I’m Katia Vlachos.
I’ve been a “foreigner” for most of my adult life. A
Greek born in Cameroon, I grew up in Athens. I am really a Greek at heart,
though I don’t know if I would call Greece my home anymore; come to think of
it, I don’t think I would call anywhere my home. After moving back and forth between the United States and Europe a few times, for the past ten and half
years I have lived in Vienna, Austria with my husband and three kids –
nine, seven and one year old. I am a passionate
water-skier and would be perfectly happy living in a place with only one season
– as long as that season is summer.
Recently I decided to study and write about the
experience of being a foreigner. Drawing from my own encounters with “foreignness,”
which came in various degrees depending on the location, I have always been intrigued
by how people experience moving among places and cultures and how they cope
with those moves. This is a new kind of writing for me. I studied Public Policy
and have been a defense analyst for the past fifteen years or so. I published
several books in my field, before I realized that I really wanted to be a
different kind of writer. So this work will be a departure for me in many ways.
For the past few months I have been conducting interviews
and collecting stories on the experience of living among and across different cultures.
I have been fortunate to have many friends who have moved internationally and
had this experience at some point in their lives. They have been kind enough to
share their insights with me. Now I have opportunity to become my own case
study: my family and I are moving to Switzerland this summer. A new country; a
new culture; a new life; another foreigner experience. Is it going to be
different than the previous ones? Am I better prepared for this move, having
been through the process before? How is moving a family unlike moving as a
single person – or even a couple? Am I going to face the same challenges?
This blog will be my account of this move – from the
initial decision to the preparations to the actual settling into the new place.
I will write about the issues and challenges I will face, as well as the
surprises and rewards that will come my way, big and small, practical and
emotional – from finding a home to helping my children cope with missing their
friends and adjusting to a new school. I will write about what I did well and
what I did wrong; and what I learned in the process.
I know that this is a familiar process for many of
you. I’m looking forward to sharing my experience of this move with you, but,
even more than that, I would love to hear about your own experiences, exciting
and rewarding moments, challenges and struggles associated with making such moves.