croatia. The only problem is that they never stop “hitting” you here, hahaha. But, yes, if someone has a strong enough motive, they can finish whatever they want. But whether he will succeed and find or get the desired job in the profession or a job in the profession in general, that is the story for another interview.


Stjepan says the aviation and air transport industry is on its knees now, making it uncertain for him to find a job

If you could change only one thing in Croatia, what would it be, and why do you think it’s important?

That Croatia ceases to be just a country for a good vacation but to become much more than that. Those who read this sentence with understanding will understand the message.

As a young Croatian, what are you most proud of in Croatia?

I am most proud of the country’s natural beauty and the people. I had the opportunity to travel throughout Europe, and I have never met people like us. Ready to help a stranger on the street, most people speak a foreign language or at least try to express it. Oh yes, and unity. The unity of my people when it matters and when people need help. That’s usually that short period when we don’t quarrel with each other to the point of blood about politics, haha.

Are you optimistic or pessimistic about the future of Croatia, and will it be a better or worse place for your children?

I would say I am optimistic. The situation is bad, and I don’t know if it will change soon. I believe that you should always go forward and do good in life, and I think that not much can be achieved by going back and pointing fingers.

Also, I believe that a great unity of the people is needed, which is currently undermined by distrust in this country’s governing structures. That distrust has fallen on fertile ground and is flooded every day with a new number of people who sat in a vehicle and left their homeland forever.

And about the future when I’ll have children, it will be good for them only if I create the necessary conditions for that. That is why I believe that it is our responsibility to create a better future.


Are you a student or recent graduate who would like to contribute your voice and experiences to this series? If yes, please contact [email protected] with the subject “Graduate.”

To read more from the Croatian Graduate Perspective series, follow TCN’s dedicated page.


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