Aura is from Catalonia but now lives in Belgium.
This is her expat story.
Tell us about your expat move.
I have been living in Antwerp for three years and working at Cigna for six months. Before that, I lived in Germany for some years, and I also spent some time living and travelling in Asia.
The expat life was nothing new to me when I moved to Belgium. Originally, I am from a little town in Catalonia (Cervera), and I studied and lived in Barcelona before moving abroad.
What did you find were the best ways of making friends as an expat abroad?
I met lots of friends in language courses. It’s a great way to meet expats and since you go together through the struggles and joys of learning a new language, it’s easier to bond. Plus, you get to learn the language of the country!
I think that contacting friends of friends that live in the same city can also be a great way to meet people and be introduced to the area. I made really good friends like this! Of course, getting to know your colleagues or flatmates better can also bring great friendships.
What have been some of the biggest highlights from your expat journey so far?
Meeting incredible people from all around the world and getting to know a different culture than mine has been the main highlight of my expat journey. I also love travelling, so having the opportunity to discover new places in the countries where I move has been incredible. Sometimes expats get to explore a country more than locals!
What have been some of the biggest challenges so far?
Bureaucracy is always the biggest challenge. Even within Europe, understanding how a country works can be daunting. The amounts of paperwork you have to work through and all the Catch-22 situations you face can be a little bit frustrating.
What do you miss about your home country?
I miss my family and friends, of course. Even though you can constantly be in touch via WhatsApp or FaceTime, it will never be the same as spending time together.
Sometimes in winter, I miss the light as well since the days are so short and dark in Belgium. But spring and summer in Antwerp are great and compensate for the long winters!
How much do you enjoy your role in Cigna?
I love it! The Innovation team is small but I really enjoy working with my colleagues. I have the opportunity to work in very cool projects with different regions from International Markets.
Figuring out how the future of healthcare will look like is fascinating!
What advice would you give to those who are considering making an expat move?
Do it! It will be a transformative experience, you will open your mind and also get to know yourself better.
What would be the one piece of advice you wish you’d known before moving?
Don’t have too much expectations from the new country from what you’ve heard or you imagine. Keep your mind open and stay positive!
Finally, how would you describe your expat journey in 10 words or less?