Postcard from Northern California
Looking back on the first half part of my second rotation, I figured the words frustration, welcoming, adapting, travelling and appreciation summarizes the phases I’ve been through by now quite well.
Documentation wise, moving to the US for work was not the simplest and smoothest process I have experienced. A visa application process that should take no longer than 30 days, ended up taking almost three months and resulted in three weeks arrival delay. Strict documentation requirements, endless communication back and forth with third parties, and lack of knowing when I should start packing my suitcase and say goodbye to Denmark was definitively frustrating. However, it all succeeded in the end and three days after receiving my visa I was on the plane and one visa application process wiser.
Once arriving at the airport in San Francisco, the visa frustration was all the sudden forgotten. Being picked up by my manager, driving over Golden Gate bridge in the sun, passing wine yard after wine yard and entering a fully furnished apartment with a pool and car waiting for me outside, a welcome sign at my desk in the office and friendly colleagues, made me feel very fortunate and that I’d come to the right place. With a 45 minutes ride away from San Francisco and a view over Napa Valley, I believe our office in Petaluma is not the worst place to stay for your second rotation.
While I’ve lived abroad several times throughout my life and learned how to adapt to new culture, people and surroundings, this is the first time I’ve moved abroad for work and I can tell it is very different from studying abroad. In contrast to studying abroad, you do not meet a lot of people in the same situation that are eager to go on adventures, grab a coffee or discover the night life. Nope. You’re pretty much all by yourself and you must really push yourself out there to get something that reminds about a social life. Although that sounds a bit depressing I think this is one of greatest challenges and learnings from working abroad. I see myself as a social person, always seeking company from friends and family, and before leaving I really faired the thought of being alone. However, once I accepted that it is okay to spend the evenings watching Netflix, browse around the city or eat dinner alone, I figured it was not that bad. It was actually a relief to know that I’m able to enjoy my own company and be adventurous alone. Also, after accepting that my social life slowly started growing. I connected with a girl through a Facebook running page and suddenly a running-date evolved into day-excursions, pool crashing, cocktail party with her friends and wine tours. So, I guess it’s going the right direction and at least I have one friend!
On the more corporate side I think it has been rather easy to adapt. People in the office are very welcoming and eager to help with whatever weird question I happen to have. Apart from a non-existing social lunch culture, and titles such as “Chief”, “Captain” and “Lieutenant”, I believe the biggest difference from the HQ in Copenhagen is the “operational feeling”. As the office also is an ambulance station, field workers are running around and bumping in to my colleagues with questions and requests. I think this creates a nice and informal vibe with great insights to the operational side of our business.
With the first month being filled up with ambulance ride-along, meeting shadowing, and business trips with my manager to our offices in Seattle, Orange County and Miami, I got a little taste of how the next half year will look like. As a project manager within Global Quality and Risk Management my main responsibility is to facilitate process mapping workshop, document and identify improvement potentials of our Operational and Support processes across Falck’s different locations in the US. In other words, my job includes a lot of travelling to new places, meetings with new people almost every week, and the opportunity to better understand the US Ambulance business.
A couple of months ago was the first time I travelled all by myself, and I must say it definitively gave me a boost and the feeling of being an independent business woman. Every step during my five days trip to Orlando and Miami gave me nerves and excitement – all from getting to the airport early in the morning, navigating to the hotel, heading to a new office, meeting with people I only had talked to over email, and sitting as a loner at a restaurant in the evenings. Although it all went above expectations, I believe the latter was the most challenging part that I still, after several travels on my own, find a bit awkward.
Besides learning a lot about myself, developing new skills and business understanding, I think living abroad is a good reminder of how great life is back home. Having received a $6,000 bill after a 2-hour visit at the doctor that I could just forward to the insurance, made me realized that I should stop complaining about the large part of my salary disappearing in taxes and start appreciating our healthcare system. Unlike many American families, I’ll most certainly never have to worry about being financially ruined after a visit to the hospital.
Moreover, the rotation abroad is a unique experience and opportunity to establish a network in a new country, learn about yourself and to push yourself out of comfort zone. I can only recommend it!