Ljubica, you are a freelancer and a home-based teacher and translator/interpreter. What made you want to work for yourself only? How did you get the idea for it?
Being a freelancer in the Balkans is not an easy task and it requires a lot of explaining to people around you. Unfortunately, even though freelancing in any job field is rather profitable and well-paid in most countries, this is not the case for Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. I have a lot of prejudice to face with, because family and friends do not precisely understand what self-employment means. It is hard for them to imagine I would rather sit at my laptop and teach via Skype or give private lessons than work for example in a primary school. Translating and interpreting are a bit easier, but the other everyday tasks I have are just something people are not used to around here.
You have your own website that besides your professional skills promotes your passion for writing poetry and prose. Can you tell us a little bit about these interests and how it relates to your work?
The idea of a website appeared completely by accident, as I got an offer to write travel blog posts, and needed my own virtual space to promote my work. I already had a Facebook page where I wrote poems and short quotes from my so called novel that has never been finished, and then I just turned it into photo material for Instagram and my website and one thing led to another. Now I use it to promote my work with and for blind and visually impaired children who study English as a second/foreign language, tutoring, advising, translation and interpreting but also for the promotion of my creative work. Of course, this would have never been possible without the enormous help of people who showed me and keep teaching me every day how to manage working online and posting content on the Internet, since modern technologies are not really my thing – I’m more of a pen and paper type of a girl 🙂
Your work with the blind and visually impaired students started with your Masters thesis. How did you get the idea to publish it and how did things develop after that?
The idea of publishing has always been very attractive in my professional field, so after publishing a few scientific papers related to this topic as well as others, in 2016. I published an extended version of my Masters thesis, written entirely in English. I was surprised how well it was accepted, so right now I’m negotiating with The Center for blind and visually impaired children and youth from Sarajevo to publish a version in our mother tongue (i.e. Bosnian, Croatian, Serbia) as well as in Braille. The idea is to make my research available not just for teachers of English, but everyone working with blind and visually impaired children, and even the children themselves. So all in all after the initial disappointment of how blind and visually impaired students are treated in Balkan schools I can say that things seem to be learning to a more positive side right now.
What was the most valuable experience you have had since you started this journey?
I wish I could say there is a positive experience, but in a way I am glad that it is not. I am not really used to getting things easily and without problems and complications, so most of the things I’ve learned and achieved so far in this field are precious just because they came to me the hard way. My greatest disappointment was the lack of hope and interest of people around me, especially colleagues I worked with, for the problems of visually impaired students. People who taught them longer than I had, could only advise me to give them fewer tasks and lessons to learn, as well as to be satisfied with lower grades. They assumed the students would be happy just to pass and that was supposed to be good enough for me, too. However, for me, nothing is ever good enough.
Where do you see yourself and the projects you work on in the next five years?
If luck serves me, well, I hope to be somewhere close to the finish line of my PhD (if I start soon), and that my work and projects and cooperation with EYA and institutions in Bosnia will bring great changes in the life and education of the blind and visually impaired students. So that theory and practice in schools in the Balkans finally show he same results and not just be a dead piece of paper with rules and standards that no one actually respects and follows.
You have participated in EYA projects and been and Ambassador for Croatia and Bosnia for a couple of years now. What do you expect from this year’s entries for the European Youth Award?
I entered the EYA team also by accident and plan to continue to support them as much as I can, since they also support me. As all the previous years, I expect this year’s entries, evens and hackathons to be a success once again. Also, hopefully even more people will join us and work with us to see the beauty and advantages of social innovation and the projects we support.
What would you like to say to all the young social entrepreneurs and the EYA community?
You should never settle down for anything less than what you want. It is not always going to be easy to work what you want and get what you want, and at most times it will not get you any money or profit, nor success, but it will give you internal satisfaction and strength to keep pushing your way. That is what happiness is all about.