From zero knowledge of German to Bundestag employee

Interview done by Antoaneta Ivanova

At the moment you are situated in Berlin, Germany(August 2012). How do you spend your 9 to 5 working time?
Artan Mehmedi: Precisely, being in Berlin, my working day more or less is within those hours. As a part of the German Bundestag International Stipend Programme, I work in Dr. Johan Wadephul’s team from CDU who together with CSU comprise the biggest proportion of the Bundestag. It is a great honour and pleasure to work with Mr. Wadephul, who is very familiar with the situation in the Balkans and all along is a correspondent/ reporter for Macedonia in the German Parliament. Most of the time I work in an office where my tasks are helping research on specific actual topics which are daily reviewed in Plenum as well as in the other committees.

For many years now you are living outside Macedonia. What are the advantages to being out of your home country, and what are the things you miss?
Artan Mehmedi: I would directly say that I see the advantages on professional and educational levels. To leave your home country in search of something new is highly recommended, especially if you are up for developing a successful career. To stay on topic, living outside your home country is of very important and positive significance. Only that way, one can meet with different cultures and mingle with different people coming from different backgrounds. Macedonia is an environment where many ethnic groups live together and it is of very great importance for all residents of this country to understand and learn that intercultural collaborations and understanding exist everywhere in the world. And of course there are the disadvantages: it can be seen and felt on an emotional and social level. You will miss your close circle of friends and family, but that is the price to be paid if you don’t want to be just an average person in the society.

Which of your personal experiences so far you would mark as exceptionally important for your education and your career?
Artan Mehmedi: There are a few of them and all of them have their own weight – but most exceptional of all would be my choice to to study Political Science in Vienna, additionally in German language – a language unknown to me at the time. It was a very important personal event which still motivates me for new challenges. It would be a lie if I told you that my job in the German Parliament is not something special as well. I learn new things every day and I can feel how true democracy functions. I must point out my passions as well – the simulation ‘games’ on how the UN works, or NATO, EU, the World Bank, G20, etc. No better way than these simulations comes to my mind for youth to learn in an instant of time how these institutions work.

The youth in Europe have many opportunities opened on their behalf; do you think that they use their offered opportunities to the maximum?
Artan Mehmedi: The youth in Europe are privileged with their exclusively developed educational system orientated on something practical. If students own other qualities they go in technical schools for instance where they are equipped to be vendors, mechanics, hair dressers, plumbers, etc. The West has known it for many years now that you do not need a university education for every single job. Those students who will decide to continue to university and fulfill the criteria, they are already ready for the upcoming challenges. I am under the impression that youth nowadays have opportunities more than ever before. The only thing is making a strategy: strategy how to develop and in which way to enable that development. Whether it is formal or non-formal education, or trainings and practices, Erasmus exchange semesters, summer or winter schools or workshops, or simulations and conferences – youth have to know what they want for themselves! What bothers me the most is that Macedonian youth „enjoy“ not to go a step beyond. As if they do not want to be a bit more outstanding in positive sense. To be clear, in Germany or France, being an average person is not that bad at all – it is bad in Macedonia. Youth need to go beyond if we want a better and more functional society.

Who is the most important person you have ever met and who is your role model who you would aim to follow?
Artan Mehmedi: I have been very honoured in a few occasions to meet important and famous persons. To some of them I have only made small talk and shyly said hello, and to some of them I have had much more contact and collaboration even. You are more than fazed when you meet your childhood idols (either music idols or sport idols. However the biggest number of celebrities I have met are from the political sphere. I would not expand a lot, but I would stick to the German and Austrian ones: Martin Schulz, Albert Rohan, Angela Merkel, Wolfgang Schüssel, Ursula Plasnik, Frank W. Steinmeier, Hannes Swoboda, Rainer Wieland, Othmar Karas and many many more. Regarding role models – I am not quite sure. I would not dare to say that I am to follow a certain role model. It is hard thing to do and along the way you forget your true qualities while trying to do something else. I feel like I would be much more content with myself if after a few years time I will have this feeling that I have done something beneficial for me, my family and for society. However, I must admit that I am thrilled by Dr. Wadephul – first by his professionalism in his work and secondly to the human values he has – the way he manages to balance, coordinate and face all confronting challenges.

If you could go back in time, would you leave Macedonia at your age of 18, or what is one thing you would have done differently?
Artan Mehmedi: I would have definitely made similar moves, of course with some little changes – little things which through the years you could have performed in a better way. I don’t know if 18 is the right age, but in your early 20s I think it is a splendid experience to depart into the great wide open. Doing that when you are 18 is a risky business – you are overwhelmed with so many questions and questions. Concerning myself, I went in Austria after finishing high school with zero knowledge of German language (as I have already mentioned). I would have changed that at least. I would make some changes during my high school days if possible. There is a whole “free space” left from the unattractive, irrational and not-a-bit challenging high school curriculum – I might have used that “free space” in a rather different manner, with non-formal education and through learning at least 1-2 foreign languages. I would recommend to all youth during their studying days to engage in various spheres of the society. If you want to be exceptional, and not average person with a diploma, believe me you will find your focus on „out of classroom“ activities very beneficial. In this huge world, more than a simple diploma is needed. What your employee would want to see is a sort of „actual Software“ applicable to many spheres; meaning you need to gather experience via many many projects; apply for trainings and scholarships, learn languages, volunteer, participate in discussions, congresses, symposiums, and conferences. Upgrade yourself and be part of non-formal learning.
Do you often come to Macedonia? If you decide to live here one day, where would you devote yourself; how would you contribute to your mother country?
Artan Mehmedi: I went out of Macedonia with the single purpose to come back. I witnessed the craziness of the educational and the political system in our country and then I witnessed the professional and the efficient workplace in Western society, and the comparison at times dissolved my wish to come back. In the last few months with the many formal and non-formal meetings we had within the Bundestag, these numerous experiences made me feel as I felt in the beginning. Would it be in near future or in many years from now – I still do not know, but I will come back. I often visit Macedonia. I am devoted to professional and intensive research of the phenomena in this country – the best and the worst, thus I have built two images of the country. There is the positive and optimistic image we have concerning politics, the media and the residents; we have this picture inside. The other picture is the one of the “half-emptied glass” meaning the pessimistic one – how we are seen by others. It is the Western countries that have this picture and we are headed for many years now to end up in the company of the West, we gravitate to be part of the EU. The reality is probably somewhere in between. To persuade the international factors that we are a well-imaged country we need to work all of the time inside our country and the youth of this country is of crucial importance. They are the ones who will need to lead Macedonia to its ultimate goals. Again, concerning myself – it is a question to which I do not know the answer. I would not exclude any options if I think that my engagements in Macedonia would be proven to be beneficial and would contribute to positive changes in the society.