Croatian Graduate Perspective: The View from Jelena in Split

Jelena in Split
Jelena in Split Private Archive

April 3, 2021 – Continuing our Croatian Graduate Perspective series with Jelena in Split, explaining her experience in finding a job in a profession that has been in short supply in Croatia – speech and language therapy. "My colleagues have relatively positive experiences if they are in smaller places, but if it is a larger city, it is much harder to get a job," says Jelena. This is her full story.

With many young people emigrating from Croatia, what keeps those who decided to stay (at least for now)?

The emigration of young people from Croatia in search of better business opportunities and living standards, unfortunately, is a well-known story. Each of us young people in Croatia knows at least a few people from their environment who, at one point, said that enough was enough and decided to seek happiness somewhere abroad.

According to official Eurostat data, from 2015 to 2019, Croatia's population decreased by 4.26 inhabitants per 1,000 citizens only thanks to emigration. Therefore, the Croatian emigration rate is the second-worst in the European Union (after Lithuania).

These data indicate that economic prosperity influences population decisions to emigrate. Besides, due to the exodus of the young and working population, there is an additional reduction in GDP per capita that closes the cycle of poverty and decline in Croatia.

However, there are many who are aware of the poor position of young people in Croatia but still do not want to give up and decide to stay in Croatia. We're wondering what do those young people, recent graduates, think about this whole situation and what are their reasons for staying in Croatia?

We continue our series with Jelena from the Dalmatian capital - Split.

First of all, please introduce yourself. What are you studying/what did you study? Do you have a job currently? 

My name is Jelena, and I come from Split. I have a master's degree in speech and language therapy, and I'm currently working in Zagreb, where I also studied.

What is it like being a student/recent graduate in Croatia during this coronavirus time?

I think this is a pretty weird year, both for studying and for looking for your first job. I believe that the transition from college to work was a bit easier for me, considering that my profession has mostly been in short supply for at least some time in Croatia. On the other hand, I see that many of my friends are still struggling to find a job in their profession.


What are your experiences searching for a job in your profession in Croatia?

My experience is quite good because as a student, I worked in the institution where I still work, but in a different position. After my studies, they decided to hire me as a speech and language therapist. That's why I can't really talk about some job search experience because everything went in some logical sequence. On the other hand, my colleagues have relatively positive experiences if they are in smaller places, but if it is a larger city, it is much harder to get a job.

What do you think of the Croatian Government's efforts to provide opportunities for graduates?

Croatia is relatively insensitive to unemployment and youth employment problems in general, so nothing was different with our generation. We [speech and language therapists] first do an internship before the first employment. This year, the Croatian Government passed provisions that do not announce competitions for internships, which puts us in a very difficult position.

Many young people your age decide to emigrate from Croatia to find a better job opportunity and/or life standard. What do you think about it?

I think that most young people who leave Croatia do so with heavy hearts, leaving their family and friends there, but unfortunately aware and probably disappointed in the system they're in. A couple of job competitions are enough to make us aware of how things work, and when you go through that for months and years, I believe they have no other options left.


In your opinion, what would encourage young people to stay in Croatia?

I think that young people in Croatia would initially be encouraged by much greater employment opportunities. And then with much greater incentives to buy real estate, incentives to start a family, lower tax burdens, which are less than the rest of the country, but it is still too little.

Have you ever considered moving out of Croatia and why?

When I was younger, I was attracted to the idea of going and living somewhere outside of my country, but right now, it's the last thing I can imagine. On the other hand, never say never.

As a recent graduate, what is your impression of the education system in Croatia? What do you think is good about it and what could be better?

The education system in Croatia is very outdated and is changing very slowly. I think we start from the wrong foundations from kindergarten and elementary school, and then everything builds on that. Faculty is mostly the culmination of theoretical learning and stress with minimal practice. The only thing that really prepares you for work is realizing that you need to be very proactive and independent, so for those motivated, it is a very valuable experience for future jobs.

Based on your own experience, can you say that everything is possible in Croatia if you work hard, work on yourself, are educated and ambitious?

So if I follow my example and consider it a success for an excellent student to find a job in the profession after graduation, then yes. The other side is the amount of energy, work, and effort invested in the whole education, and then the work and the financial aspect that is a product of that. The social sciences and humanities in Croatia are still significantly underestimated and even underpaid. I believe that the amount of effort, ambition, and education in Croatia, unfortunately, does not ensure proportional success.


If you could change only one thing in Croatia, what would it be, and why do you think it's important?

If I could change one thing in Croatia, it would be the corruption that is deeply rooted in our society.

As a young Croatian, what are you most proud of in Croatia?

I am most proud of all Croatian residents' successes in every aspect (sports, academic, business) despite minimal state assistance.

Are you optimistic or pessimistic about the future of Croatia, and will it be a better or worse place for your children?

I am mostly pessimistic about the future because the changes are small and slow, and this system of living and working is unfortunately unsustainable.

Are you a student or recent graduate who would like to contribute your voice and experiences to this series? If yes, please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with the subject "Graduate."

To read more from the Croatian Graduate Perspective series, follow TCN's dedicated page.