Countries: Russia, Italy
Year of Return: 2017
LISTEN TO THE INTERVIEW
CAREER PROSPECTS WEREN’T PROMISING
Jelena took a few part-time jobs while studying.
She thought of staying abroad, but the prospects
weren’t looking good as she was not ready to
take low paying jobs in Moscow only to avoid
living in Serbia. She didn’t know Italian that well
to stay in Italy either. The return was a somewhat
DEVELOPING A SAFETY NET(WORK)
She was aware that her peers will have a competitive edge of a
professional network they have built during their studies in Serbia.
Therefore she was mindfully taking any opportunity to volunteer and
connect with people every time she returned to Serbia. This also
made her up to date with trends in social life in Belgrade so she can
easily reintegrate upon the return.
After graduating from the Philological High School in Belgrade, Jelena applied for master’s studies in Moscow, where she spent four years as a student. During this time, she learned the language and had the opportunity to gain hands-on experience through working in the media. After graduation, Jelena started a one-year master’s program in Milan, where she studied in a multicultural environment. Her return after graduation was not entirely certain, but in 2016 she returned home to Pancevo.
Fear of returning and building a network of business contacts
When she had to make the decision to return to Serbia, Jelena felt great uncertainty at the time because she had no plan and did not know what she was returning to. On the other hand, she did not want to stay abroad just for the sake of it and do a job she did not love, just so she would not live in Serbia. The fears that overwhelmed her also related to the issue of relationships – she wondered if she would be able to connect with people in her professional sphere. In order not to lose her connection with people in Serbia, during her stay abroad, Jelena always found herself engaging in various festivals, volunteering and taking courses. In this way, she was able to meet a lot of people and keep up with the events in Serbia. Jelena felt uncertain about everything she acquired abroad (knowledge, diplomas, experience), as she feared her skills would not be applicable and recognized in Serbia. Despite these doubts, she decided to return to Serbia and to pack up 4-5 years of living abroad in several suitcases.
Arrival to Serbia
When she came to Serbia, everyone asked her why she had returned, referring to her return as something negative, a step back. This kind of "welcome" renewed her sense of doubt, so she herself began to wonder why. However, when she came to Belgrade, she felt a kind of freedom. To avoid the hustle and bustle she finds frustrating, she now goes everywhere on foot, and the administrative obligations that awaited her on return were resolved by the principle of "you’re on your own". Serbia’s administrative roads seemed like a boring path that she had to follow.
When she returned to Serbia, Jelena felt as if she did not have any documents, as if she didn’t belong to any social category. She was not registered with the unemployment bureau and was not employed. When she needed to get a public transport ticket, she didn’t know what category she belonged to. It was the same with a healthcare card that she could not have authenticated because her parents were unemployed at the time. Jelena did not even have an index (university attendance booklet) based on which she could get health insurance, so she did not have health care for a while. When she came to apply for the unemployment bureau, the woman who worked there was trying to find a profile that suited Jelena’s education, but there was no such profile at the bureau in Serbia, so she was told to write either that she was unemployed or that she was a consultant. Such trifles confused and annoyed Jelena, as she did not want to choose the category to which she did not belong. When the diploma was validated, she was lucky at that point, as the NARIC Center set out to validate diplomas. However, she also encountered a problem – her diploma was recognized for her employment in Serbia, but if she wanted to continue her studies, her diploma would need to go through yet another acknowledgement procedure.
Friendships and the issue of identity
When Jelena returned to Serbia, she had to go back to the old foundations she had before leaving, that is, to return to old friendships from high school. All of Jelena’s old friends already had some new friends they had made during their studies, and the friends she herself had made in the same way had remained abroad. When she was little, she lived with her grandmother in a house in a village, then, as a girl, she moved to Pancevo for a short time, finished high school in Belgrade and attended university in a different country – always expanding the boundaries. All the important people she knows are spread out in different places, and that is why she wonders where her home even is.
The process of employment
Jelena had quite bad experiences when looking for a job. Many employers called her for interviews because of good references, but she was told during the interview that she had not had enough experience and had yet to gain it. She had the feeling that she was starting from scratch and that nobody cared about fresh graduates. She believes that some old business principles are still maintained in Serbia and that there is still little openness to the world. Jelena talked to people from her area and everyone, because of her knowledge of Russian, referred her to a major company with Russian speaking staff, so she found an internship there, but was proactive and always kept her options open. Currently, Jelena is satisfied with her job in Belgrade because she works in an international organization, so she doesn’t feel like she is living in Belgrade only. This bond between the two worlds and the bread scope of everyday work and engagement feels good.
Plans for the future
Jelena thinks that Belgrade is a beautiful and homey, but saturated city – it feels like there is too much of everything in it (without the much-needed urban planning for example), too many people, too much traffic, too many cars on the streets. The situation in the city and the country gives her the impression of stagnant air that people are used to and therefore do not notice as much, and a person who has been elsewhere, and has returned, feels the need to air it out. Currently, she does not want to leave Belgrade again and feels at ease about where she is now. At the same time, Moscow and Milan are places she can call home, as well. In the future, she may return to Russia, Italy or discover a completely new place, but only when she becomes an expert in an area of work so that she can find a good job there. She would like to gain more business experience and does not rule out the possibility of leaving Serbia or returning again, because she thinks that people can move and not be rooted to one place, should always explore options and have choice.’