An interview by Felicia Shermis
When Camilla Degerth and I talk at the beginning of June she is just about to move – again! This time it’s not a big international relocation, which has been the norm, but rather a smaller cross-town affair. Nevertheless, it’s a busy time for Camilla and her family and I am grateful she is taking time out of her busy day to chat with me.
Camilla is a professional relocation coach, working with Globiana as well as running her own business. And, while she has a trove of professional experience in the field of relocation, she has just as much personal experience. As a matter of fact, when talking with Camilla you get the sense that she was destined to become a citizen of the world.
Camilla has lived in the US, Australia, France, Switzerland and the UK. She grew up in Finland and then moved to Sweden where she spent her teenage years. Camilla was about ten when she decided she wanted to go to the US as an exchange student. She explains: “I had a grandmother with twin siblings who lived in different parts of the world; when they came home to visit with their families and friends, I was exposed to their stories and to different languages. This made me curious, I think this is where the seed was sown.”
Camilla did eventually go to the US and she got a US high school diploma, which opened up options for further studies abroad. She was accepted to a hotel management school in Switzerland. “But, she admits, my curiosity of traveling was more important than the actual studies.” After studying abroad for many years she moved back to Sweden where her mom and sister still live. She met her now husband and their three children were all born there. For several years they felt settled. But, before long, her husband’s job took them to the UK, back to Sweden and then the US; eventually they landed back in the UK about two years ago.
“Be true to yourself. This is not the right time to change yourself, but rather find a way to keep the important things in your life the same.”
I ask Camilla if it has been hard on the kids to move as much as they have and how they have handled homesickness and culture shock. She is not sure she would say they have homesickness these days, they have moved so many times. However, she does see emotional dips in her kids and herself; days when they don’t want to go to school or where you miss certain friends. She says: “You are meant to have these emotions, they are healthy. For the first year of a move we have a bit of a deal with our kids. They can take a few ‘mental health days’ and stay home from school if they are having a tough day, no questions asked. I don’t want to push them. I know what it is like, I have been there myself.”
As for how to prepare for relocation, Camilla says being knowledgeable about your new location and being aware of what you are getting yourself into are the two most important things, so do your research! She believes any successful international move starts with the following mindset: “Be true to yourself. This is not the right time to change yourself, but rather find a way to keep the important things in your life the same.”
Camilla shares a practical example of what she means: “I hate spending time in the car, stuck in a traffic jam. So, I have learned to research living areas thoroughly to make sure we have easy commutes to school and activities. It is really important to me and it makes a difference for our relocation success.”
While her husband’s job has taken them around the world, Camilla has stayed professionally active as well, either working or volunteering in order to keep her career alive. As an accompanying spouse, flexibility is a must and Camilla has adjusted and improvised when circumstances have so dictated.
As an example, while in the US she did not have a work visa, so she opted to volunteer at the English Language Learners’ Alliance. Camilla’s role became to help other families with emotional support during their relocation experiences. She found that she was good at it and that she liked it and decided to train to become a certified coach. This is how she ended up in the field of professional relocation coaching. She says: “Globiana’s career coaches talk about the importance of staying active even if you can’t work, by volunteering for example. They are so right!”
As for the future, Camilla says: “We may have reached our relocation limit. Our oldest is in college and he pretty much makes his own decisions. Because he doesn’t have local friends where we currently live (he graduated high school in the US), we don’t see him a whole lot. When I think about the future and our two younger children, I wonder if it isn’t time to settle down and have a true base, for us and for the kids.”
By: Felicia Shermis