“Everything is very dark, and I feel like things are getting worse,” Folguera said.
A few hundred miles to the east in Italy, 24-year-old Tatiana Cavola, who received a degree in foreign languages at the prestigious University of Rome last year and had hoped to be a teacher, is working as a cashier and food-prep assistant at a McDonald’s. “Everybody says I’m lucky because I have a good job. . . . It’s true, I am lucky, but if you think this could be the job of my life, it is very sad,” she said.
In Greece, Gjoni says his 42-year-old mother got laid off from her waitress job two years ago and his 52-year-old father, who works for a road-construction company, hasn’t gotten paid in five months because the company is bankrupt. Gjoni loathes the idea of leaving Greece, but he thinks he has no choice if he wants to find a way to support his family. He’s applying for a visa to join his uncle in the United States, where he works as a school bus driver.
“Greece is now a country just for vacation,” Gjoni said.
Despite the depressing outlook, some youths say there are glimmers of hope in how young people are responding. In Portugal, for instance, where the government dissolved the culture ministry as part of its agreement to cut spending in return for an international bailout, youths have formed art collectives and staged impromptu concerts.
In Italy and Spain, many jobs before the crisis guaranteed lifelong employment, so there was no need to be entrepreneurial. Now, young people have put a renewed emphasis on innovation.
At the Madrid Vallecas Incubator, Rocio Herrero Rivero, who is in her 20s, says her parents thought she was crazy when she decided to start her own fashion company last year. Herrero Rivero, whose Issie Organics line ranges from T-shirts to wool coats made of eco-friendly fabrics, said it’s been a struggle and she has used all her savings and money from family and friends. But she is proud to have sold more than 50 pieces.
“Everything has a good and bad side,” she said. “The crisis is pushing Spaniards to think of new ways of thinking of ideas and of creating. There’s no fear in going out on your own because it’s not like you have any other choice.”