THE GREAT RETURN

Blog: In Denmark, challenge was my daily bread

Timber founder Vladimira Briestenska says studying and working abroad forces you to face yourself and appreciate what you’ve got.

Vladimira BriestenskaVladimira Briestenska(Source: Zuzana Burdanova)

In Brussels, I interned and worked for various EU institutions

It was an amazing experience. I learned a lot. I started off in foreign policy journalism and continued in the European Parliament. When important Slovaks, such as our Prime Minister, came to the capital, I got to interview them, partly because they had nobody else covering Slovakia. My boss told me, “Just go for it!” So, I did.

Doors opened for me

I understood that if you are open-minded, risk-taking and proactive,

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opportunities will come your way. This was really inspiring for younger students, with whom I shared my story. You can tell that young Slovaks are very thirsty for international experience. They just need the right ‘kick’ sometimes.

It all started via an Erasmus exchange program to Denmark

They way Danish people are educated, raised and socialized is so different from us. They are taught to be opinionated and to develop critical thinking from a very young age.

From passive to active education

In Central Europe, the teacher is the sole authority. Most students stay in the role of the passive recipient. When I came to Denmark, I could not believe that we were encouraged to actually argue with the teacher…

For a minute, my background was a burden on my shoulders

Denmark was a tough experience. I remember how much I would cry. I was challenged in every aspect of my knowledge, skills and talents. It felt like everybody else was way ahead of me. The hard, but motivating part, was when they let me feel it.

Challenge was my daily bread

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I learned that you have to be willing to step out of your comfort zone if you want to be successful. It’s also about surrounding yourself with the right people. People with a positive mindset.

Abroad, I discovered my weakest and strongest self

The daily reality out there forces you to rely on yourself, and it is definitely different from being in the comfort of our home country. But there are positive and negative aspects to both worlds.

I wish everyone the opportunity to experience the world

Studying and working abroad, from Venice to D.C. and from Brno to London, makes you lose friendships, change homes and experience loneliness. But it also reorders your values and forces you to face yourself and appreciate what you’ve got.

I can see more and more of us returning home

You can find the same pattern in many of our stories. We are attracted to come back and settle down in Slovakia. Many of us want to contribute to change and make Slovakia better.

The ease of staying and leaving is so important

I get to travel abroad for my job but also come back to develop our foundation and new business. This allows me to transfer my knowledge. It also feels right.

Slovakia is where I can feel my roots, it’s where I feel I truly belong

This testimony was originally published in Zuzana Palovic’s book, The Great Return. You can learn more about the book as well as Palovic’s own journey as a Slovak migrant that later returned to Slovakia at http://thegreatreturn.eu/.

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