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21 July 2020

Marija Janeva, UWC Red Cross Nordic

Marija believes in the power of communication. 

"It's not about how many big words you use, or how long your sentence is," says Marija, in her typically analytical way. Last year, her team won the national debate championship, but she didn't stop there. She went on to compete again this year, and on June 18th, Marija was named the country's best high school speaker. 

Growing up, the 17-year-old debater wanted to get involved in the community, but unfortunately, sometimes the context didn’t allow her to. "It frustrated me to see that you had to be 18, or in high school -- I thought to myself “How come I can't do this?” Her community involvement has continued all throughout high school: "That's how I began to form my own opinions and develop as a person." Due to the experiences she's had, Maria is a fantastic conversationalist: we talked about topics ranging from the Icelandic epic that she's currently reading, to the benefits of practicing yoga.

This year, Marija was an assistant-instructor in the Youth Educational Forum (YEF), and she wants to continue doing something similar at UWC Red Cross Nordic. "When I do something, I do it because I enjoy it... Every extracurricular activity I've been committed to was because I liked it and it was something I wanted for myself." Although debate is the reason why she joined YEF, the like-minded people there are the reason she stayed.

For Marija, there's a huge difference between thoughts and how you communicate them. That's why she admires musicians and authors who easily express their thoughts. The rapper Kendrick Lamar, for example, “knows how to get his point across in his chill songs without making you feel attacked.” In a discussion about To Kill a Mockingbird she told me "many people have the right ideas. But the true skill lies in how you express them. I might share Harper Lee's opinions, but I wouldn't know how to formulate it. It's such a beautiful skill -- to express a thought and have other people understand it." Of course, Marija humbly refrained from mentioning that she herself can skillfully communicate, even as the debate judges evidently realized that pretty quickly. 

The Norweigan embassy still hasn't started issuing visas, so Marija isn't sure when she'll exactly be able to get to her college. She’s already considered several alternatives. “I always want to have different options. I'm not the type of person who's bound to a routine, which is why I prefer to have many back-up plans instead of one. She's already decided on the subjects she’s taking: Global Politics, History and English Literature on a higher level. “I know it won't be easy, but, in a way, everything is a challenge. I can’t avoid difficult subjects... I wouldn't want to have my options limited just because I was too lazy to study a bit more.”

Marija isn't sure about what she'll do in the future, but whatever it is, she's sure that it's going to involve helping people. "I need to know that what I'm doing is, in a way, useful. I don't want to work just so that I can pay my bills. At the end of the day, I want to feel like I have the power to make a difference. I want to know I've done something that impacts other people positively. "