Kaitlyn McConnell Grønli ’11 shares her story of finding love and a career halfway across the world.
I’ve always wanted to make an impact on the world. When I graduated from Drury with a degree in Integrated Media in May 2011, however, my plan was to make that difference from the safe, cozy confines of Southwest Missouri. I grew up in nearby Marshfield, and while I’ve always loved travelling, I never had any intention of moving elsewhere. The Ozarks region was my first love, and I never thought I’d leave.
Since then, I’ve learned that life occasionally has surprises in store – and that when you roll with the unexpected, many an exciting adventure is likely to ensue.
One of those adventures took place right after graduation when I decided to take a solo trip to Europe. While I was there, a chance encounter with a wonderful guy changed my life forever.
That story, however, is a tale in itself. I’ll just say that the guy, whose name is Espen, eventually convinced me to marry him – but first persuaded me to move to his home country of Norway so we could get to know each other better. It was a crazy idea, but I decided to take a leap. I quit my job as a staff writer at 417 Magazine to move abroad with no job, no knowledge of the language and no professional contacts.
In retrospect, this was stupid.
Not from the relationship side of things, of course. But looking back, this could have been professional suicide. Thankfully things worked out for me, but if you’re moving abroad for work-related reasons, take my advice: Do your research first. Don’t just sail (or, in most cases, fly) off into the unknown.
After arriving in Norway, the first thing I did was enroll in immersive Norwegian classes. Although I didn’t like the classes, I now know that learning the language was a crucial step. I would strongly encourage anyone moving abroad to make this effort. Although English is widely spoken in Europe, it’s been my experience that there is always a barrier when communicating with people when you’re not speaking their native tongue. If you want to fully integrate, then connecting with people where they’re most comfortable is a necessity.
I began looking for jobs while I was still taking Norwegian classes. It wasn’t long before I came across a position with FMC Technologies, a company that engineers oil and gas extraction equipment for energy giants like Shell, BP and Statoil – and is American-owned. They were looking for someone, preferably an English-speaking journalist, to write, edit and quality assure their written material. Everyone else in the local communications department is Norwegian, so I was hired as a Communications Coordinator and given the task of making sure that everything we do sounds American.
Over the past two years, my position has evolved. Now I’m the company’s Internal Media Editor, and I spend most of my time working on various internal projects. I’m still responsible for quality assuring content, but I largely focus on executive communication, the development of internal campaigns, as well as the management our intranet site and information screens.
Be prepared to be unprepared
It’s safe to say that I’ve learned a lot while in Norway. Someone considering a move abroad should do a lot of research on their intended destination before he or she departs – but some surprises should be expected, too. Thankfully, some of these surprises can be good, like the five weeks of paid vacation that every Norwegian gets each year. Others, like homesickness and culture shock, aren’t so great.
If someone intends to stay in a country (or at least get a real feel for it), immersion is a necessity. Join clubs. Do the local activities and eat the regional food. Don’t be disappointed when things are different than in the U.S., because they definitely will be. And, as previously stated, learn the language. Make every effort to find the good things about where you are. Realize that each country, as a puzzle piece in this great big world that we live in, plays a unique role in the grand scheme of things.
Ultimately know that you – yes, YOU – possess the ability to get out and make a global impact!
If you’d like more information about moving and working abroad, don’t hesitate to contact Kaitlyn (KaitlynMcConnell.Gronli@fmcti.com).