Be open-minded, connect with people and learn German
I had a chance to sit down with Xochilt, a lovely Nicaraguan who moved to Switzerland 5 years ago, and since then, with her own ups and downs, has found Switzerland to be her home.
COULD YOU INTRODUCE YOURSELF AND YOUR BACKGROUND?
My name is Xochilt Martinez. I come from Nicaragua where I was living for my whole life. There I did my Bachelor in Global Business. I came to Switzerland in 2012. First, I was learning (high) German for 1.5 years. As I’m from Latin America, I hadn’t studied at a German school before, and I didn’t have my Matura (high school diploma) from there, so I had to prepare some exams in order to be able to go to university here. I applied to some universities and I decided to go to University of Fribourg. I studied European Business for 3 semesters and another semester was for my Master’s thesis.
WHAT DO YOU DO RIGHT NOW?
Currently, I’m working for Credit Suisse. First, I started in the Latin American desk, doing client advisory. Now I’m doing client management in the international private banking department, but it’s more mixed than before – Western Europe, Spain, and Netherlands. I like it a lot and I’m learning a lot. When I was working solely for Latin America, I was working mostly in Spanish. Now it’s completely different. My colleagues are talking in Swiss German, the paperwork is in English, and then if someone comes from Latin America, the communication is in Spanish.
WHAT MADE YOU DECIDE TO COME TO SWITZERLAND?
A Swiss guy (laughs). Yes, I came for a Swiss guy. I met him at the university. He was studying in St. Gallen and he came to Nicaragua for an exchange semester. We were in the same class.
DO YOU LIKE LIVING HERE?
In the beginning, it was a love/hate relationship. I liked it a lot because everything is working perfectly, like the public transportation. I like to have four seasons. It’s a very pretty, very clean, and not corrupted country. So for me it was something completely new. I never felt like I didn’t trust the system. This part was really good, because you don’t feel the stress over the quality of life which is very great.
On the other hand, I found very hard to get integrated. I was mostly with foreigners because I was going to the German school and I was preparing for the exams. I had been studying at an American university, my whole curriculum was following American standards. It was accepted over here but I was a little bit disappointed, seeing that they make it kind of difficult for foreigners to go to university, especially if you’re not European. You need to fulfill some extra requirements. Also while I was taking my German classes, I met a lot of people from all over the world. But sadly, because they were not Europeans, they had to go back to their countries, because even though they got a job, they couldn’t stay because the migration office wouldn’t let them stay here.
I’ve had a lot of ups and downs, but in the end, it all worked out. I worked very hard for everything and now I feel much better.
I would tell myself to be more open. I was not proud… but I was scared to be rejected.
WHAT HAS HELPED YOU TO GET TO THIS POINT, TO FEEL THAT YOU’RE INTEGRATED AND THAT THIS IS HOME?
First of all, I really like the country (saying it with a big shiny smile). When you go to another place, you always compare it to the country where you live. And I really like everything here. Sometimes when you’re here, you don’t realize that you have that – that you have a very comfortable life. But then I go out and I feel very lucky that I am here. Also, the fact that I went to university that gave me the opportunity to have the job that I have right now – I think this was the key point for me to feel integrated. Having a job over here really helps you to find other people, it gives you the chance to be independent. All this helps you to integrate into the society more.
WHAT WOULD YOU RECOMMEND FOR THOSE WHO ARE STILL FINDING THEIR WAY IN THIS COUNTRY?
Be open-minded. You meet some Swiss who are very nice people, but they are super reserved. And then you start thinking that they don’t like you or that they’re racist. But it’s not their fault. That’s the way they are, they are just very reserved people. Sometimes it’s good to take the first step, that you’re not afraid of talking to them, inviting them to hang out, to have a coffee. In the end, they are interested in other people, it’s just sometimes they can be scared of approaching you.
Also, you can always go to your Gemeinde (municipality) where you live. They propose classes, programs for people who’re still looking for a job.
Look for help. Many people are willing to help you. I was very surprised because at times, I was just thinking why would these people would like to do something for me, but in the end they do it. It is important that foreigners would be integrated.
It’s important that you connect yourself. That you don’t just go home and hide and start crying. Because there are so many possibilities out there.
WHAT WOULD YOU TELL TO YOUR YOUNGER SELF WHO ARRIVED HERE 5 YEARS AGO AND WHO HAD NO CLUE ABOUT WHAT THE FUTURE HOLDS?
You know, I did that mistake in the beginning. I was not doing much. I would tell myself to be more open. I was not proud… but I was scared to be rejected.
ANY ADDITIONAL TIPS AND TRICKS TO ADD FOR THE FELLOW EXPATS?
Learning (high) German is very important. Going to school and learning grammar is not enough. You need to practise it. Here, I include myself in the problem. I know how to talk but I’m afraid of making mistakes. If I know that a person speaks English, I go directly to English. Also, when I speak German, you recognize that I am not a native speaker. So the person talking to me will switch to another language and me, instead of insisting to continue talking in German, I will quickly go to English. I see a lot of people going around only with English, but in the end, it’s not very good. If you know you’re gonna stay here for a longer period, it’s not very convenient for you… Imagine when you have kids and they go to school, what do you do then?
Food for thought, eh?
Thank you very much to Xochilt 🙂 We wish her the best of luck in everything!