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Zohra Hamila

“From that moment on, I realized that I had been doing it wrong on many levels so I decided to make a few drastic shifts in my mindset and attitude. Here are a few things I’d like to share with my fellow global citizens considering or who are presently in Sweden...”

Ever since I was a child, traveling, languages and cultures have always been of great interest to me. As soon as I got my first opportunity to travel and settle in another country, I took it, even if that meant jumping in the unknown, stepping out of my comfort zone and doing things that I had never done before. My ‘many lives’ have taken me to live in various corners of the globe, including Italy (Rome), the USA (Minnesota, Saint Paul), the UK (Brighton), Japan (Tokyo) and now Sweden.

I first came to Sweden thanks to the Erasmus+ program, which not only allows EU citizens to enhance their language skills but also encourages cultural and professional exploration through internships. Curiosity led me to choose Sweden, a place where I had limited prior knowledge, and in January 2022, I began my first job here.

Zohra Hamila standing in a lush green garden

The ensuing months were filled with challenges and were rich in new experiences, and opportunities that pushed me beyond my limits. I accepted and embraced any challenges that came and dedicated myself fully with the determination to achieve success and leave a lasting impact. Little did I know about the work culture in Sweden, where this type of extremely determined and ‘workaholic’ behaviour is not encouraged as it can have negative impacts on our physical and mental health. I learned from it the hard way, but I learned from it.

When I was made redundant in the summer of 2023, it felt like my entire world crumbled around me. I had centered my life around that job, and losing it left me feeling without purpose or motivation. For my own sake, I had to pick myself up and it was very hard but reflecting on my experiences up until that moment and the successes I had achieved - without realising them - played a significant role in my healing process. On top of that, the many conversations I’ve had with various unique individuals provided me with a source of motivation and inspiration. I'm extremely grateful for the impact they had on me during that difficult period.

From that moment on, I realized that I had been doing it wrong on many levels so I decided to make a few drastic shifts in my mindset and attitude. Here are a few things I’d like to share with my fellow global citizens considering or who are presently in Sweden:

  • Cultural adaptation and integration - I started SFI a little late but have been sticking to it since then. In all my experiences abroad, I have seen the incredible benefits of learning about cultural aspects and the local language as a means to show your respect and humility towards the locals. I am a strong believer that the most efficient way to learn a language is full immersion. I also recommend to find a place where you can learn about the culture and professional codes (do not be fooled, there are great differences between Scandinavia and the rest of Europe!), the best place to gain such insight for me is the International Citizen Hub Lund. I encourage to do this as soon as possible in order to understand that it is a new country, culture, population and mentality and when odd things happen, it might not be about you at all.

“Change is part of life, embracing it instead of fighting it is crucial for one’s happiness.”

  • Positivity and resilience, until it becomes part of you - whenever something not so good happens, learn from it. Very much necessary when looking for your next step in your career and being rejected as it is part of the ‘game’. Being positive is difficult, especially when you feel like you have hit rock bottom, but you can find support in your closest ones, your hobbies and passions, fellow ICHL regulars and ambassadors, who might have been through similar moments. Don’t forget to go out there and meet new people, discover new things, learn about yourself and grow. Happiness is something to cultivate every day.

"In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity." - Albert Einstein

  • Continuous learning and exploring alternative career paths - back in my home country, once we are done with university, it is time to step in our professional life and getting back into learning is not something natural at all. Here, I have met so many people, of all ages and backgrounds, going back to university and it was so strange for me. I had a hard time to see myself doing the same but I have learned to change my views and I have now signed up for a different career path towards IT, as it has been one of my passions for a long time. Sweden offers an incredible number of opportunities when it comes to furthering knowledge and developing skills: full programs on-site or online, courses that can be taken while working (should you be up for the challenge!), vocational trainings etc. Changing career in Sweden is definitely possible at any time and could be a way to discover yourself and start a different life.

“Life is full of opportunities, just waiting to be seized.”

  • Curiosity, get to know people - something I have overlooked and skipped during my first 2 years in Sweden is networking. I was not aware of how essential it is, especially in Sweden. Building and nurturing your network, connecting with people, exchanging ideas and being open is so important and should be done from day 1 on. There is a multitude of events (professional or social) that anyone can join in the Greater Copenhagen Region, you just need to be curious, do a little bit of research in order to find those opportunities! My top picks so far are: the ICHL (International Citizen Hub in Lund), the MIRC (Malmö International Rotary Club), the GGI group in Malmö (Girls Gone International), and I also have found myself joining some Pink Programming events as they are great to meet fellow IT enthusiasts (newbies and experts alike) and learn more about the brilliant minds and companies that surround us.

"The mind that opens to a new idea never returns to its original size." - Albert Einstein

If there is one thing to take away, I’d say that being curious, open-minded and to discuss and ask about things you’re interested in with Swedes or other expats is definitely the way to go in order to realize how many personal, academic and professional opportunities you can get access to in Sweden!

If you’re curious about my experiences, would like to share your opinion and discuss about any of the topics mentioned above, or just want to connect, please reach out to me on LinkedIn!


To the LinkedIn profile of Zohra Hamila