Author: Ana Alibegova
Photos: Dalibor’s private archive
Dalibor Stajic is a student at the Faculty of Filology in Skopje. He had an opportunity to visit lot of European cities, won a scholarship for a year of non-degree studies in USA and is active in the NGO sector. He says that traveling makes people more comfortable with differences and new experiences. Dalibor defines world travelers as true citizens of the world with a global vision.
Mladiinfo: Dalibor, when we asked you for an interview, we explained that we wanted an interview with a world traveler. What is a ‘world traveler’ in your opinion?
Dalibor: At the beginning, let me thank you for inviting me to share some thoughts on traveling — undeniably, one of the most valuable facets of human life. Traveling is a metaphor for an exciting life. Real travelers at heart do not spend a little fortune to see the world. Instead, they partake in new wonders of life by nurturing relationships with different people and by learning about each other’s cultures. A world traveler needs to understand cultures better than others since she/he wants to be involved in creative initiatives from which she/he can learn. World travelers are not afraid of differences among people and do not fear any situation; they gladly share what they have and keep their hearts open. In this sense, world travelers are true citizens of the world with a global vision!
Mladiinfo: When and where was your first trip abroad (aside from shopping in Thessaloniki or family vacations)? Could you reflect upon your feelings from the time when you first faced a new culture, tradition, and habits?
Dalibor: Germany, for me, has always been a country of particular interest. As a student of conference interpretation in German, it was essential to spend some time there in order to strengthen my language skills. Having this in mind, it is not a surprise that Germany was the first country I visited for a longer period in 2004. Looking back, I was only sixteen years old and I was not much aware of all social and cultural processes taking place around me. However, this was the first opportunity to speak to people with different cultural backgrounds and observe their habits and rituals, which were exceptionally interesting to me.
Mladiinfo: At this point, the wish for travelling was born in you. Afterwards, you had several other destinations approaching…
Dalibor: Over the course of time, I had the chance to visit most of the capital cities around Eastern Europe as a participant in various student initiatives. On the other side, as an officially certified tour guide in my country, I often led Macedonian tour groups across Western Europe. My overall impression is that, in contrast to the Western ‘ultra-modernism’, Eastern countries offer a different, calmer ambience, full of surprises. Undoubtedly, one of the cities I will always want to go back to is Istanbul, Turkey. It is one of those places you fall in love with at first sight — a true metropolis of contrasts exemplifying a blend of different cultures, religions and ethnical groups.
US – a country with warm-hearted people, who feel free to take risks
Mladiinfo: Last year, you had an opportunity to spend time in the United States. Share your experience and opinion about their culture with us.
Dalibor: Visiting the United States was definitely an experience of a lifetime! In 2008, I was awarded a scholarship by the Open Society Institute for a year of non-degree studies at the University of Georgia. When I first set foot on American soil, arriving in Atlanta, I was amazed by all the extremely friendly people who seemed to connect at every level. At first — I will admit — I found great informality among people, the positive attitude and emotional appeal, somewhat artificial. However, later on it helped me adapt to the new setting and fit in the community. Cultural assimilation is by all means inevitable in the US, since it is an immigrant culture – a true melting pot! The openness of Americans to a multi-racial population made me feel safe. Americans are indeed warm-hearted people and are good to work with. Many Europeans do not like America because they think the country wants to control the rest of the world but that is only an attitude induced by politics. American society is very dynamic and leads to extraordinarily exciting living. Americans — in comparison to most Europeans — feel very free to take risks. Another interesting point is that Americans seem to be involved in politics a lot more than most Europeans. Voting in America tends to be more of an event than it is in most European countries. I remember the night of the Presidential Elections in 2008 when Barack Obama became the first African American President of America. It is a milestone in American history, which made many Americans change their point of view in life; it is definitely an event I will never forget. Last, but not least, it seems that in America everyone owns a car. Although, this may be due to the lack of choice in transport established by local authorities, it is also due to the obsession of Americans with maximizing comfort and consumption.
Mladiinfo: If you compare the US to Europe, what would you point out as an advantage or disadvantage? Where do you see yourself more?
Dalibor: You know, both cultures have their own flaws and virtues. In my opinion, one cannot choose between cultures. Instead, one should try to identify her/himself with the cultural milieu she/he encounters. In my case, it seems that the European lifestyle will always appeal more to me than the American one. I have made this conclusion based on the fact that I am enchanted by the diversity of Europe; by the colorful history of its people, and the multifaceted cultural background of each country. Relating to this, the motto of the European Union: ‘United in diversity’ confirms the overall magic of the old continent. Europe is far from being only a money-driven society; there is more beyond that. For instance, the Europe youth is into self-expression without the fear of being judged and generally do what is necessary to enjoy life, which opposed to the youth in US. All this creates the most enchanting reality of Europe.
Student activism and involvement in the NGO sector
Mladiinfo: All this traveling was somehow related to your involvement in the NGO sector.
Dalibor: True. The major portions of my travel experiences have taken place as a result of my activism in the non-nongovernmental sector. I have been involved in the non-profit sector as an advocator for social inclusion of young people for many years now. I am committed to strengthening institutional capacity to design and implement policies and programs that reflect the needs, interests, and aspirations of the marginalized groups within our society. This year, I managed to implement my first personal project addressing Roma youth with fewer opportunities. The aim of the project was to make young Roma people familiar with different possibilities for being actively included in society, primarily in the non-profit sector.
Mladiinfo: You have previously mentioned that you are a part of a project whose goal is to release a new, independent, student magazine. What is the idea?
Dalibor: A friend of mine, who also received a study scholarship in the United States, decided to do a project related to a variety of problems that students face in Macedonia. It will be published in the form of a student magazine whose target group are students studying at the Ss. Cyril and Methodius University in Skopje. Considering the fact there is an obvious need for a magazine that will serve as a public-debate platform for students, the release of this magazine introduces a new chance for students to present their own ideas to their peers. Officially named “Izlez”, meaning “Exit”, the magazine is completely edited by students and deals with a handful of challenges students struggle with on their way to obtaining a degree.
“Just keep your mind and eyes open”
Mladiinfo: Tell us more about photography as your hobby? When did you start taking photos and where do you usually draw inspiration?
Dalibor: When I was in high school, I realized that I enjoy art but I was not that good at drawing. When I bought my first digital camera in 2004, I started spending a lot of time taking random photos at the places I visited. Practicing step by step, photography has grown into a brilliant way of expressing myself by capturing scenes. There isn’t a particular way in which I look for inspiration. Everything surrounding me can potentially find its place on a photograph. Whenever I go abroad, I usually spend a day on my own taking photos of people and unique buildings. I particularly like cities that are laid at riversides. Prague and Paris are brilliant examples! What I enjoy most is sitting near the banks of a river, drinking coffee and admiring the sunset while vigorously taking photos of it. It is a spectacle for my eyes and I can never get enough of it!
Mladiinfo: What have you learned from all the countries and cities you have visited? Does traveling change people?
Dalibor: Absolutely! Having the opportunity to travel often, I have gained a great affinity for the world and realized that the more we travel the less we fear. We become more comfortable with differences and new experiences. It provides us with a great opportunity to learn about life and what is important to us. You don’t have to be an adventure seeker to feel its benefits. Just keep your mind and eyes open. See the challenges people face and you’ll become more aware of what drives them. Eat food you would never have tried before and immerse yourself in a different way of living. Everything you see and do and every person you meet provides an opportunity to gain a new perspective that can help you live a better life.