Who are you?
My name is Serena, I am 27, and I come from a beautiful country, rich with breath-taking landscapes, sun and genuine people. Tourism is an amazing resource in Italy, so many people dream of the blue sea and the delicious food, trying to visit the “Bel Paese” at least once in a lifetime.
Where, when and why did you move abroad?
As a child, I was inspired by the beauty of Italy, and I really wanted to find a way to best promote it, to spread more awareness about the culture, the stereotypes, the gestures and the minor destinations.
I first studied Business & Administration, where I focused my thesis on the potential of Italian tourism, looking for gaps and ways of making improvements. Next, I decided that it was time for me to look for inspiration outside Italy, where I could get diverse knowledge and gain different competences and new ways of looking at tourism, innovation and change – these are keywords missing in Italy.
At 23, I moved to Salzburg, in Austria, where I earned my Master’s degree in Innovation & Management in tourism. I graduated as a young, enthusiastic woman, full of dreams and willingness to work hard and reach my potential. Indeed, I always felt as if something was missing, as I was always stepping back and not living at my full capacity.
What challenges did you face during the move?
Because I moved to Austria to study, it was easy to settle down, as the university gave me connections and helped me through the process. Also, from the beginning, I had opportunities to meet people, especially other internationals.
How did you find somewhere to live?
During my first year, I lived in a student dorm, recommended by the university during the application. It was great for meeting people and socialising. However, it was quite expensive for a private room with a shared bathroom and kitchen. Over the years, I tried several different accommodations in Salzburg, and overall, I am not very satisfied considering price-quality. The view, however, is amazing. My current apartment is surrounded by mountains.
Are there many other expats in your area?
Even though Salzburg is a relatively small city, there are many internationals here. I have met with many of them. A lot of people come here to study, and then they remain to work and get better opportunities. They fall in love with the city or with the people they meet here.
As I did.
What is your relationship like with the locals?
Honestly, I do not know many locals. It is hard to find the real Salzburgers. They hide themselves? They hang around in different areas? I don´t know. The best to get to know locals is to know the language, preferably the dialect, and to be aware of the cultural differences. Do not take things personally, but instead be flexible and remember that the world is not shaped according to your own values and customs.
In the last couple of years, because of work, I started to expand my network and get to know more locals. However, I do love communicating with people from all over the world, and discovering what is hiding behind the surface. You get to know a whole world – different mindsets, different cultures – just by talking to people. Especially in this period of disconnections, what we need is open mindsets and networks. This allows us to be more resilient, stronger and happier.
What do you like about life where you are?
I live within an international and stimulating environment – I would probably have missed that if I’d stayed in my hometown.
I also love the landscapes and the mountains nearby, where I go hiking in spring and summer.
During my years living abroad, I have surely developed a stronger mindset and a stronger spirit. I met the people that allowed me to open up and get to know myself and my skills. I grabbed many opportunities and had memorable experiences. While living in Austria, I turned from a young, shy girl to a tenacious, energetic woman, setting up her own business and future.
What do you dislike about your expat life?
On the other hand, I missed much of what was happening in Italy, with my family, my friends, my country. Sometimes, I still wonder if it was – if it is – worth it to live far from all that is familiar to me, from Italy.
What is the biggest cultural difference you have experienced between your new country and life back home?
The cultural differences are many, and I still feel them, even after almost five years. For example, what is all this stress when being at the supermarket? Seriously, why all this rush at the cashier? It is so nice when people take care of your stuff, when they remember you and greet you. Sometimes, what is missing is some relaxation, some thoughtfulness. It is important to slow down and enjoy the little moments.
What advice would you give to anyone following in your footsteps?
My recommendations for someone before moving abroad are:
- Be flexible and open minded
- Remember who you are, but remember also that you are in a different country
- Learn about the values and cultural customs
- Inform yourself about the language and the documentations needed (you will not be informed if you do not inform yourself)
Be proactive; do not be scared! Moving to another country is a brave move, so be proud of yourself!
What are your plans for the future?
In the future, I plan to live here in Austria and grow my business. I am an innovation consultant and experience designer, and I want to connect with people, help other internationals, and not only, to find their path and implement their own ideas. I believe that what is needed now is a stronger network and more resilient mindset, for both the personal and professional life. If you need any support, ideas or guidance for your business and personal life, I am here to help you be the best in what you do.
If you’d like to learn more about Serena’s business, you can visit her website at Oltrexx.com.