November 2023 | Written by – Ljuba Naminova
Ariel E. Slaughter, originally from Michigan in the United States, is a born storyteller. Describing herself, Ariel says that she loves talking to people and telling their stories. She joined the Expat Spouses Initiative (ESI) in September 2022 as a content creator and regular team member. Much of the written content that ESI puts out into the world is Ariel’s work.
Delayed Career Start
Ariel’s life path shows that it’s possible to have a career in your dream job, even if it doesn’t always start right away. And that flexibility always pays off in the end.
Interested in Japanese culture from a young age, Ariel is a dual major in Communications and Rhetoric as well as Japanese Literature and Language. She also studied International Relations during her Master’s program at the International University of Japan. But it was not until ten years later and after moving to the Netherlands that she was able to find consistent work related to her field.
What happened in between? Just life. But let´s tell Ariel´s story from the beginning.
From a very early age, Ariel had to adapt to new places and situations. She was nine when her family moved from Michigan to Minnesota. Many more moves followed with her family and solo across the United States. As an adult, Ariel decided to move to Japan for her Master´s degree. It was there that she met her future husband from Chile. Initially, however, they both left Japan for their home countries after graduation. “It was hard because we both knew we’re going to our respective homes, but there was definitely something there.”
Ariel tried to build a career in communications; first, in Japan by completing an internship at IBM Japan, and another in the United States with a public relations firm in Los Angeles, California. But it was 2008 and the economic crisis was at its peak. “At this time, a lot of companies were laying off staff or just weren’t hiring at all. The fact I had a master’s degree made it harder. Many people rejected my applications because they thought I’d get bored and move on as soon as possible. It’s like no one wanted to give me a chance.” She couldn’t find an entry-level position, and after two years of odd jobs and a long-distance relationship, she decided to move to Chile and start all over – once again. “It was frustrating to be underemployed and under a lot of pressure to find professional work, while my largest source of support was thousands of miles away. He kept keeping telling me to come to Chile, so I did, after more than two and half years apart.”
The Reality of Being an Expat in Chile
Reality hit hard and was not what the couple had expected. “My partner really understood that it was a big sacrifice that I had made for my career in order for us to be together. When I moved to Chile, he was always quite positive, saying: ‘You´ll find a job in six months.’ It turned out to be six and a half years.”
Despite the challenges, Ariel remembers her time in Chile with gratitude:
“Chile was great. It was the place where we could be together, the place where we got married. Bur I felt socially isolated in Chile – and then of course, professionally isolated. I was happy in my relationship, because we were living a good life there, but deep down I was very unhappy.”
A New Start in the Netherlands
The couple decided to start a new life in another country together. “We were actively considering moving to the United States, but then he interviewed for a job in The Hague. I remember he left for the interview on his birthday. His family were all calling me to wish him a happy birthday, and I couldn’t tell anyone where he was. We ended up moving to the Netherlands in June 2016.”
Ariel was excited to start all over once again. “I really looked at it as a fresh start, not knowing anything about the Netherlands at all before I moved, having spent very little time in Europe in general before.”
She decided to take the opportunity to return to her career in communications. “I was now in a country where I could explore my career, where my English was a bonus.”
Soon after moving to the Netherlands, she landed her first communications job – with a bit of luck.
First Job by Networking
While most people think networking is about making connections with other professionals, it can also be about making connections with new people in your personal life.
At a random birthday party, Ariel struck up a conversation with someone and told them about herself and her education. Later, her new acquaintance put her in touch with the communications manager of her organisation, the KNCV Tuberculosis Foundation. To her surprise, the manager offered her an internship, which later turned into a job. Ariel says it had never happened to her before, but “sometimes that is just how it works out! You meet someone randomly, they may not have anything at the moment, but later they remember you and are able to offer you something.”
From there, she was offered other jobs before starting to working as a freelance communications officer. After completing a course with ESI during the pandemic, she received more job offers from them and other organisations.
At one point, a member of the ESI team was temporarily leaving and they needed someone to fill the position as a writer. Since then, Ariel has gotten more hours at ESI and has met more people. “Through them, I have met so many more people and have had the chance to hear and tell their amazing stories.”
Difficulties of Living in the Netherlands
Having switched continents several times, Ariel is a pro at starting over, but she has always kept her head down. “Having lived in so many different countries, I kind of take things as they come. But obviously the Dutch language was a bit of a shock.” Smiling, she recalls the day she had to activate the internet in her apartment and ended up translating the manual using Google Translate because she couldn’t reach anyone on the phone.
She has since improved her Dutch to an A2 level and plans to continue to study the language. “It’s amazing how much language really contributes to how well you’re able to function in a society.”
How to follow your Dream Career
Ariel recommends people who are unsure about their career to really explore what they want to do and analyse their hard and soft skills. “If you want to move into the same career, really start researching how you can do that and where you can do that. If you find it difficult, you might need a professional community to help you so getting in touch with ESI is always a good choice.”
How to be a Good Writer
When asked what is helpful to improve one’s writing, Ariel replies: “Read everything you can including different styles and genres. Everything that you read comes back and influences the way you write.”
Another tip that she has is to find someone you trust to look over your writing. “Allow yourself to make mistakes. Don’t be shy to show someone something you’re proud of or you’re unsure of. I make mistakes and I’m a native speaker. We all make mistakes. Seeing those mistakes, recognising and learning from them is what really will improve your writing and as a person in general.”
Life in the Netherlands is now working for her and her partner. “We both had to find new friends, both of our families are far away, so we pull together as a family.”
Is the Netherlands Ariel´s final destination then? With a smile she says: “We are not planning to leave, but sometimes opportunity knocks on your door and you have to listen.”
Ljuba Naminova is a German journalist, copywriter, and author. She writes in German and English. Since 2022 she has been living in the Netherlands with her husband, three children, and two cats. She is a book lover and polyglot and is currently learning Dutch as her seventh language.