Ana came to Wageningen because of her interest in sustainable development and its relation to both protected nature areas and tourism. The MSc Leisure, Tourisme and Environment turned out to be a perfect fit. Also, it prepared her for her future career.
You are one of the founders of Impact Hub Zagreb. Can you tell more about his organisation?
Impact Hub Zagreb is a place that inspires, connects and empowers local change makers who work on their enterprising ideas for a better world. We are part of the Impact Hub Global network. A network of 54 existing Impact Hubs around the world that offer co-working spaces, relevant and meaningful programs and events and the opportunity to network with social innovators and entrepreneurs.
As a co-founder, I participate in the strategic business development and daily operations decision-making processes. But, I am also in charge of managing special programs and events we organise for our members.
But that is not all you do, is it?
On behalf of Impact Hub Zagreb, I am also involved as a researcher and educator in the EU Erasmus+ funded project WISE (Women Innovators for Social Business in Europe). We will offer a training programme to 60 women innovators across Spain, Greece and Croatia in the following 12 months. This project is led by ESADE Business School from Barcelona and partnered with 5 other European social enterprises and educational institutions.
At the same time, I have been freelancing as a landscape architect within the collaborative network of Naturalistas sustainable landscape architecture studio. And working on Phoenix Arbor and HarvesThink projects placed on Murter island in Croatia. These are both related to transmodern tourism development, the creation of meaningful experiences of places and people, appreciative of their past and future.
We are designing interactions of tourists and local community managed by young local entrepreneurs who are becoming active change makers of their own realities. Again, I am in charge of strategic development of both projects but also organising and implementing a different kind of activities for local community members.
How did you create all these career opportunities?
When I graduated, I came back to Croatia. I consciously turned down (again) another position (now as a PhD) as I wanted to keep my freedom and try out the real market. And that is how I started getting engaged with all the projects I am currently involved in.
And how did your master’s prepare you for this career?
The master’s programme Leisure, Tourism and Environment has been a great bridge between one single specialisation for life paradigm and integral life path. It blends all my interests and passions and makes me love what I do each and every moment.
The MLE programme opened up a whole new way of thinking and operating. It broadened my horizons, thought me how to be more analytical in everything I do. How different perspectives and experience enrich our learning. Working in teams with people from different cultures challenged me and enchanted me at the same time. I got forced to learn and listen better, synthesize information and be ready to change my beliefs and opinions.
Also, during my studies I was actively involved in the Licere Association. And I worked with Dr Irena Ateljevic assisting her on Concepts and Approaches Course one semester and preparing 3rd Critical Tourism Studies Conference in Zadar in 2009. All of these contributed to developing my multitasking skills, flexibility communication skills. Skills that I need every day on the job I am currently doing.
Why did you choose Wageningen University & Research?
I came to Wageningen because of my interest in sustainable development and its relation to both protected nature areas and tourism. I wanted to know and explore more, learn about different modes of their coexistence, specialise and launch my way towards becoming an expert on the issue.
How you realised coming to the Netherlands?
After my bachelor’s I decide I want to work and live abroad for some time. I went to Mexico where I discovered a whole new reality compared to the one I left home. As I recent graduate I was appreciated and free to be creative and do what I know and enjoy. It made me realise I love to work in international teams that are open and ready for healthy conversations, exchange ideas and opinions.
When I came back home I sent my portfolio and CV to around 80 landscape architectural firms around Wageningen. I eventually wanted to start studying at Wageningen University & Research. I was lucky, my persistence paid off. One company from Amersfoort accepted me for an internship which very soon turned into a serious job.
The only thing that made me reject full time paid position was my wish to study. And again, my persistence paid off. I was lucky enough to meet Mrs Ria Vries-de Heer. She recognised my commitment and supported my process of getting a scholarship from the Anne van den Ban fund. What followed was a year and a half of parallel work and study.
What choices have you made that have helped you to get where you are now?
Discussing in a language that is not mine challenged my patience and refined my ability to articulate the argument. I was very busy at the time as I was both studying and working. I was lucky I was already quite good in time management, but the experience in the Netherlands took this to another level. Studying and working also included rich international social life which was irresistible, worth emerging into, and I definitely did not want to miss that.
The most wonderful thing that has been happening and that definitely helped me is that in Wageningen I could meet many different people from different countries, backgrounds and interest every single day. How many hours we spent commenting, discussing and exchanging ideas!
When I came back to Croatia I realised I needed people around me, I needed the community of like-minded people who see opportunities and have a passion for doing things, who are willing to share positive energy and attitude to create meaningful projects and ventures. That is how I got engaged in all that I do today.
What is your advice for future graduates?
The things you do you should do for yourself personally. Any new experience makes you more conscious, and aware of the realities surrounding you. It makes you more resourceful to create a positive impact in a wider context.
I think it should be mandatory that you find work that you really enjoy. Do not make compromises and wait until you turn 45 or 50 to start doing what fulfils you. Always search for challenges of a different kind that make you learn, do not only expect to receive, but also give. Talk to others, share and connect. One of the biggest challenges in our working reality is that people do not connect to each other sufficiently. Search for and connect with like-minded people and surround yourself with positive energy and love.
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