Story 36

A story of reinvention in a foreign country

Hi, I’m Georgiana, the human behind this issue of Upstairs. I am an employer branding consultant and a digital marketer at heart, and, together with my team, I curate Berlin’s employer branding podcast, and I will forever lead two lives: one of them in Iasi and one of them in Berlin.


From beagles and cats to employer branding 

My story was supposed to be one of resilience and courage to pursue one’s passion, regardless of how difficult it is. In the troubling times that we’re currently living, when Russia is invading Ukraine and killing civilians, it seems that any depiction of courage I might choose to present falls short of relevance. 

However, this is the story of a girl born in communist Romania, who irrevocably fell in love with foreign languages at an early age; and who, after years of studying abroad, founding her own digital marketing agency (Beaglecat) and having a kid, landed in the city of all possibilities — Berlin. And she’s there to stay.

Everything’s possible if you’re willing to try at least ten times

Exactly four years ago, when my daughter was 20 months old, my husband and I decided to stop putting pressure on our marriage due to the multiple business trips he was forced to take monthly. 

We took the plunge, rented an apartment in Berlin, and gave life abroad a chance. We actually even said that “If we don’t like it, we go back.” And — truth be told — I did not like it for three entire years. Despite my daughter quickly integrating into her international kindergarten and the never-ending attractions Berlin has to offer, it did not feel like home for a very long time. 

I was convinced, before leaving, that I would find it easy to settle into a new life. I had previously lived abroad, and I always managed to make the best of the new culture embraced. I had done a one-year Master’s Degree in Paris, I had worked in Paris, did Erasmus in Belgium, had obtained a scholarship in Germany in my twenties. But, as it turned out, building a new life in your twenties is nothing like a new one in your thirties.

Professionally, before moving to Berlin, I considered myself successful. In my home city, I had a reputation. I knew people, and people knew me. This was beneficial both professionally and personally. In Berlin, I was nobody. I’d never before lived for a long time in a country whose language I could not speak fluently. And, to make matters even more painful, I terribly missed my home in Iasi, my mom, my dad, my dog… 

Once you embrace the possibility, quitting does not seem so frightful

Coming back to the purpose of this story, which is supposed to be about having the courage to be who you are, regardless of the circumstances. It may take months, even years sometimes, but eventually, you can get where you want to be with sufficient resilience, optimism, and work. Yes, life abroad, away from your family, is hard, but whoever has it easy nowadays?

As courage is usually this abstract concept (funnily enough, I always associate it with Courage – the Cowardly Dog), I’ll try and frame it more concretely. I fought depression, burnout, and physical sickness. I was constantly afraid of having to face yet another professional NO. NOs are heavy and tough to carry, they can swallow you whole if you let them grow big enough. So I decided, at some point, to try and find the small YESes, wherever they were to be discovered. 

To my surprise, running or biking randomly through the city always helps to clear your head; plus, when you see how a city was entirely reconstructed from the ground up post-war, you gain a new perspective on life and ephemerality. Making friends with fellow moms in kindergarten is an underrated concept. Talking about your problems to your partner, your friends, can uncover the most ingenious solutions. Therapy provides massive support. If professional collaboration in the form of a contract is tough to secure, a win-win partnership in the form of an interview is much more easily taken down. 

Go through the Rabbit Hole. What you’ll find might take you by surprise.

So how did I manage to reconstruct myself in a new environment? 

I thought of quitting Berlin at least ten times a year during the first three years. Until, at some point, something somewhere clicked into place. All of the hard work put into learning German twice a week finally paid off. I was starting to have professional conversations with companies in Berlin, and, on top of all, my podcast was taking off. How did this happen, really?

I networked. I’ve always been a people person, so this came naturally to me. As soon as I landed in Berlin, I booked a seat at a co-working place and then attended as many in-person events as possible (Corona did not help on this front, of course, but let’s focus on the positives here). I made friends with everybody. LITERALLY EVERYBODY, I was not joking when talking about fellow moms in kindergarten. 

In the end, one thing led to another, someone knew somebody who needed to revamp their company culture, one of the first people to invite me on their podcast three years ago is now a close friend and a business partner. I can’t state it often enough: network, network, network.

I set off to learn German at an advanced level. This is by far one of the hardest things I’ve had to do, although I did spend about three years during my university years studying it at Goethe Institut. As it turns out, grammar and vocabulary don’t have anything to do with actually speaking German among the Germans. 

Today, after more than 800 hours of studying and practicing third times more German movie watching with German subtitles, I can proudly say I get my way around. It’s also become my favorite language to speak.

Whenever I felt abandoned — and I did feel this way during Corona, when we lost 95% of our agency clients — I always returned to these two questions. What do I do best, and What do I like doing? I am fortunate to say the answers to the questions coincide.

I worked as a digital marketer for about seven years, so when I discovered that many of the techniques I mastered could be used for recruitment marketing, I turned to employer branding. I started a podcast where I invited professionals from Romania and Germany. Nowadays, I consult companies willing to develop their company culture or define their employer brand. I help them during the research phase and also during implementation.

I always stayed true to myself and to the people who matter. My husband, my parents, the family I acquired after getting married, my work family: Sabina, Ioana, George, Igor. I would not have felt as safe without them. I’ve been working with George and Igor for at least four years, Ioana for five, and Sabina for seven. Sabina has been my best friend since we were 15, and Ioana has become a dear friend in recent years. As you can see, a given and an acquired family are of great importance to me. 

Where and who am I today? Where am I headed?

In 2022, I finally made peace with being who I am. Someone with two lives, someone with two hearts. I will forever miss Berlin when I return to Iasi, and I look forward to going back to Iasi when I’m in Berlin. I’m making the best out of the two worlds, and I’m proud to have been through this journey. Where am I headed? I don’t know, but it doesn’t really matter because, as long as I have my family, friends, cities, and dog, I’m sure I can make the best of it. 

As one of the previous contributors to the community was saying, the WHY does not matter all that much. I would add that, in my case at least, the WHERE is also not that important. I’ve decided to focus on the HOW and yes, uncertainty is scary, but when your foundations are strong, you muster the courage to at least look through the Rabbit Hole.

Ruth Bader-Ginsburg said that “so often in life, things you regard as an impediment turn out to be great, good fortune.” Although it’s difficult to frame a hostile situation in positive terms while actually being in it, I found that focusing on a future point, where “this all will seem much less complicated,” always helped.


Kindly,
—Georgiana

Contributors of this story: Georgiana Ghiciuc wrote this gem, Oana Filip provided feedback and edited it, Andrei Ungurianu put it all together, George Olaru designed it, Răzvan Onofrei was in charge of the development, Giorgiana Dumitru took the photo.

Georgiana
A question by Georgiana, the author of this story:
What helps you navigate stormy waters? What's your anchor when times are rough?

Conversations 3 comments

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Let's start a personal, meaningful conversation.

Example: Practical philosopher, therapist and writer.

Thank you, Georgiana, for sharing your story! I saw it as a story of understanding and acceptance. Even if I never lived for more than six months abroad, your story deeply resonated with me. To answer your question, what helps me get through tough times is also looking for the small wins and trying to find acceptance. Acceptance that things are how they are at this point in time but also that they can and will change.  Congrats again and thank you for your openness. Cheers! 

Georgiana Ghiciuc - the authos
Georgiana Ghiciuc - the authossays:
Relevant commenter background or experience:Marketing and employer branding

Thank you, Alexandra. Indeed, acceptance is key. It took me a few years to understand it, but once I did, it changed everything. Big hug, G.

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Adrianasays:
Relevant commenter background or experience:went through kind of same thing

Amazing you shared this story, Georgiana. I also relate very much with it, and I am totally on the same page with you regarding what helped me navigate through stormy waters: the meaningful relationships in my life (friends and family), coaching – coming back to my true nature and to what I love to do most and do best. And what professionaly “saved” me…yes, we can say that again: networking. I guess there is no coincidence same things apply so well to two different persons. 🙂 Big hugs!

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