“During my first drop-in I remember being surrounded by the Hub’s staff and other internationals like me. It felt like I had found a warm and sunny spot in the middle of cold Sweden. They gave me some ideas of the path that I could follow to be able to work as a veterinarian in this country.”
Sweden, what are you doing in Sweden? This is the first question people ask me every time that I mentioned that I have moved to Sweden. I sometimes ask myself the same question too.
When you arrive in Sweden, you get amazed with the landscape, the architecture, the people, and you can get enchanted by the structured and organized Swedish society. Everything is new for you, Lund is a nice, green, calm, medieval city and it's not hard to see yourself living long term here. At least it was not hard for me.
In September 2021 I moved to Sweden from my home country, Guatemala, to support my partner’s University Studies. As a cat friendly certified veterinarian with interest in ultrasonography and 14 years of experience in my field, I have walked a long path to integrate into the Swedish job market, find my place in my field and Sweden overall.
In the beginning the people that I met usually told me that veterinarians were needed in Sweden, and encouraged me to stay here long term. While still hesitant, I started researching what I need to be able to continue working in my field as an experienced veterinarian that has newly arrived in Sweden from a non EU country. But it was confusing. It was at this point that, during my Swedish for Immigrants (SFI) interview, I heard about the International Citizen Hub Lund (ICHL), “The Hub” as we call it.
I quickly looked up the Hub’s details online and decided to drop-in the same day. Although I came unannounced and outside of regular opening hours, I felt very welcome since then.
During my first drop-in I remember being surrounded by the Hub’s staff and other internationals like me. It felt like I had found a warm and sunny spot in the middle of cold Sweden. They gave me some ideas of the path that I could follow to be able to work as a veterinarian in this country.
As other health related careers, there are steps to complete to be incorporated and, of course, I needed a Swedish license or “Legitimation” as they call it in Swedish, to work as a veterinarian. The requirements needed to get my license were listed in Jordbruksverket’s (the regulating authority for veterinarians) website. Among other things, I needed different personal documents, education certificates and a certificate of knowledge of Swedish.
Usually, as a foreign resident from a non EU country, you are running against the clock. The clock is ticking and the time you have to achieve your goals is short. So I focused on learning Swedish the fastest I could, while I prepared all the paperwork I would need.
ICHL accompanied me as I followed my journey. Since the first drop in in October 2021 I started to be regular every Thursday. Other than getting guidance and advice to navigate administrative procedures, cultural norms and working culture codes, at the Hub I could also feel that slowly I started to be part of a community of internationals who were in similar emotional conditions, struggling with cultural differences and trying to blend into the new society.
Some Thursdays I got help from Lisa, Martina or Alex: some others from Maria and Susanne. Also from other internationals that were there. Every time when I walked out from the drop-in, I had new hope of reaching my goal. They were all very supportive and open, I even got recommendations of barbershops, birthday celebration spots and some other small things that make a big difference when you are new and trying to find your way.
After learning about ICHL’s Kick-Start Program, I applied and I got a place in the Kick-Start Program Spring 2022. It was such a great experience to learn a lot, from ways to learn Swedish, to the differences between our cultures, and be able to integrate into Swedish society, how the Swedish and Danish labor market differentiates from each other and a lot more. But most of all, I got to meet wonderful people from many countries and we shared our stories and experiences.
Since then I try to be part of every event and activity that the ICHL hosts. Sometimes to refresh what I have learned in the Kick-Start Program, sometimes just to meet my friends and have “Fika” at the Hub or share my story and help other internationals as they travel their own journeys.
So as the months went by and with the help from ICHL, we polished my CV and my cover letter, I got some tips for interviews, and so on. In my case networking helped me a lot. My first contact to a veterinary clinic was through a contact from the Hub. And through an InLingo activity Walk and Talk in Lund, I met another Hub regular, who later on would become the key link to secure my first work in Sweden.
After a job interview that turned into my first day at a new job working as a TF veterinarian, a few months later I was granted a special temporary permit to practice veterinary medicine in Sweden. This eventually led to securing a permanent veterinary license in Sweden after a 6 months trial period. Today, I work full time as a veterinarian in southern Sweden.
So far it has been a great journey. It's something that I have never imagined possible. Moving from my home country, meeting so many people from so many different countries, learning a new language and continuing to practice my profession in Sweden.
To someone coming to Sweden I would advice:
There will be gray days and shiny days (windy, rainy and all in between), and that is normal. Every case is different and we are all different. But we are on this journey together and we can help each other. I am really grateful to the team of ICHL and all the people that I have met at the Hub, because thanks to all of team I and other international newcomers can feel welcome and have hope to make our dreams come true here in this beautiful country, Sweden.
/ Andres Godoy