Blog – From Employed to Entrepreneur

I moved to Sweden twice. The first time was in December 1997, for a Postdoc position at AstraZeneca (AZ) in Lund. I enjoyed the lovely town, small but also big with the university and the still growing industrial area IDEON, giving it a vibrant and international feel. I felt at home and my Postdoc time flew by. I started playing volleyball, which I had played for many years in the Netherlands. This gave me the opportunity to integrate with Swedish people and I made some nice friends. I also went to the local Dutch society, but that was not my cup of tea, so I only went once or twice. At work there was a department with a lot of international people that played sports and did other activities together that I got included in. This is how I met my husband-to-be. We got together one month before I moved to Vermont in the USA for a second Postdoc. I lived there 2 years, but managed to get a job at AZ after those 2 years and moved back to Lund August 2001, this time into the house of my husband-to-be.

All was fine until March 2010 we got the announcement that AZ was closing their site in Lund. All research was moved to Gothenburg and we were welcome to move with them. My husband and I meanwhile had 2 children, so we decided not to move and instead try to find a job here in the Lund area. This was the start of my entrepreneurship. My husband immediately found a job in Copenhagen, which restricted my opportunities, since we felt we could not both commute 2 hours each day. I had a ceramic studio that I used as a hobby and as time went on the idea grew of starting my own company in this line of work. Since we realized that it might be difficult to make ends meet with only a ceramic studio, we thought of building an apartment that we could rent out. However, since an AZ colleague also was thinking of starting her own company (she is a microbiologist and got interested in making organic sourdough bread), it seemed more fun to build a bakery and work on developing the business with her. And so the ceramic studio became Ateljé Råbygård and grew from my hobby studio into a course center and meeting point for other ceramists (we are 15 members in the studio today). In addition to building the bakery we built a small meeting room, one apartment and four corridor rooms for students or other people in need of a room.

Looking back today, it has been a hectic and stressful time, but it has also been lots of fun and I do not regret taking the step to change my career. It is not only that I can decide what I want to do and work for myself or have my company, but I enjoy it. Each time I have had a course, people are happy when they leave. People give me positive energy, I see them relax and tune out from the daily life and stress. That has been the whole purpose with this idea; to create a place for relaxation, creativity and reflection.

All the best, Solange Korn Arvidsson

Marta Bochniewicz from Poland: My Kick-Start Program story

Before I came to Sweden (July 2015) I had been thinking how to prepare myself for this change and challenge. It was my first expat experience but I knew that language is vital to understand the culture and find a job, so I started with this. I found the Swedish Language and Culture full-time program at Folkuniversitetet in Lund and within one year of intensive work I achieved C1 (fluent) level. When the program was nearing its end, I started looking for a job. I am a well-educated researcher within social science with several years of experience and I thought that it wouldn’t be difficult to find something interesting. I checked Arbetsförmedlingen’s website but found that it didn’t offer exactly what I was looking for. Then I searched other job sites but still it wasn’t easy to find something interesting and relevant. It just didn’t work for me. I needed something else. At the same time, I started participating in the Kick-Start Program. And that was it!

What has the Kick-Start Program given me?

First of all, I gained knowledge about the job market. There is a big difference in the whole process of getting a job in Sweden or Denmark that I wasn’t aware of. I have learnt how to effectively look for a job or start my own business. Now I know what I can expect at every stage of this process and how I can prepare myself. I got individual guidance in writing a CV and cover letter which helped me a lot and increased the efficiency of my applications. I also got useful tips on how to prepare for interviews.

What I think was a big advantage of this program was great guest speakers. We met experienced recruiters, entrepreneurs and other professionals who shared their knowledge and experiences. What is also very important is that I have started building my network, which is another great thing about the Kick-Start Program. Since it’s estimated that only 30% of jobs on offer are published, networking is crucial to find a job. I have learnt how to connect to other professionals but also how to use LinkedIn to develop my network.

Last but not least the Kick-Start Program has given me the confidence and faith that I can succeed. In the program we met people who told us their success stories which I found were very inspiring. The program was also a great opportunity to discover cultural differences and how we all can benefit from our diversity. We should consider it as our advantage and not an obstacle to success.

You may wonder how my story ends. I have had a few interviews and this time I was much better prepared than before. I have utilised all the tools and knowledge I have gained from the Kick-Start Program and hopefully I will soon get my dream job.

Marta Bochniewicz

 

 

 

Axel Wallin: When the ball is in the air…

Between 2010-15, I was the Head Coach of the Eos Basket men’s team. For the last two of those seasons, we qualified for the Superettan league, which is the second highest division of Swedish Basketball. Superettan is played over 14 games between the top 8 Division 1 teams from all of Sweden.

In 2014, out of our 14 games, three were decided in the final second. Twice our opponent was able to score a game-winning shot on the buzzer, and once we had an open layup to tie the game that unfortunately rolled off the rim. We ended up with a record of 8 wins and 6 losses, which was good enough for 5th place.

The year after, we had a chance to win the league in our last home game. A win, which would be our 9th, and would put us ahead of the other teams in an extremely tight league. For three quarters our opponent Alvik outplayed us badly. As a coach I tried all adjustments I had, different tactics, player combinations, pace etc, but nothing worked, and going into the last quarter we were down 15 points. At that point, as I gave up trying to remote control the players and the events, the momentum shifted and sitting down on the bench I watched my players launch a comeback to win the game. We won the league with a 9-5 record, and the year before we were 5th with 8-6. The point of the whole story is that there are situations where the difference between success and mediocrity is microscopic, the events are out of your control, and all you can do is to sit back and hope for the best, knowing that you’ve done everything you can.

Writing this, I have the same feeling, but for a completely non-basketball related activity. A few months ago, Eos was contacted by Lunds Kommun Real Estate Company, LKF, regarding a project to evolve the community of Linero siutated east of Lund. The Swedish Arts Council had announced a grant “Creative Places”, aiming to raise socially challenged areas through cultural activities. LKF is a sponsor of Eos, and we already had ongoing discussions about increasing their involvement in our social project “Eos Cares”.

We sat down and looked at what we had. LKF is planning for major investments in the area’s outside environment. Eos Cares is running the Eos Language Café language training activities, which is an established meeting point for integration and cultural exchange. We saw that with this as a core, we could be able to build a competitive project. Activities we had in mind were, among others, a language training center, an extensive support for startups of cultural associations (cooking, literature, art exhibitions, music production, animation & theater etc), as well as a re-establishment of the old Linero Festival as a common ground for all initiatives.

But we also realized that we could not do it only by ourselves. For a project of this magnitude, we needed to recruit a team of organizations, attacking the field of integration and cultural activities from several angles. The International Citizen Hub Lund was an obvious partner, being able to present the envisioned panorama of cultural activities to the region’s international community, and to connect people from all over the world with a generally high level of self esteem with the local residents in need of social capital and extended cultural networks. Furthermore, Eos Cares already has extensive collaboration with the Hub, having started up the joint initiative “Swedish for Expats”, and through an ongoing exchange of ideas related to social meeting points and language training for the international community.

The other organizations recruited were the Linero local residents association, the social project “Intitiativet Lund” that is supporting entrepreneurship in challenged communitys, and the society builder TAMAM. An extensive application was produced and submitted on September 22nd, and results are expected to be announced by the end of november.

As of now, we are sitting back hoping for the best.

Axel Wallin

Health & Safety Specialist, Skanska
Eos Cares Programme Director
Head Coach Eos Basket Senior Men A

 

GUEST BLOG: Rhonda Rousseau from United States

Thank you to Lund International Citizens Hub for their warm welcome to the city of Lund! I moved to Sweden from the U.S. with my husband for his job a year ago and have recently relocated to Lund. They have been so helpful not only with the Kick Start Program to help find a job but also other fun activities to get connected and meet other people. One of those events is the language cafe on Wednesdays to help learn Swedish whatever level you are at and other fun activities around town like a tour of the Lund Cathedral.

I highly recommend LICH to get connected and some friendly help along the way on your journey!

The Welcome Reception: Being welcomed to Greater Copenhagen and Southern Sweden

Perhaps one of the most visited places in Copenhagen, the central square is home to the imposing City Hall, hundreds of tourists, and of course pigeons. The day is August 31st and the back-to-school bustle breathes energy in to the city, a perfect day to welcome our newest international residents to Greater Copenhagen and southern Sweden.

International House Copenhagen is arranging its first Welcome Reception at City Hall, offering expats a smorgasbord of information regarding diverse culture, leisure and work-life offerings from organisations based in the Greater Copenhagen Area and southern Sweden.

Our Swedish delegation has driven across the 10 km bridge connecting Malmö in Southern Sweden to Copenhagen in Denmark to exhibit at the Welcome Reception and chat to newcomers to the area.

As attendees line up for the traditional Danish pancakes being served, the Swedish delegation gets the opportunity to chat with the many expats who have decided to relocate to Sweden and Denmark. The reasons are many, but all seem to be delighted with the opportunities to visit, enjoy and work in both countries, the proximity of the two allowing for an integrated job market and plenty of free-time activities.

A fashion designer from Italy is looking to establish herself in the Copenhagen, Scandinavia’s design and fashion capital, and is pleased to learn about how inspiration from Sweden is only a 30-minute train ride away.  Greater Copenhagen and southern Sweden make up Scandinavia’s most densely populated area, with 3,9 million inhabitants. The area is one of the most dynamic in Europe for ground-breaking science and technological innovations, such as MAX IV and ESS, two world leading centres for materials research.

Residents here can also let their heart beat a little slower, when it is time to relax. The open spaces, the rolling countryside, forests, lakes and long sandy beaches are never more than 30 minutes away from wherever you work. This unique combination of stimulating business environment and a high quality of life means one really can enjoy the best of both worlds.

The afternoon finished with a workshop delving into the cultural differences in working life in Sweden and Denmark. Dane’s and Swede’s tendency to wear black, play in cemeteries and leaving babies outside in the cold were hot topics in which newcomers discussed. Also mentioned were other working life quirks, such as Dane’s and Swede’s tendency to arrive early rather than late (or on-time for that case).

The delegation from Sweden was made up of: Invest in SkåneOresundDirekt; The Municipalities of Lund, Helsingborg and Malmö; Lund International Citizen Hub; and Helsingborg International Connections. The Swedish delegation’s participation in the Welcome Reception and seminar on working life was conducted in the framework of the work package called ”Welcoming International Talents” which is part of the ESS & Max IV: Cross Border Science and Society Interreg Project. The project is funded by the European Regional Development fund and has 27 project partners with the goal of seizing the opportunities of the unique research facilities ESS and MAX IV in Lund.

 

 

GUEST BLOG: Marta Rodriguez from Spain

”I have been told many times from different people here in Sweden that networking is the most important thing for getting a job. I was recommended to register to a few networking webpages because it is said that you never know who you may get to know there and who he/she can lead you to.
I knew about Lund International Citizen Hub and decided to attend some of the events which are very useful for people coming from abroad. I asked Lisa directly if she could give me the contact of a designer to speak with, in order to see how my profession works in Sweden. I must say, I was quite lost. Fortunately, she knew somebody in my field so, thanks to this contact, I am working today.
What I want to say with this is: Do not be shy to mingle with people. Attend the events at Lund International Citizen Hub and other networking events. It works!!!
I am thankful for the existence of this hub and the fact of staying open to us, giving good advice, your kindness and always doing your best!”
Marta Rodriguez

GUEST BLOG: Andrea Maasland from Holland

”Hey there, welcome to Lund, we are going to take good care of you and make you feel at home!”…..that is something you would like to hear when you are moving to a new town.

Or even better when you move to a new country. It is such a big step to go from one place to another. Sometimes you move by choice and sometimes simply because of an opportunity that came knocking on your door. Many people I met came to Lund because of work. And then the circus starts. Having an opportunity to go to a new place or country is one thing….but getting there and building up a new life is something different. It’s a little like getting married. First, there is the excitement of the wedding that needs to be planned. Then finally or suddenly the big day has come, except there are a lot of unexpected and mixed emotions of bittersweet joy and sadness from family and friends saying their goodbyes at your farewell party. Yes, then there’s the fun period of the honeymoon. That’s when you arrive in your new country when everything is new and exciting. And as a couple/family it really makes you focus on each other for a little while, which is nice but then your new life starts…..and suddenly you notice that this is it….your life really has taken a new step!
And that is the moment that you might experience a little doubt, the job is not as nice or easy as you thought, you have colleagues that you do not understand or vice versa. There is something called a culture trap. Your spouse is not as happy in the cold and long dark days after the summer. The kids are having a hard time in the new school and maybe you go through a period of ’secret doubt’, did we make the right decision to come to Sweden? It’s like newlyweds getting in their first fight. And then you wish that you knew someone who would say to you, ”Hey there! Welcome to Lund, we are going to take good care of you and your family and make you feel at home!”

Most of us expats, new residents of Lund or even exchange students are very much charmed by the nice sound of the Swedish greeting ”Hej, Hej!” and we love to hear “Välkommen”. For me and my family it was the first Swedish words we learned and practiced with enthusiasm in shops and on each other. But after those words….it gets harder. You wish you could speak with someone else than your partner but in your own language or at least a language that you understand. The first official letters have probably arrived in your mailbox and if you don’t have the luxury of a relocation agent for those practical things, you can feel really lost. Because let’s be honest it is quite hard to learn Swedish and you definitely don’t understand those kind of letters even after having had your first classes of “Svenska”. How wonderful if there was a place where someone could help you feel at home a little faster than the normal road it takes to settle into a new life?

Well if you arrive in Lund as your new destination you have come to the right place! They have created a wonderful place, not only a desk but a really homey house where you can come for help. They understand how it is to move to a place when you don’t understand the language or know how things work. Here you get a warm smile and support on all different levels of life! The International Citizen Hub in Lund is not a virtual desk for newcomers but a real physical place with real people and real connections. Really a wonderful initiative of the municipality of Lund, the local government and various sponsors, as a place to find your “hey there, welcome to Lund let me help you feel at home”. It’s a place to go for practical help. Lisa and her people are sure to give you a feeling of a warm welcome. And no they are not experts in all fields or can solve all your issues and problems, but they know the right people and organisations to turn to. They organise all kinds of inspirational, educational, motivational and most of all informative events where you have a chance to meet all kinds of people, fellow new expats, professionals or a connection with people from the area that would like to help make your stay in Lund/Sweden a great one! They even have mentor events where you can be connected to a person who has lived longer in Lund or Swedish but has a desire to help you get settled both professionally and personally. And that’s why the International Citizen Hub in Lund makes your life sooooo much easier! Really this is the place to find your next step to your exciting new life path that has led you to the best place to live in Sweden.
And that is not a marketing phrase because Lund is on the top list of best places to live in Sweden, especially for young professionals and their families. Does that mean that a more mature single person should not come to live in Lund? No it means that you’ll find a vibrant atmosphere in Lund, a lot of activities and initiatives around you, a lot of parks and simply a wonderful place to walk around and create a new temporary or permanent home for yourself!

And I speak from experience.  Coming from Holland to Sweden on our first expat assignment, I was quite lost at first. So much was new and so much going on in your family at the same time. But what helped me was to go out and meet people! Connect as much as you can with different initiatives and groups! Do not sit at home and watch the sun go down….because let me tell you when autumn comes it goes down early!!! You will be surprised how much you can learn from life experiences of others. And meeting people is easier than you think. The first time we came to Sweden, 10 years ago, it went quite quick because of having kids in school and through those connections. You are all in the same boat so to say….family is far away and you learn to connect and relate to people so much easier. It is fun to meet people from your own country and speak your own language, but it is great to meet people from all over the globe and share your stories and learn how they cope with living in Sweden. And it is really nice when you meet Swedish people that love to speak English and have lived abroad for a while and returned….because they, believe it or not, go through the same process of learning to connect with the country as you! So yes after we left 3 years to go on a new adventure overseas, I was homesick for our time and life in Sweden. So when we had the chance to return to Europe and the luxury to choose the country where to live, we chose Sweden over our home country! Yes….be aware after maybe the initial problems, if you give living in Lund a real chance, almost everybody comes to love Sweden and say that they do not want to leave. So yes, it is hard the go through the long, dark, wet winters, but boy how lucky to get the wonderful chance to experience the freedom children have, the healthy lifestyle and relaxed time along with the beautiful nature in this country! Welcome to Sweden, I’m sure you’ll feel at home very soon….but give it a chance and find people to connect to.

Simply by stepping into Ekska Huset and let them connect you! Välkommen til Lund!