Embracing International Work and Life through Change
March 2022 | Written by – Ariel Slaughter
If there is only one constant in life, it’s that it’s always changing. To make the most of our ever-shifting circumstances, we too must learn to adapt and embrace change as it comes. To do otherwise means we risk being unfulfilled professionally, socially, and emotionally. Nikol Vetronova understands this perhaps more than others. Her story is one of change and perseverance.
To Breda, then Budapest, then Eindhoven
Nikol originally came to Breda in 2013 to study International Tourism Management and Consultancy at Breda University of Applies Sciences, but she found living and studying in the Netherlands to be challenging at first. She remembers, “the first six months were quite difficult, being in a new environment, trying to fit in with a new culture, and a new language. I expected that I would be in a fully internationally environment but the reality was somewhat different.” Things did improve but after four years in the Netherlands, Nikol needed a change. So even though her partner was moving to Eindhoven, she decided to move to Budapest eventually settling into a job in Human Resources (HR).
Moving to Budapest was exactly the change Nikol needed. “Moving to Budapest was a completely different experience. After a month, I already started meeting people. I had friends. There was always something to do and somewhere to go. Every day was different and it was really great!” But her partner was still in Eindhoven, so after nearly two years in Budapest, she returned to Noord Brabant.
Nikol’s experiences in Budapest, deeply influenced how she approached returning to the Netherlands. “I think it really helped me to see a different side of myself. I learned that if I want something to happen then I need to go out, meet people and try different options.” That attitude helped her to land a part-time work at Manifestations:
“I was working in HR in Budapest, but on the side, I was also volunteering. I was the speaker coordinator for an event, where I learned to network and the opportunity to meet people from different backgrounds. So, my idea when I moved to Eindhoven was to find something similar. I went for a picnic in the park and came back with a job. I started off as a volunteer coordinator at Manifestations during Dutch Design Week, but afterwards I became a personal assistant of the creative director.” – Nikol Vetronova, HR Officer at TU/e
Growing with Expat Spouses Initiative
It was also around the same time that Nikol first made contact with Expat Spouse Initiative. “I remember that I contacted ESI when I first moved to Eindhoven in 2019. They offered me a spot in one of their programs, but I couldn’t join. Then almost a year later, I got a call from them about the Women for Women program (WFW).” Being invited to join the WFW program as a Talent was a bit of a surprise for Nikol, but she was excited about the opportunity as “it came just at the right time”.
“I was at a point where I did not know what I wanted to do with my career. I wanted to find a stable position where I could be part of a bigger team and have a better sense of belonging. I wanted change but I didn’t know where to start. I’m always in for trying new things, so it was an easy decision to join the WFW program.”
The program helped Nikol envision where she wanted to go next in her career, meet new people in similar situations, and build the sense of community she’d been missing. Although her sights were set to rebranding herself as an administration professional, ESI thought differently. “I oriented my profile around administration, but the funny thing was that ESI was trying from a different angle. They wanted to place me in HR because of my experience and skills. I had my doubts a first.”
After completing the WFW program and later joining an ESI PEP team , Nikol found a job in the very field she had resisted months earlier – HR. “ESI contacted me for a position in the HR department of Eindhoven University of Technology. It was a surprise call but again, just at the right time. I didn’t see it at first, but ESI helped me find a good direction to develop. I am where I want to be now. I am part of an amazing team at a job that I enjoy.”
Connecting through Creativity
Beyond work, Nikol is a member of the International Creative Women (ICW) group in Eindhoven. ICW is an amazing community of international women that supports, promotes, and connects women entrepreneurs online and offline. She credits this organization for helping her set up her own small business. “I thought for a long time to register at the Chamber of Commerce, but just imagining dealing with taxes and everything was really scary. But with communities like ICW, they help you with all of that.” Nikol crochets stuffed toys that are for sale at the ICW Creative Town.
What can other internationals learn from Nikol’s experiences?
Yes, moving to a new country without any job prospects, friends or family can feel daunting. But it doesn’t have to be! Create and cultivate a positive outlook to view it as a fresh start with new opportunities waiting around every corner.
““Give yourself the time to adapt! Things do get easier, especially if you put the effort into understanding the local language, lifestyle and culture. And remember to put yourself out there and reach out to people who can help you. An opportunity may come when you least expect it.”
KEEP AN OPEN MIND
While focusing on a singular desire or goal can motivate one to achieve it, hyper-fixating can blind us to other possibilities. Know what you want but also try to be flexible to assess any opportunities that might fall outside your ultimate goal.
Nikol was able to transition previous volunteering jobs into part-time work, and so can you! Volunteering is an excellent way to learn new skills, maintain old ones, network, practice Dutch, and more. Organizations such as Eindhoven Doet or Vrijwillige Hulpdienst Eindhoven offer a variety of volunteering opportunities. A lot of organizations are short of staff at the moment, so don’t be afraid to reach out!
Nikol’s story shows us how change can have a positive impact on our lives. It doesn’t have to be nerve-wrecking, even though it might be filled with uncertainty. So, whether you’re at crossroads and don’t know how to move forward or you need advice to pivot and reboot your career, ESI and their community can help. Contact them to find out what opportunities await you. Not ready? Read more from the Tips, Trips, and Stories from our Community section for more inspiring stories of Noord Brabant internationals and Dutch culture.
A natural storyteller and aficionado of the written word, Ariel Slaughter works as a freelance writer and editor. She has a dual Bachelor of Arts in Communications and Rhetoric and Japanese Literature and Language from the University of Pittsburgh as well as a Master’s of Arts in International Relations from the International University of Japan.
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