What was the turning point where you realized you not only wanted to move to Barcelona but that you were going to take action to do it?
When I realized that there was a job opportunity for my husband in Barcelona. I had visited Barcelona a couple of times and I absolutely loved it. However, it had never occurred to me that living in Barcelona was a possibility. So when the opportunity came, I made sure it would become a reality!
How did you make it happen?
I made it happen by being enthusiastic about moving here, by doing the research, talking with friends who lived here about where to live, finding school options for our children, and other practical information.
My previous work had been at an international environmental NGO in China, and I wasn’t sure how that would translate into a job in Barcelona.
As it turned out, after a few months of our arrival in Barcelona, I partnered with a friend whom I met during her time living in China, and we started a Mandarin speaking nanny agency. The experience as an entrepreneur was very enriching, but it made me realize that I enjoyed working on social and environmental issues more, which is why I decided to step away from the agency.
After enrolling and completing an executive course on social innovation at ESADE, I felt more confident, more knowledgeable, and I had a stronger professional network in the social sector in Spain.
Now I am part of Stone Soup, a consulting firm which helps organizations increase, measure and manage their social impact, and which operates mostly in Spain and Portugal. It is also a Bcorp company, and has pledged to go carbon neutral by 2030, which makes me very happy!
What are the most common challenges you face living abroad?
Sometimes it can be the language barrier, and also the cultural barrier. This is the reason why people living abroad often gravitate towards people from their same country or who at least speak their language. Having said that, it is a real missed opportunity not to make an effort and befriend local people since that will give you a very different perspective on that country’s reality.
What specific advice would you give to others who want to live abroad for a year or longer?
Planning is a good idea, because it requires you to think about what you would like to see and do while you’re there, and it helps you think about what you would like to get out of your living abroad experience. At the same time, I think it’s a good idea to leave space for flexibility and let fate or serendipity take you places you didn’t expect. I also suggest doing research on practical things such as where to get emergency medical attention, local traditions, food, etc.
Has moving/living in Barcelona changed your family for the rest of your lives?
Yes, it has changed our lives and it’s been a very pleasant experience. Now, the problem is that we don’t want to leave, but may have to for professional and practical reasons. Still, we will always have Barcelona and our magical time here!