Each Friday, a person who is making bold moves, living well, nurturing their creativity, following their passions, and making magic will be featured on Bold Living Today.
Today’s interview is with Carrie Vanderbrook, Ph.D. Dr. Vanderbrook and I worked together on a federal grant that aimed to prepare highly effective educators for the urban setting. We also share a strong love for coats, handbags, shoes – and playing with Play Doh during dinner parties.
Your family and you took a bold leap and moved to Switzerland. Tell me how this opportunity came about?
We moved to Switzerland in June of 2008. My husband, who has always wanted to move to Europe, found a position at an international firm and applied. We took our then 6-month-old son for his first transatlantic flight for the job interview. My husband interviewed and was asked to move to Zurich for the position. So we did.
What adjustments, mentally, did you need to make when you moved?
I can’t even begin the list of adjustments that I had to make, and are still making. First, this was something that I never planned to do. I had to readjust my thinking that I was not going to live close to my mother, father, sister and her family. I had to accept that I was leaving my friends as well. Really, everything was readjusted. Every schema I had for how I was to live my life has altered. The way my children are raised, their school situation, my friends, the language that I hear, the culture I am surrounded by . . . and I haven’t even really “gone native.”
I remember just before we moved, feeling sheer panic, the kind you feel in your core when you are really scared and want to change your mind. The first year that we were here that feeling reappeared almost daily. The mental adjustments are very tough when you move a young family to a foreign country. I was also dealing with my mental adjustment of being a mother.
Many people would have passed on this opportunity due to that type of fear, but you persevered.
How did you take care of yourself during the transition?
I didn’t really. I pretty much fell apart. My son was 8 months old and I lived in a small bedroom community with mostly Swiss people. My husband worked all of the time so I felt quite alone. I went back to the US three times that first year because I needed to be around my family and be in my country. Everything was very confusing in Switzerland and it was stressful just going to the grocery store.
So, I suppose I took care of myself by visiting home to build up my strength to return to Switzerland. I also joined a Gymboree to take my son to so that I was able to meet other English-speaking mothers. Now, I have another child, and my elder one is in preschool. He is enrolled in an International School instead of state school so that our family is in contact with people in similar situations as we are. Also, the school curriculum is familiar to me (International Baccalaureate), which is important to me since I am a former teacher. I have tried to surround myself with as many familiar things as possible in an unfamiliar environment. In 18 months, when my baby starts school in the mornings I will begin to take German classes so that I can communicate better.
I am still transitioning though, every day.
It is important that you understood what your transitional needs are/were – and you are still give yourself time and space to nurture yourself.
If a person or family has the opportunity to make a bold move like this, what are 3 ways they can prepare?
I don’t think you can prepare, not really. But my advice would be the following:
Know that it is going to be much more difficult than expected, so go understanding that you will have many, many roadblocks, but you will survive and you will eventually figure many things out.
Find a living situation that is familiar to the one you are leaving behind. In other words, if you currently live in a house, move to a house. It will feel more natural to you than moving from house to an apartment.
Live in a city so that you will not feel isolated and make friends as soon as possible. You will need support.
Oh, and buy a satellite navigation system. You will be forever lost if you don’t.
Love the last tip. I do not like being lost.
What six words describe bold living for you?
Living out of your comfort zone.
More about Carrie:
Carrie Vanderbrook, Ph.D., specializes in curriculum programming for gifted students. Originally from Arizona, she currently lives in Switzerland with her husband and two young children. Dr. Vanderbrook is a voracious reader and talented home-chef. She lives a healthy lifestyle by being a vegetarian.