Expat Stories – Virginia Hanti
January 2020   EXPAT STORIES

Expat Stories – Virginia Hanti

Virginia Hanti is a member of Cigna’s International Organisations graduates Leadership Development Program.
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Virginia is currently finalising her Client Management rotation at Cigna International Organisations.

She moved from Greece to Belgium in the second half of 2017.

This is her expat story.

Tell us about your expat move.

I came to Belgium to do my second Master’s Degree. I studied the Master in International Management at the Antwerp Business School.

As part of my thesis, I did my consultancy project at Cigna. After that, I accepted a role in the Cigna graduates Leadership Development Program.

I’ve now been here for 2 and a half years.

How much do you enjoy your role in Cigna?

It’s great! I am a very enthusiastic person and the Cigna IO Leadership Development Program gives me plenty of opportunities to grow my learning curve

It allows me to be very versatile, connect the right dots, embrace cross-departmental collaboration and understand all the different challenges that the different departments go through each and every day.

As part of this, I enrolled in a rotational program and went  through different functions. Each rotation lasts for six months and I am now on my third rotation.

I’ve been able to bring all the learnings from each rotation with me to the next one. I try to absorb as much information as possible and see what the best way is to work across the different departments.

I’ve been able to contemplate our internal processes, identify weak links and it helps me to understand what the whole procurement is like within Cigna, and how I can make a difference by adding value.

The program has also allowed me to build a very good network, cooperate with very competent colleagues and get exposure and visibility within Cigna. I think it is a fantastic leadership development program that allows you to learn in depth about the business in short term and develop a diversified skillset.

I feel very privileged to be part of this program.

What have been some of the biggest challenges so far?

The healthcare system here in Belgium has been a bit of a challenge to be honest, including all the administration it entails

The language barrier can also be a bit tricky in your day to day life. If you are not fluent in either French of Flemish, then it may take some time getting used to.

The good thing is that working here at Cigna, people swiftly shift to English. That is one of the benefits of working for a multinational company that reinforces diversity and inclusion

What do you miss about your home country?

Definitely the weather! It can be a bit moody here in Antwerp sometimes and a little bit rainy. Of course I also miss my family and friends. However, I see being an expat as a great opportunity.

I always wanted to have an international experience and it has been a really positive one for me so far. Being able to learn more about different cultures, embrace cultural differences and better understand sensitivities has been a very enriching experience

As an expat, you get to meet people from all different backgrounds and walks of life, so that is a huge benefit.

What advice would you give to those who are considering making an expat move?

I would tell people to try to be open-minded. Try to embrace your own individuality within a new group of people. It is ok for people to have a different mind-set and culture, so you don’t need to lose yourself in it.

At the same time, I would tell people to try and integrate in their new place. Go out and try to talk to local people and get to know their own challenges and views for example. That is the experience that you need to have, you need to try empower yourself to be part of a bigger community but also keep your own identity at the same time. I think that’s something that every expat should look at.

It also helps if you can do some activities to build up your own network. For example, if you have some of your own hobbies that you would do in your own country, try and bring them with you to your new place. You should continue to do the things you enjoy.

It helps you build your network, feel more relaxed and it can also make you more resilient.

What one be the one piece of advice you wish you’d known before moving?

Personally, I like learning by doing. I prefer to try something for myself and see if it works for me or not. That is the advice I would give to people.

It’s good to be adventurous and discover new things for yourself. For me, being an expat has allowed me to become a lot more independent and autonomous

Finally, how would you describe your expat journey in 10 words or less?

A life changing experience and essential for my personal development.

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