For a group of young Europeans, the future is mysterious; unknown. But it is also full of room for exploration, adventures and childhood dreams. The participants at our  "Do you speak European?" workshop interviewed each other on their future life plans - here, we introduce you to five of them.

"I don't believe in Love"

Written by Jose Luis Villalta

Do you know the kind of conformist who does nothing but complain about life? Cristina Sologon, a 24-year-old from Romania, is just the opposite of that.

When we were asked to create a poster about the most important things in our lives, she came up with a folded paper boat on which precise symbols of her life had been drawn. From that moment, I knew that I was dealing with a special person.

Cristina grew up in a modest family, but she was always the best during her academic years. She is still the best in her job in Bucarest, where she works as an IT Consultant. Although she was very focused on her education, she managed to make a bunch of close friends, who are still an important part of her life.

Photo: Kliefi (CC-NC-SA)
Cristina thinks that true love is a loooong shot now, but who knows what the future holds for her?

Not only has she been a brilliant student but she has also been involved in volunteering projects. Non-conformism has always been one of the principles in her life, and she analyses thoroughly what she wants to do and what she does not need. Cristina is not afraid of the future; actually, she is quite optimistic about it. As soon as she gets some expertise in her field, she will hopefully set up her own business as a freelancer. It seems to be the perfect match in order to fulfil two of her passions: travelling around the world and a successful and meaningful career. This beautiful and smart girl has a well-defined roadmap, but she is still absolutely open to suggestions. What is more, Cristina is aware of the fact that expectations are not always met, and she keeps her mind open in the case of need. Nevertheless, travelling and meeting people from different cultures is non-negotiable for her. Even though she does not believe in love now, she has fallen in love in the past. In her opinion, love is somewhat overrated in these times: it can just be an illusion rather than a true feeling. In the coming years, someone will see a magnificent boat on the seas, and there will be the Captain Cristina and their children (according to her, 2, hopefully) travelling their way around the world. She may not believe in love now, but she will someday.

How to be happy

Written by Suzy Duggan

"Smiling is the starting point for life," Sezin tells me, a twinkle in her eye. It comes as no surprise: she is always laughing. Her idea of graffiti art is covering university desks with smiley faces. When I ask her what it is that makes her smile, she mentions two of life's fundamentals: food - specifically the traditional dishes of the regions she visits on her travels - and love - Sezin has been with her boyfriend Emre since she was 17, and says that she always feels happy in his company. It's understandable - he is very handsome, as everyone agrees.

When Sezin isn't laughing too hard to concentrate, she is immersed in the study of politics, a subject that she is passionate about. Although she originally planned on psychology as a career, lessons at school soon changed her mind, and she chose instead to do a bachelor's degree in political science and public administration. These days she's engaged in writing her master's thesis in Eurasian Studies, focussing on the process of nation building in Azerbaijan. In her view, politics is not something one chooses to be part of, for everyone in the world is affected by it. Of course, not everyone chooses to read politics at university, and Sezin's decision to do so was informed not only by the conviction that it is hugely significant, but also by the situation in her home country. Turkish politics, she says, is problematic and fast-changing, as well as being particularly complicated by Turkey's global position as a bridge between Europe and the Middle East. This has greatly encouraged her interest in the subject.

Photo: Vincent van der Pas (CC-SA)
"But right now I want to be free," says Sezin Senturk from Turkey

However, Sezin has no desire to become a politician, though that may come as a disappointment to those of us who see this intelligent and altruistic young woman as an excellent candidate for head of state. She feels that a political career would directly oppose her deeply felt humanitarianism, taking the view that as politicians are always compelled to compromise, some members of their state will always be affected negatively by their actions. In hindsight, Nick Clegg would probably agree. Of course, Sezin has political ideas that she would love to see accomplished, but she believes that realistically, this would be near impossible due to the power relations that dominate politics.

Sezin has considered any number of alternative career paths, and one option would be to become a government official in Turkey. This would relate well to the public administration aspect of her bachelor's degree. Certainly she has a genuine fascination for her homeland, and she aims to travel to all the states of Turkey, especially the Kurdish regions of the East, so as to gain a deeper understanding of Turkey's varied local culture and traditions.

But Sezin's heart is set on academia, and it seems most likely that this will be her eventual choice of career. She comes from a highly academic family: her father is an aerospace engineer, while her mother is a music professor at Ankara university, and her brother is studying for a PhD in music technology, in Barcelona. Sezin would love to join him there, working on her own PhD.

Music seems to run in the family's veins, Sezin included. She is a keen flautist, and music is a crucial part of her life. She advises against learning music from family members, however, remarking that her mother's frequent disappearances into the kitchen to check on the cooking were perhaps less than beneficial to her elementary piano education.

When it comes to family members, Sezin's ambitions have changed somewhat since childhood: as a little girl she always dreamt of having a twin sister, but nowadays a husband and children are perhaps higher on her list of priorities. Ideally, she would like a son and a daughter, just as she and her brother are to her parents. "Not too soon, though," she adds. "It's too early to get married. At 28, maybe, but right now I want to be free."

Only practice makes perfect

Written by Przemysław Jóźwik

During the "Do you speak European?" workshop we were asked to draw on paper our life plan for the future. Laura Onița was almost the only person who tackled it with real passion: at first she made a sketch with a pencil and then she drew a direct path of her future in the next 15 years, marking every important event precisely. She has wanted to be a journalist since she was a little girl. And she is on the best way to becoming one.

When I asked her why she decided to study in the UK, which is more than 2000 km from her home in Sebeș, Romania, she looked straight at me and told me: "I just like taking risks."

"I'd never thought before about studying abroad," she continued, "until one time when a lady came to our high school and simply told us about such a possibility." It wasn't a difficult choice for her. Laura is determined to do her best to become a good journalist and studying at the Anglia Ruskin University with its practical programme is obviously a good step.

Laura is already an experienced journalist - she writes for many media platforms. And she was a correspondent at the International Theatre Festival/Fesitvalul International de Teatru de la Sibiu last year. She says that writing is not only her hobby but also her life. Actually, everything she does is associated with writing.

Photo: huffstutterrobertl (CC-NC)
"When I am in Romania and I put on my favourite old pair of shoes, I find that they still fit perfectly." 

When you are so involved in doing what you love, you always need to be prepared for difficult sacrifices. It is not easy to live about 2000 km away from home. In a different country, with a different culture, a different people, a different level of economic development, even if you speak English perfectly - as Laura does - life must be difficult. She obviously misses her family and her boyfriend. Of course, people in UK are polite and friendly to her but it is not her home and it will never be. For example, at the very beginning she used to greet by kissing on both cheeks - just as she would do in Romania - but English people found it rather strange, so she had to stop.

"When I am in Romania and I put on my favourite old pair of shoes and find that they still fit perfectly, then I feel totally comfortable and I have a great sense of familiarity," she puts it metaphorically. But she is an extremely persistent and consistent person. She knows what she wants and is doing everything to get it. It is difficult but it is the only way to be a good journalist. "I just have to remember to get married," she jokes, with a smile on her beautiful heart-shaped face.

Laura Onița is a responsible dreamer. I have known her for just a couple of days and I have already learned a lot from her. She wants to establish her own magazine called "The Story Teller,"  to interview her favourite journalist Gene Weingarten and to finish her Master Studies in the USA. When I asked her what her best article is going to be about, she answered that she doesn't know yet, but she will find out. And I am sure she will.

The dreams of the strong woman

written by Kristi Hodak 

I'm staring at Beyza's poster; I tilt my head and try to look professional. As a visual artist I should discover all the hidden meanings in even the most hidden visual symbols that Beyza Sarıkoç, a 23-year-old girl from Turkey, has drawn to represent her "so-called" future.

I see a green pine tree. A happy family. And a rainbow peace flag. Harmony? Maybe resistance? The wish to find a pine tree in the centre of Berlin? I need words. And an explanation. Three months of intensive listening at graphic design lectures obviously weren't enought. I need a story.

Firstly I would like to know about the profound meaning of the dark tree-tops. Nothing - green is her favourite colour. I could guess that; she's wearing a green sweater. Next: Flag. Family. Suddenly the power of story defeats coloured drawings.

Beyza is finishing her studies in political science and public administration in Ankara at the moment. Usually she gets up in the morning to study, then she calls her family, who live in her hometown of Aydin, and heads off to have lunch with her boyfriend. After lunch she goes to a nongovermental organisation and works with her friends. Then she comes back to her apartment. She turns on the TV. Everyday, she's angered by news about a man killing his wife, or about the problems caused by strong traditions and patriarchy. Beyza has high aims: "We need to change women's position in Turkish society. Changing laws isn't enough, we need to go deeper, start at the roots. With education and bringing up children from the very beginning. The mentality of the traditional part of Turkey should be changed."

Photo: craftivist-collective (CC-NC)
In Beyza's future, she will make sure women have a voice. 

She has a plan and her plan isn't sitting at home doing nothing.

When I ask her how she imagines a normal Monday in ten years, she smiles, looks at the ceiling and thinks for a moment. She answers me slowly, considering each word.

In ten years, Beyza will wake up very early in the morning, so she will manage to finish all the work that she sets to herself. She will eat a healthy breakfast and at eight she will already be sitting on a black chair in a new renovated office at the Institute for Women's Rights. During her lunch break, she will continue working on her PhD research - with the new job she will finally be able to afford it. At four o'clock in the afternoon she will hurry home to her lovely little family. During dinner she will hear familiar knockings at the front door. Without complaining she will leave the table and welcome women who come to ask her for help with their problems. They will trust her. They will speak loudly together, on TV, radio and in newspapers.

"People need to know and hear about the suffering and problems that this woman deal with every day. They need to face the fact that this is not the way it should be."

It is the determination in her eyes that convinces me that Beyza isn't going to forget about her aims. Not now, nor in ten years.

I wonder where her point of view comes from? Has she got it from her family? "No. My family is still a bit traditional. They support my studies, but they want me to work in national institutions. I could get a promotion there and a high salary. But it's not the money that I care about," she said. 

I glance at Beyza's picture. I tilt my head and try to look professional. As a visual artist I should discover all hidden meanings in even the most hidden visual symbols. But as a journalist and as a person I'm now able to see so much more. There is her family sitting around the table. They are all smiling. There's no smell of patriarchy and you can feel peace and satisfaction. I'm talking about Beyza's future.

Madalina thinks a lot

Madalina is scared of the dark and spiders. And spiders in the dark. She thinks this is a primordial fear, and in one of the first discussions we had in Berlin, we spent about fifteen minutes trying to find out an explanation for her phobia. Yes, Madalina thinks a lot.

She likes being called Mad and enjoys her name precisely because "even if it's long, it can be used in a short form." She is 24 years old, was born in Bucharest, and has a 25 year old brother called Catalin.

- Is this last thing important for the profile? - I doubt it. She doubts too. "Well, it is if you consider social timetables. He is already married."

Yes, Madalina thinks a lot.

Photo: dmachiavello (CC-NC-SA)
Urgh! Social timetables do not make sense. Where is the surprise?!

She is concerned about social timetables because she thinks people tend to plan their lives under social pressures. This can create an unfair feeling of failure that Mad wants to avoid by creating her own timetables. So her brother's marital status doesn't really matter. 

The "Mad timetable" says that she should marry a guy after dating him for two years, though. This is because after that time, the couple already knows each other's virtues and flaws. Marriage means accepting both of them, whereas not having reached the "accepting point," which means there is something wrong in the relationship. Something that will probably get worse. 

Yes, Madalina thinks a lot.

She is actually half way through the two-year-rule with her boyfriend, a Spanish boy that she met during her Erasmus semester in Barcelona. Madalina doesn't include him when asked about the future, but only because "it's cheesy."

Instead, she draws a map of Brussels, the city where she wants to work; money that represents her desire to be independent from her family and a little class that symbolises how she wants to organise workshops about cultural diplomacy.

Madalina also draws a surprised face that looks a little bit like Casper, the friendly ghost, but it is actually supposed to be from "Scream," the movie. "This is because I want to be surprised in life," she says. Like when she got to Berlin and found out that it is in fact much more like the East than she had thought.

Thinking about her surprised future, Madalina sees it as a tree. The trunk represents the characteristics she wants to keep, like being open minded. Or open minded enough to be surprised to see the different options, but still keep the characteristics in her trunk.

Yes, Madalina thinks a lot.

This can be hard if people end up considering you too serious or a freak, but Madalina keeps a balance that makes her able to get on well with people from all backgrounds. As people notice from the bright colors she wears, she is a very cheerful person. So after all, Madalina also knows when she doesn't need to think so much.

She uses the metaphor of the "concentric circles" to represent these different levels of thought with friends. The people in the outside circle are those that you can talk to about the weather, while with those in the core circle, you can talk as much about weather as you can about the theory of relativity. Like Google+, except for the fact that Madalina came up with it first.

It seems that if you want to be part of the core circle in Mad's life, you need to like cats, though. Hers is big and is called Pisu Mare, which means "big cat" in Romanian. So, after all, at least once, Madalina didn't think so much.

Teaser photo: Flickr/alaig(CC-NC-SA)

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This project is financed with support from the European Union through the program YOUTH IN ACTION. The content of this project does not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union or the national agency JUGEND für Europa and they cannot be held responsible for them.

IN -1131 DAYS