My independent life began when I left Sos Youth Facility Osijek. I completed a nanny training course and I was looking for a place to live after getting my first job. My main caregiver helped me find my first apartment. I moved in successfully, although it felt strange in the beginning, given that I was used to living with a lot of people. I eventually adjusted to the new way of life. I faced the challenges of living as an adult: grocery shopping, paying bills, rent and utilities. I spent just a few months in my first apartment, because utility bills were too high and then I found a smaller apartment where the costs were much lower. After may part time job ended, I moved to Zagreb.

It was hard in the beginning. I helped a colleague with babysitting, but I worked without pay and I felt exploited by her. At some point I realized I couldn’t go on like that and I went to my main caregiver for help and to learn more about my rights. She referred me to the person who works exclusively with young people like me who just left care and who looks after young people living on their own. Soon after that, I entered a living arrangement with several roommates. They were very welcoming, and we get along great. So, now I live in a rented apartment with two roommates, a boy and another girl.

Independent life

Independent life has its pros and cons. In the pro column, there are no educators or certain rules that we had to follow strictly while living in the Youth Facility, or constant reminders that we failed to do something Now, I rely more on myself and I form my own conclusions and decisions as an adult, although I can always ask someone older for help, of course. Living on my own means I’m often in a rush. Another difference is being able to have my friends for sleepovers, being able to go out whenever I want and return home whenever I want, although obviously I don’t stay out until dawn. I can clean around the apartment a day later than scheduled or when I have more free time, without infringing on other people’s time or schedule.

There are times when I argue with my roommates about things they do that bother me, but I also learned to stand up for myself and to listen to other points of view. Sharing an apartment with roommates was a bit awkward at first because I didn’t know them as people or how they functioned – we never saw each other beforehand, because we lived in different branches of our children’s home, in different villages/towns. As time went by, we began to get to know each other and that improved our shared life greatly. We help each other whenever needed.

In spite of having roommates, sometimes I feel lonely because my folks aren’t here. Sometimes I cry, but then I calm down and things are OK again. I even tell myself that it’s sometimes good for me that my parents aren’t here, then I call them to talk and I’m fine again.

Employment and a new city

Moving to Zagreb, which I was unfamiliar with, was not that bad because my godmother lives in Zagreb. Even before I decided to move here, she showed me around town. That was when I realized how important it was to have a person you know help you with all kinds of seemingly little things that are actually very important.

I took to my new job very quickly, although I was scared at first and I wondered whether I would be able to do it. In my job I need to use English, which isn’t my strongest suit. I still remember the basics, but of course, that’s not enough. As the days went by at work and I listened to others, I learned the names of sandwiches we make and all the ingredients in them. It was exhausting in the beginning, but now that I learned the ropes, I find the job interesting and I enjoy working. I learned that you have to be open to trying difficult things and responsibilities. Once you master them, you feel great doing them.

Final words

Everyone faces living on their own sooner or later. Some experience it later in life, while others are thrust out into the world early. Independent life is very difficult in the beginning, because that is when all of us young people face the real world and new outlooks on life. We do things as adults for the first time, we make our own schedule, manage money for essential things and use whatever is left for savings or fun. The most important thing for young people as they leave care is to have all the information about real life in order to make this transition easier.