We all know it has been a crazy year, but that hasn’t stopped us from organizing special creative competitions for local talent, with a cultural twist. During our fall semester, participants had the chance to compete for the chance of representing Romania at the Eurobest European Creativity Festival.

After tons of workshops and creative exercises, under the mentorship of internationally acclaimed speakers, we finally had our winning teams: Upsole (Roxana Păduraru & Mona Casangiu) and Shenanigans (Andreea Călărașu & Irina Șerbulea). Four creative ladies who won everybody’s hearts through their witty and heartfelt culture-related ideas.

During the international competition, they had to work on changing the perception around refugees and humanize their stories. You can check out their work here and here.

We couldn’t be prouder! Let’s see what they have to say about their experience.

What made you join The Alternative School for Creative Thinking?

Roxana: I like to be challenged, and The Alternative School for Creative Thinking was a big opportunity for me to learn a lot of things through the feedback I’ve received. Besides that, it seemed like a combination between a breath of fresh air and an amazing vibe from people at School.

Monica: My wish and need to learn. This pandemic made me feel confused and apathetic at times (just like it made everyone else, I guess), so I had an urge to explore, grow and maybe meet new inspiring people. This school was on my radar so I gave it a go.

Andreea: The program was highly recommended by colleagues in the advertising industry and I considered it to be a perfectly timed challenge for me, as I needed a creative boost besides my day to day projects.

Irina: The answer is not complicated at all. I joined The Alternative School because I like competitions and I like advertising, especially when you have the chance to work on complex briefs that can raise awareness on different social causes. I looked at this opportunity as a chance to use creativity to do good and also to develop my skills.

What was your reaction when you found out you won the local selection for the Eurobest Creativity Festival?

Roxana: To be honest, I was shocked, because even though I wanted this… the competition was tough and there were so many incredible and talented people around me. I was only hoping that our creative solutions were good enough, but when I realized that we actually won, I couldn’t believe it. I felt so much joy, it’s hard to describe it. It’s a really nice feeling knowing that you were the best, but I also have to congratulate everyone for their awesome ideas. In the end, I think we are winners, no matter what!

Monica: Obviously, I was so so happy. Happy and surprised. Surprised because my initial intention was to enter the school and just learn, create, experience, not necessarily win. Besides that, I noticed that so many teams had potential, so my expectations were pretty low. And I kept them low to not get disappointed in case we don’t win. A classic move, I know. But because I did that, I was more relaxed, more focused on learning and the win was soooo much more exciting.

Andreea: With each vote from the judges, the tension grew a little more and the prospect of winning became more palpable. I was overjoyed and grateful for all the constructive feedback we had received throughout the process and especially from the judges in the evaluation round. Also, pressure. Never lets me go.

Irina: I was shocked (in a good way), but happy and glad that all the pressure, stress and sleepless nights were not in vain. I had a proud feeling and I couldn’t wait for Andreea to respond on Messenger. As the notes given by the jurors on the briefs were posted, we made the ranking and remade it continuously – a lot of pressure.

What was the most challenging part?

Roxana: Probably the most challenging part was to find the best solutions for the given briefs. We had to make a lot of research in order to do that and sometimes, even after hours of researching and brainstorming, we couldn’t find THAT idea and that’s really, but really frustrating.

Monica: Definitely waking up on Saturdays for ”classes”. Just kidding. What was the most challenging part was finding the REAL problems our chosen target/the brief’s target struggled with everyday. And when I say REAL, I mean it. We tried to be as realistic and grounded as possible in order to come up with solutions that could really help. But I think that is also the most beautiful part of the process, this whole learning and exploring stage…so I guess we are back to waking up on Saturdays.

Andreea: Nailing the cultural insight in a way that felt true, non-exploitative and served our purpose in a concrete way – whether it was for a social cause or a brand.

Irina: To keep myself together. I’m a junior copywriter and I still have a lot to learn. I was so lucky with my teammate because she’s so organized, she has that strategic thinking that systematized all the chaos and panic from my mind. She inspired me a lot during this competition. And even though we did not win the international phase, after the competition ended, we still came up with ideas about what we could have done to solve the refugees brief ( I don’t know if it’s healthy :)) ). So another challenging part was to stop, I guess!

What are some sources of inspiration that always get you in a creative mood?

Roxana: Sometimes, just seeing something like a visual, poster, or a campaign, not necessarily related to the context of my brief, is helping me a lot to change the direction and find the right concept or the right idea. That’s why before any research I’m just scrolling through lots of projects. As an art director, I’m always looking for really nice visuals first and most of the time I find them on Behance. Behance is a great source of inspiration. After that, my next step is Ads of the world, Awwwards and It’s Nice That. I also love to read or watch interviews so I can understand the problem better, so YouTube is also a great companion in this journey.

Monica: Every time I hear the news and something sparks up my interest, I research it and I get inspired. Every time I hear my friends telling their stories, I listen and I get inspired. Every time I feel something deeply, I explore it and get inspired. Every time I find out about a certain group of people/ culture, I read about it and I get inspired. I would say my creative mood is a process of discovery, driven by pure curiosity.

Andreea: I always try to be connected with snippets of culture throughout the day, as a constant inspiration exercise. Whether it’s reading a book, watching a documentary, browsing through video platforms, listening to a journalistic podcast or watching Tik Toks until 2am, I draw most of my inspiration from hearing others and their stories, their journeys.

Irina: Music, research, other creative campaigns, people.

Why do you recommend this experience?

Roxana: This experience made me realize that with every problem, there are a lot more points of view than you originally think of. It made me rethink strategically everything I was working on, but at the same time, it gave me the belief that I actually do have this power, to change other’s perspectives. And at the same time, it showed me that there are no boundaries when it comes to creativity. If you want to feel really really strong and impress yourself and others, you should definitely come here. It’s one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. I’ve met so many amazing and supportive people who did an awesome job when it comes to bringing ideas to life, feedbacks and enthusiasm.

Monica: The whole experience matched my expectations. Starting from the topics discussed, the speakers, participants to the way everybody openly shared their ideas.

Andreea: It’s a great exercise to get out of your comfort zone, to work on effervescent, challenging briefs, to have your work judged by specialists in all facets of the industry. The complexity of the workshops and the human approach (even online, thanks Covid!) were the two things that stuck with me.

Irina: You have the opportunity to learn something new from a multitude of creative people: colleagues, trainers, speakers, jurors.

Your message for the Romanian creative community:

Roxana: Please, don’t you ever dare to stop dreaming and hoping. If you want to change something, you can, so don’t stop working towards your goals. Whatever you do, do it with passion and share your knowledge and learnings with people around you. Show the world that creativity is still around you and prove that by actually doing it.

Monica: Stop romanticizing overwork and white nights. Some creatives need rest to get creative and an actual life to feel inspired. Besides that, I think the whole creative industry, not only the Romanian one should focus more on real problems and realistic solutions that ACTUALLY work.

Andreea: We’re all in this together, might as well have some fun.

Irina: I have more than one message:

  1. BE the target even if you’re not.
  2. Don’t drink too much coffee.
  3. Do your research.
  4. Try to be stronger than your internet connection.
  5. Always have fun with ideas.


For more information on The Alternative School’s creativity programs and competitions, sign up for our newsletter and follow us on social media, here and here.

The Young Lions Design & The Roger Hatchuel Academy

Entries are open for the Young Lions Design & Roger Hatchuel Academy via The Spring Semester.

Deadline: 17 March

€300 + vat / individual

€500 + vat / team


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