Chantal Bossaert

"Many times I have been insecure about my chances into the Swedish job market. However, in all the meetings during Kick-Start Program I learned to see many more opportunities and possibilities. By looking in detail at your personal CV, LinkedIn profile, your hard and soft skills, your wishes and expectations, they force you out of your comfort zone a lot. This is really positive and it has brought me a new job."

During the autumn of 2019, it was the first time that my partner asked me how I would feel about living abroad for a period of time.

At that time I was working as a primary school teacher in The Netherlands, a very diverse job with lots of ups and downs. Unfortunately the work and private time ratio was not always in balance. Besides that, my partner was working abroad 50% of his time. I wasn’t feeling great at that time. Therefore I was open to changes, but never expected these changes would come that fast.

In October 2019, my partner found an interesting job opportunity at IKEA on LinkedIn, the job would be based in Malmö. After sending a letter, the first interview came. At that time I already started to learn the Swedish language on Duolingo, just to get a feeling how difficult it would be. The next interviews came, the chance of getting the job in Malmö was getting bigger. The enthusiasm of my partner was increasing, but so was my uncertainty. Also in The Netherlands I have tried to get a job outside education, but that was not easy. So I wasn’t really sure what to do when in Sweden. Every evening I spent on the internet searching for jobs, cities to live, houses, international communities, studies and Swedish language schools.

On the 23rd of December he received an offer from IKEA, that’s when we started to draft a wish-list with regards to housing and areas. I wanted to go to Malmö as soon as possible, just to see our new environment myself finally.

Fortunately, the IKEA offer included an extensive relocation package. This included support with finding a house, job coaching, moving and even language lessons for the both of us. I started with my Swedish language lessons in February 2020 in The Netherlands, and continued the lessons in Sweden. The job coach told me to go outside for a walk every day, and to maintain a small diary. In this diary I was advised to write big (but even very small) things that I was proud of.

My first international move was already quite exiting on its own. However, two weeks prior to the move, our world turned upside down: Covid-19 came. While The Netherlands went in its first lockdown, for us it was not even clear if the international move would be possible. However, all our belongings were already packed and the rental contract of our house was terminated. There was no way of turning back. Due to the Covid restriction, saying farewell to our friends and family was different in a way we never could imagine.

Luckily the planning of the move was not affected by the Covid situation, on the 31st of March we moved to Sweden. After arrival I focused on decorating the house, learning the Swedish language and making new contacts. We brought a small present to our new neighbors, just to introduce ourselves. After some months I was asked to look after the children of our neighbors. This was just a few hours a week, but really helped me to feel more useful. Also the contact with the neighbors really improved.

Actually I was quite concerned that I would be bored after being two weeks in Sweden, but after nine months I hadn’t felt bored for one moment. When I was searching on the internet for international communities, I found the International Citizen Hub Lund at an early stage. However due to the Covid situation, all the meetings in Lund were cancelled during our first months in Sweden. Nevertheless I continued searching for a job. On Facebook I found a job as "modersmålslärare" (Dutch native language teacher) in Svedala. In June, I had my first job interview (in Swedish). This was quite stressful, but I succeeded. From August I started with my new job, and also started to follow International Citizen Hub Lund webinars via Zoom.

The contact with other expats via Zoom was so useful. Lots of recognition and many tips and tricks about living in Sweden.

After some weeks in my new job in Svedala, I was not fully happy yet. There was not much of a challenge for me there. Therefore I started looking into the possibilities of studying again. At that time I also registered for the Kick-Start Program at International Citizen Hub Lund.

The program has given me so much. I have learned a lot of useful things, besides this it made me step out of my comfort zone many times, which is a very positive aspect. From one of the other participants I received a tip about a job opportunity in Malmö. A sales company was looking for a Dutch speaking customer service agent.

Many times I have been insecure about my chances into the Swedish job market. However, in all the meetings during Kick-Start Program I learned to see many more opportunities and possibilities. By looking in detail at your personal CV, LinkedIn profile, your hard and soft skills, your wishes and expectations, they force you out of your comfort zone a lot. This is really positive and it has brought me a new job.

On my birthday in November, I started my new job as a customer service agent in a really nice company. It is amazing to be able to work in a totally different environment after 17 years of teaching.

I really hope that we can soon experience the real life in Sweden when Covid comes to an end, and see all the different people again that I met at the Kick-Start Program. It would be so great to meet each other again and share our experiences we have so far. I hope one day I will be able to give such a great job tip to one of the expats as well.

/ Chantal Bossaert

 

>> To the Linkedin profile of Chantal Bossaert