One of the moments that stays with Vildana from her time with the Swedish Institute Academy for Young Professionals (SAYP) was an encounter in a Swedish city park. The 28-year-old from Sarajevo had never experienced it before: an elderly woman collecting signatures for a climate change petition.
-I thought it was so selfless, to think about the future of their kids and their grandkids and other people they don’t even know. Honestly, it really moved me to think differently, she says.
According to Vildana, such societal differences make SAYP life-changing.
-It can expand your horizons because you’re experiencing a completely different culture with Sweden, like three hundred sixty degrees from the Western Balkans.
But the junior program officer for a non-profit in Bosnia-Herzegovina was drawn to SAYP and its module on multi-level governance, decentralisation and human rights before discovering the influence of Swedish culture.
-I’m naturally interested in various forms of government and their advantages and disadvantages. And my professional experience is very focused on social cohesion, cooperation between different levels of government and especially human rights issues. Almost from the beginning, SAYP was beyond Vildana’s expectations — starting with the initial online coursework.
-We had very interactive group discussions. We could all share our point of view on the topic that was discussed, real-life examples from our countries and what can be done better. And the in-person learning was engaging.
-The lecturers and people in the organisation really tried their hardest to include as many diverse topics and discussions into our courses and make it a memorable experience.
Yet, Vildana says it was fellow participants that will most affect her work.
-Since I develop project ideas and implement projects in the entire Western Balkans, it’s of great importance to hear about problems faced by people in local communities in all of those countries.
So would she recommend SAYP to others?
-I would definitely encourage young people — not only from the Western Balkans but other countries with access to the SAYP programme — to apply because it’s a valuable and life-changing experience.