“From a very young age I decided that I wanted to do music. This decision came hand in hand with the realisation that I would need to leave Greece in order to achieve my goal.”

The number of unemployed youth globally reached 74.5 million in 2013, with the majority living in developing countries, according to UN estimates. The International Labour organisation found that young people are almost three times more likely to be unemployed than adults. One in five youths – or 125 million – are working but live in extreme poverty.

Skills development is a primary means of enabling young people to make a smooth transition into work. In December 2014, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution declaring 15 July as World Youth Skills Day. The goal is to achieve better socio-economic conditions for today’s youth as a means of addressing the challenges of unemployment and under employment.

Here, 23-year-old Michalianna Theofanopoulou, a young Greek studying Sound Design in London, writes for the IPF about why she decided to develop her skills in the UK.


When you move to a new country there are always things you must learn to adapt to. In Britain, for example, one must face the fact that from October until March it will be dark after 4pm. From March onwards the streets will be filled with people sporting a variety of outfits, from sandals and sea masks to boots and bennies, simply because of the weather’s cryptic bipolar attitude.

But stepping beyond discovering the nuances of complaining about British weather I would suggest there are more serious practical issues every newcomer has to address. One of the most pressing is the ever-present language barrier, the unshakable feeling that no matter how fluently you speak the language – there are always instances when you know you would sound smarter in your own language.

Yet, my issues with communication expand slightly further. I first moved to the United Kingdom from Greece in 2011 to pursue my studies in Music Technology. Back then Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain were the Kardashians of Europe (well, with less followers). We were a happy mess of singing, dancing and disappointed kids in modern Europe.

Michalianna playing the guitar [Image credit: Catarina Demony]

Michalianna playing the guitar [Image credit: Catarina Demony]

The result?

My Fresher’s Week often turned into a panel where two questions prevailed: a) tell us about this country of yours, where your last national triumph probably occurred about 2,000 years ago and b) what the hell is Music Technology anyway?

Clearly, one more thing to get used to.

From a very young age I decided I wanted to create music. This decision came hand-in-hand with the realisation that I would need to leave my country in order to achieve my goal. This was before the crisis.

Back then, my mother had two shops, which are now both closed due to the financial turmoil.

She could sense how the market was changing for the worse and to an extent my mother foretold what was about to happen, but she never imagined the scale of things.

In any case, both my parents raised me with the idea that one day I should leave, experience new places, meet different people, oh and actually find a job in the field that I’m interested in. And that’s what I did the moment I finished high school.

There I was, 18-years-old, leaving home to pursue a career that doesn’t really exist in Greece.

Or at least not in satisfying way, since what I wanted to do was to compose music for films.

As mentioned above, my Bachelors was in Music Technology, which basically involves composition, music production, mixing and all the technical bits around music and sound.

During my undergraduate degree, I got to discover more about film, which has always been my passion. I composed many pieces, but also learned about sound and its function in movies, so gradually I moved to sound design for film. I am currently in my second and final year of my Masters degree on sound design, soon to face the disarmingly scary world of job hunting.

Michalianna near Kingston University, where she studied [Image credit: Catarina Demony]

Michalianna near Kingston University, where she studied [Image credit: Catarina Demony]

It’s five years after my Fresher’s Week at university and the questions people ask me have changed slightly. People still have no clue what it is I’m really doing, since it is quite specific. I’m fine with this though since, who doesn’t love to talk about their work?

However, the questions about Greece have ceased. It is old news and everybody knows the answer to the question: “are you going back home after your studies?”.

Well I can’t really, can I?

I don’t need to give you the figures to show you the levels of unemployment in Greece. You have already heard.

Besides that, the film industry in Greece is practically non-existent, mainly because of the crisis. Although, before the crisis the productions have always been few and small. Even if I was given a contract or a guarantee that I would be responsible for the sound creation of every movie that will be made in Greece for the next ten years, that would not be very promising.

Correct me if I’m wrong or arrogant, but between a vibrant, diverse cinema scene composed of different cultures and genres or the slow-paced attempts of my country to make movies, I would always choose the first one. I don’t mean to say that all films made in Greece are worthless and uninteresting, but let’s just agree that there are not many of them, they don’t happen often and nobody can guarantee I will get a job.

Here, on the other hand, there are a number of films produced daily, as-well-as foreign productions making sections of their films in the UK. I have already started building my network and my style, because I have the choice and the ability to decide what films I’d rather work on.

My skills are recognised and rewarded, mainly because the country can support the industry and can help it evolve.

London in particular has been a meeting point for artists from all over the globe, which in turn helped me expand my clientele. The industry here has a lot to offer me, but I have reached a level where I have started offering back. There is a constant circulation of ideas and creativity, driven mainly by the diversity of the British stage.

From my experience, this is quite simply the only way I know of making more diverse, more thought-provoking, more ground-breaking, more beneficial, rewarding and interesting art.

Close up of Michalianna playing the guitar [Image credit: Catarina Demony]

Close up of Michalianna playing the guitar [Image credit: Catarina Demony]

It is a great pleasure to be given the chance to do what you love, no matter how specific and unusual it is. I often recall a teacher I had at school who used to say finding a job, and most importantly a job you like, is a right – not a privilege. I accepted what she said, but it wasn’t until later that I understood what she meant.

We live in a time where fundamental rights are discarded every day. I don’t consider myself an idealist, I don’t think I can change the world. I only believe in small changes I can make in my daily life.

There are so many days when I say to myself that it’s a shame that I left my country in its hour of need.

I didn’t lead it there, yet something must be done by my generation and I. I have nothing else to offer, but my skills. Unfortunately, creating massive explosion sound effects are not very useful when it comes to the inadequacies of the greek public sector.

But imagine this. I work hard and continue to develop a career in a place that fosters growth and appreciation for my passion and my skills. Then one day I open my own film mixing studio in Greece (preferably by the sea). From there I can see myself gradually helping introduce Greece to the film-producing map.

NB: The IPF’s Comment section is a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily endorsed by the IPF.