Dreaming big with Marius Ulozas
Embarking on a youth work journey can have a catalytic effect on your life, often bringing you into paths of professional and self - development you would have never expected to come across. And there are many living examples of this, people whose lives have been a true inspiration in true YEU-style. As part of shedding some light into YEU history, we met up with former YEU vice-president, JMB Lithuania board member, renowned and well-established trainer and youth policy expert, Marius Ulozas, to get an insight into how life begun with YEU and how something that started out as a pleasant pastime turned out into creating one of the most adventurous and exhilarating journeys of his life. From youth exchanges and training courses into opening a Training Center and establishing the Institute for Policy Research and Analysis in Lithuania, in his interview Marius talks about how YEU equipped him with the experiences and skills to achieve everything and above all how motivation, dedication and hard work can bring your dreams and ideas into life.
(1) Dear Marius, could you please briefly outline your history with YEU?
First of all, best greetings to the new generation of YEU! I hope you are as crazy and as eager to learn as we are/were. Secondly, it is the first time in my life, when I am part of… history, YEU history in this case :) Putting it in the timeframe, I have been around YEU 2003-2007, and still meet many former colleagues active in European Youth Policy field.
Well, I got involved into JMB, YEU’s member organization in Lithua¬nia back in 2003. YEU attracted me with its intercultural offer and possibility to implement my own ideas in a multi¬cultural environment. Participation in seminars and training courses gave a lot of insights and an understanding that others can think in a different way and that demonstrated that there is nothing is wrong with that. It also gave me confidence and motivation to go on and share the things I learned with others.
The nice thing about YEU is that you can get as much as you want – because it depends only on your motivation and dedi¬cation. Since I like management and wanted to develop trai¬ning skills, I went in both directions. After working two years for the YEU Lithuania governing board I was elected YEU Vice-President; whilst in the training field I continued working on different topics and started giving trai¬nings even outside the YEU network. Meanwhile, I started representing YEU at the European Youth Forum and its different working structures - to advocate the needs of YEU members and to share our experience with other youth organizations working across Europe.
(2) Where are you now and what have you been up to in the post-YEU era?
I am still a frequent traveler in Europe and beyond - one can say that I did not move far away! In different roles I am working on public policies development in Europe, mainly Youth policy. On one hand, I am very much involved in European structured dialogue with young people - facilitating EU youth conferences, being an expert within the Lithuanian National working group. On the other hand, I am building the capacity of different youth policy stakeholders – youth NGOs, National Youth Councils, Municipal youth affairs coordinators, ministry workers and so on.
To be able to do NFE trainings in the proper environment, with several colleague-trainers we have opened a training center in Lithuania (http://www.daugirdiskes.lt/). Besides the venue, we boast great views over the Lake Region, great cuisine and professional staff – some of most experienced and known Lithuanian trainers. Our doors will be always open to YEU – just dare to knock!
Lately, I have initiated and established the Institute for Policy Research and Analysis (www.institutas.EU) responding to the need to base policies on research and evidence. For example, at the moment we are conducting a study in the Eastern Partnership countries about Youth participation in the decision-making and democratic changes.
Another field of involvement was my role as a speaker and active member of one political party in Lithuania for 3. 5 years; it was great learning environment where you had to think BIG and FAST. Lately I am taking a break from active political engagement, and rather provide an overview of the political situation and commentaries for the media.
(3) How did you bring from YEU in your current position and how did the experience in the organization help you?
YEU was a great environment for me to grow, develop and test myself and be tested by others. My current proffessional path is directly linked with what I did and what I learned through my YEU experience.
I had great opportunities to develop skills, attitudes and knowledge, to meet great people. And I used these opportunities! What I understood, we define our lives, and we define our destinies – by making small everyday choices, by deciding on where we invest our energy and thoughts. Instead of waiting for opportunities, I started creating ones for others and myself. Some call it entrepreneurship, some call it active citizenship. I call it – life. Positive!
And to illustrate the posible personal development, let me share with you few some recent examples of how I tackled my weaknessess and developed them into strengths. As I was shy and humble in my school years, public speaking was one of the scariest things for me. YEU events and the supportive environment within them allowed me to challenge myself and to develop from being a participant to being an active participant, and then later an organizer of exchanges and even later – into trainer and facilitator of international events. To some extent, I managed to enjoy some peak moments last year when I delivered a training course to 2000 participants preparing them to volunteer at the Eurobasket in Lithuania; lead a conference hosted by US State secretary Ms. H.Clinton; facilitated a heated debate in China about youth participation in the decision-making process. So, as Buzz Lightyear, one of my favorite cartoon characters from my childhood says: “To Infinity and Beyond” :)
(4) What has been your proudest moment / biggest achievement in your post-YEU path?
What makes people happy or proud – to see that your dreams and ideas are being realised and bring the change you wanted. I am certainly proud of my training work, the training center and institute I mentioned above. To have my international youth work recognized, as member organizations of the Lithuanian Council of youth organizations have twice awarded me as “youth ambassador“. But by far, the most important “achievement“ in my life is family. With my beautiful wife we are raising two funtastic kids! It is so great to see them and help them grow and develop... and NFE and trainers skills are very helpful there :)
(5) What are your plans for the future?
To continue learning and helping others to learn. And in next 10 years to become president of Lithuania.
(6) What piece of advice would you offer to someone starting with YEU now? Or even someone who has been in YEU for some time?
Dare to dream big, make the most of your time, take up the challenges coming your way, and enjoy it!
(Marius Ulozas interviewed by Eleni ioannou, YEU Newsmail Editor-in-Chief)