That Restart Button*

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Life as a writer

Moving to a new place when you have a good career back home isn’t just hard; it IS a big decision. But a choice had to be made. And that choice brought me to Sweden, more than 10,000 kilometres away from my home country.

I never thought that I would have to move to Sweden. Not in the way I ended up doing. I had a good life in Indonesia. I had a teaching position in a reputable university where I made good money and good friends. There was no particular reason to leave. Except the fact that my husband and I had the so-called long distance marriage.

Yes, my husband left for Sweden to pursue his doctoral degree in early 2016. That’s why my initial plan was to apply for a PhD position and move here as a doctorand, the Swedish term for this kind of employment, so I could get a study leave from my university. Unfortunately, life doesn’t always turn out the way you planned.

Months after my husband moved to Sweden, I still didn’t get any doctoral position. The competition is really hard because doctoral position in Sweden work along the lines of a job application and only opens when the university has funding to do so. This means they rarely accept external funding and they can only admit a small number of PhD’s.

Long story short, the only option left for me was to resign from my position and move here as a dependant. Then, just like any other new comer, I took my chance to plunge into the competitive pool named the Swedish job market.

And that was the moment when I felt like everything was restarted, including my qualification and my career pathway.

I thought it would be somehow easier to apply for a position in Sweden when you were already in the country. But I was wrong. Talking from my experience, having a professional background in Indonesia and Australia, and holding a masters degree from an English speaking country are not enough to get you a job in Sweden. Especially when you don’t speak the language.

Rethinking S-W-O-T

So after series of failure, I decided to re-think what I really wanted in my professional life, what I could do with what I had at this moment. I calculated my strengths and weakness and the threats and the possibilities out there.

Surprisingly, this led me to my long and forgotten dream: to be a professional writer.

I’ve been trained in academic and journalism writing since I was in my bachelor degree, but writing was merely a hobby. Then I realised, if I really liked writing so much, why didn’t I take it seriously and start writing for a living?

I personally feel that Sweden is a good place for career changing as the country provides access to various training and education. For example, there are many courses to choose via University Admissions or in Folkuniversitetet. And the environment is also quite supportive. In my case, I have Swedish literatures as references. I have access to do research in libraries or to attend writer festivals. There are also volunteering opportunities to pave my path and to get my name out there.

Does it really work?

Well, so far, I have written tens of stories and manage to publish most of them in newspapers, magazines, and websites, both in English and in Indonesian. It’s pretty good for me. When I first arrived in Sweden, I didn’t think that I would have made it this far. My thought was only full of the PhD plan. I didn’t think of something else and I didn’t consider other opportunities either. When the plan didn’t work out, I was devastated.

Now I realised it was actually a blessing in disguise. If I hadn’t moved to Sweden, jobless, I wouldn’t have the gut, and the time, to pursue that particular dream of mine.

Therefore, when you’re having difficulties in establishing a career in Sweden. Look again.

Maybe it’s a reroute. A second chance for your forgotten passion. A time for you to press the restart button.

Because if other people found that beginning again moment in various events, I found my restart button in Sweden.

*Originally published for The Newbie Guide in Sweden on March 4, 2018

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