Anita came to live at the SOS Children’s Villages youth facility in Croatia when she was 15 years old. At that point, her educators became her role models and gave her the confidence she needed to pursue her dreams.
Today, at age 28, Anita speaks about her experience and the opportunities and support she received, and advises young people to do what helped her the most: surround herself with people who believed in her.
“I came to the SOS Children’s Villages youth facility when I was fifteen years old and about to complete the first grade of high school. I made the decision to do so on my own, in response to a difficult family situation I was in. I think that was the best decision I have ever made.
When I moved into the SOS youth home, I felt like a new person. Suddenly, I was free to do everything that any normal teenager wanted to do, everything that I wasn’t allowed to do before. For me, it was a completely new way of life and I can still recall with perfect clarity the elation I felt at being given so much trust and freedom. For me, that trust and freedom carried a profound message: that I was worthy of good things in life.
The educators in the youth facility made the greatest impact on me. We became close and they were my main role models at the time. By observing them, I built a vision of what kind of a person I wanted to become. Their faith in me was like the wind beneath my wings and it gave me the courage to face all the challenges in my path. Conversations with them helped me resolve the dilemma of what I wanted to do in life. The decision was made: I would become a psychologist.
Exploring opportunities beyond the comfort zone
One day, I heard interesting news. The organization United World College offered a scholarship for one young person from SOS Children’s Villages that would allow him or her to complete high school as part of the prestigious International Baccalaureate programme in Costa Rica. I applied for the scholarship and several months later, I was ready for my journey.
After two years of schooling, I earned the International Baccalaureate diploma, which allowed me to enrol in a university programme in the USA and thus fulfil my high school dream. Four years later, I graduated with the BA in Psychology and Philosophy. It was a beautiful, exciting experience, but it was also a challenge, because it pushed me out of my comfort zone constantly. As a result, I grew into a really persistent, tough and resourceful person. I became more sensitive to social responsibility and learned not only to respect, but to truly admire diversity among people. It was a transformational experience that made me discover my own strength and I will carry it with me always.
It also left me feeling eternally grateful and with a need to repay this debt somehow. It’s important to note that I didn’t have just one or several people helping me. Standing behind me was an entire network of people who encouraged me and believed in me even when I didn’t have any faith myself. Standing behind me was an entire system: SOS Children’s Villages and their support that allowed me to live abroad and later, to come back to Croatia to continue my education here.”
Advice for other young people
“Today, I am twenty-eight and I have the MA in Psychology. At the moment, I am interning at a company that specialises in creating opportunities for young people to study and work abroad as a way of discovering and fulfilling their potential. If there is one thing I would like to say to young people who find themselves in circumstances similar to my own, I would say that no person can be reduced to who they are right at this moment: every each one of them is also an amalgam of all the wonderful things that he or she is capable of becoming. And that is why it is so important to surround yourself with people who believe in you – people who treat you like the person you have the potential to become. Sometimes, that’s all anybody needs to bravely begin the work of becoming his or her best self.”