It has now been over ten years since I decided to leave the place I grew up and move abroad (you can read a little bit more about my first ‘why’ for going abroad in this post). Over the years I have met many new people by participating in activities like playing soccer, hosting for Couchsurfing and organizing language exchanges, etc. When you do this kind of thing the first questions people ask are always similar: “What’s your name?” “How old are you?” “Where are you from?” “What do you do?” “How long have you been here?”
So, if we pretend that we are meeting each other for the very first time (over coffee or for tapas, however you like), the polite thing would be to answer your questions:
My name is Claudia and I am a thirty-something year-old…
That is where it gets complicated for me. I was born and raised in the U.S. and, in all honesty, I am proud to be an American (like all things, most of the time), and no matter how long I spent in Spain, I never really felt truly Spanish. That is why you will often hear me refer to myself as a global citizen. Why? I left the U.S. when I was eighteen and have been back a total of fewer than ten times, mostly because I don’t have the need/desire to return more often—although I do go back for special events like weddings, etc.—because my parents also live abroad, in Granada, Spain.
In addition, since I left the U.S., I have lived in Spain, Brazil, Portugal, and, now, Finland. I also have dual citizenship with the U.K. and, although I have never lived there, do feel connected to the country and my family there. However, saying I am a global citizen either turns people off—literally, I have had people get upset with me when I say this and walk away—or people think it is really cool. At the end of the day, as long as you respect me, I will make an effort to do the same!
What else…? I got my undergraduate degree in Sociology from the University of Granada. It was hard because everything was ‘normal’ for Spaniards—which means it wasn’t very normal for my expectations. You can see more about taking all my classes in Spanish here, part I of studying a degree in Spain here, and part II here. I also did my Erasmus aka study-abroad year in Lisbon, a city I adore and wouldn’t mind living again in the future. When I finished my undergrad, I decided to follow my heart and get a master’s in teaching a couple of years ago.
My life in Spain was very integrated to the local culture as I spent my daily life (both work and leisure) with Spaniards. My Spanish is ‘so good’ because I have lived for years studying and working in Spanish—depending on how you count it, I lived in Granada for somewhere between five and eight non-consecutive years—but trust me, there are days when I felt like I was not capable of expressing myself or my friends/classmates/bosses didn’t understand what I was saying. I have to admit that life in another country, and language, is tiring.
Just over three years ago, however, I picked up roots again and left behind everything I knew to move to Finland. I had never been here before, but the opportunity just felt too good to pass up. It has been a bit of a journey but things are starting to feel like they fit. Moving abroad is hard and it took me a long time to feel like I fit in here, but I definitely feel like this was the right next step in my life. Thanks for joining me on the journey!