Jenny Thiel

"Living abroad inspires me to do things I always wanted to do but did not have the time or prioritize. Currently I’m adjusting my career path and changing the professional field into a more fulfilling direction, digital healthcare. In this field, I am going to focus on machine learning in Python via an amazing pink programming summer camp."

When you move abroad you most likely leave (parts of) your family at home and also your friends. We, my spouse Alex, our toddler Josie and I moved to Sweden in October 2018 when my spouse started a job at Massive Entertainment. We left our family and friends in Germany and it was quite hard to leave them in a phase of my life where I would have needed them the most, as our baby was just one year old at the time.

In the beginning I missed everything; family and friends from my hometown, talking in my mother tongue, our former flat, even the local shops I’d buy my groceries. One day I was on the phone with a friend of mine who moved some years ago with her family about 250km from her hometown, although she was still living in her home country. For her it was the same thing, but without the bureaucratic or language barriers. She said to me, which is the best advice I ever got: Assume you will stay forever!

What does that mean for us now, here in Sweden? Here comes what helped me the most:

1. Learn Swedish

Indeed, everybody says so and everybody is right about that. There are so many different courses on how to learn Swedish with SFI that there must be some courses that suit your needs as well. I do not suggest Duolingo App for getting first experience. Try to check out YouTube and search for “SFI” where you will find great explanations on grammar and easy words that you need in your everyday live.

2. Expand your network

If you go to a SFI course you can at the same time expand your network. At the SFI courses you will meet great people with various backgrounds, and I found it interesting to listen to their stories and about their home countries. Some of the people I met came from Middle East and often couldn’t speak English nor write with Latin characters. They managed to learn the new language and write it. Impressive! Your classmates are the people that you are probably becoming friends with as they are in the same situation as you are. The same applies for the extremely helpful Kick-Start Program, which I attended and which I highly recommend.

3. Networking for Families

If you have kids who are younger than six and are waiting for a preschool spot, I suggest going to an open preschool frequently. There are some preschools that offer free language courses as well! It helped me very much to get in touch with other parents! There you will always find good tips on where to go and what to do. In times of Corona you may get information like that via the Facebook group: “Malmö & Lund international families”.

4. Get to know your neighborhood

If you go frequently to the shops, grocery stores, cafés, play grounds or just on a walk in your area you will see the same people again and again. Take the chance to start up a conversation with them. It feels so good to have some people in your neighborhood that you know. That’s the way I found some Swedish friends, along with the benefit of them living close by.

5. Start something new

Living abroad inspires me to do things I always wanted to do but did not have the time or prioritize. Currently I’m adjusting my career path and changing the professional field into a more fulfilling direction, digital healthcare. In this field, I am going to focus on machine learning in Python via an amazing pink programming summer camp.

6. Prepare for the winter

Take some highly concentrated vitamin D pills in the winter. It has a significant impact on your immune system and helps to keep you healthy.

Believe me, we expats are all struggling and thinking about going back. As sometimes, even your relationship can be strained in the beginning when you come here. I guess it is normal until you both make the adjustments to the new situation. So, don’t worry about that too much.

Be sure before making a decision. Remember you can decide (with your family) if it is time to go back to your former home country; if you really miss home, friends, family so much that you want to go back. That option is most of the time there. But give yourself some time to adjust to the new situation, the new country and build a solid base. Because it is likely that you will end up staying here forever and raise your kids here as well. Make yourself comfortable in Sweden for yourself not for anybody else.

In that sense, once again: Assume you will stay forever!

/ Jenny Thiel

 

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