How to live authentically abroad and the inspirational migration story of Christina Espey-Sundt
Updated: Nov 12, 2019
What happens when a young attorney, half Norwegian and half American, decides to move to Norway from Minnesota, to be closer to her family? One might assume that her Norwegian background and language proficiency would have offered her smooth transition to the new country but her experiences tell a different story.
Norwegian-American Christina Espey-Sundt talked about her difficult but inspiring transition journey on our Authentigration podcast with our hosts Alicia and Aditi. Christina is from Minnesota and she grew up visiting her family in Norway. In August 2018, she moved to Norway to be with her mother and sister.
“I have always had the luxury of having both things but also always missing one thing or the other.”
She completed her bachelor in Sociology, Anthropology and Norwegian from St. Olaf College in 2013 and went on to get her JD (Juris Doctor) in 2017 from St. Thomas School of Law. In 2017, she received a Fulbright U.S. Student Program award in the Netherlands in Law from the U.S. Department of State and the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board. She pursued a Master of Law (LLM) in International Migration & Refugee Law at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and graduated with honours.
She has worked with Norwegian Organization of Asylum Seekers, The Advocates of Human Rights, UNHCR and many Minnesota based non-profits. In 2018, she continued her education at OsloMet University in Oslo in their one-year program in Refugee and Migration management and accepted an offer to work as a caseworker with NAV in September 2019.
She loves Norway because of its nature and the sense of home after being close to her family but reminisces her past life where she grew up, have friends and professional connections from all walks of life.
After coming to Norway, Christina admitted that she was very confident about fitting right in because of her accomplishments and education along with her familiarity with the Norwegian language and culture. On being asked about her thought process about moving to Norway whether she felt it will be easy or difficult, she shared a rather opposite experience filled with struggles in job search, making friends, or finding the right balance between the past and present environment.
“I thought it would be a piece of cake as I studied Norwegian, I knew about migration law. I thought this would be a smooth and easy transition even though I might not be able to work as an attorney necessarily but how hard can it be.”
This was the start of the interesting conversation in the podcast as she opened up about her career challenges, having an education which does not translate to the same level as per Norwegian education system, not being taken seriously during her job search, and letting go of the pride of being an attorney and starting over.
On being asked about how she faced these challenges, she credited her family and boyfriend for their support and encouragement. She also feels that the networks she made in Oslo gave her the sense of community which in turn offered her the motivation to thrive and integrate better at a personal and professional level.
“For me, the transition, finding my first job and simultaneously moving to Oslo was a bit overwhelming.”
Christina joined the communities which shared her faith, values, and passion and slowly and steadily established herself without having to compromise her own identity. On a professional level, she started by getting her education approved and understanding the eligibility criteria for the jobs where she could apply. She shared that her emotional state during this time was not very healthy as she was feeling stuck, isolated and unwanted.
“I felt like I want to be here so bad but they don’t want me.”
While talking about her current job and how she found her true potential during this journey, she feels that she had been lucky to connect with people who were supportive and willing to include diverse talents in their team by offering them opportunities. Her view on life and relationship has become more profound.
She admitted that she was feeling stressed by focussing on the external factors and by not realising that the frustration was a part of the transition process. The advice that she could offer to other migrants based on her own experience is – Reach out for help before you realise you need it and don’t lose yourself in the process.
Our First guest on Authentigration Podcast series, Christina Espey-Sundt, is a true inspiration for us and the reason why we want to share more thriving stories like her. Listen to the complete podcast at - http://www.authentigration.world/podcast. If you like to connect with Christina, feel free to reach out to her on LinkedIn.