Thursday, 6 February 2014

Guest Blogger Series: Introducing… Vassi Atanasova

Our latest expat guest blogger, Vassi Atanasova, tells us the ways to grow as an expat in the US.

Living and working in Chicago

Making the leap from Eastern Europe to the US is a huge step. At least for me it was. I moved to the US in 2007, when I was only 23, with no family or friends.

Beginning a new life abroad can be very exciting. When I arrived in Chicago, I knew that I wanted to go to school and find a job. English was not my first language and if I wanted to attend college I had to take the TOEFL exam. Many colleges offered ESL / TOEFL prep classes so I signed up right away.

For me, the most difficult part was learning to commute in the big city, but things got better in time. Soon, I managed to master the public transportation grid and later on I bought myself a car.

When school started things got even better. I met some amazing people who helped me learn more, showing me around and taking me to different places. One of my English teachers used to take our whole class to a bar, almost every week. We went to Green Mill Jazz Bar, which is a must see in Chicago as it is known for being Al Capone’s bar, where the mafia used to hang out. The bar is located on Broadway Ave. and Clark St. with doors opening on to both streets to enable a quick getaway. Till this day, the interior has been kept authentic and there is a great wall of memorabilia in honour of Al Capone.  

After I took my TOEFL I got accepted at some colleges and I picked a state school. At school was where I found the most support – it helped give my life direction and connected me with great people. I also had my work as I had a job as a hostess in an American restaurant – Ted’s Montana Grill. It is a chain, but not your typical American chain as they only serve natural food, and their big winners are the bison meat dishes. The restaurant was great for me as it was where I met one of my best friends who will always be my favourite party girl!

Going to school and working was exactly what I had in mind when I moved to the US – I’d advise all expats to have goals and plans in advance so that when you arrive you just have to set them in motion.
Despite that, you can never know exactly what to expect. When I arrived, I did not know that Chicago was such a big city and that I would not actually live in the city. Living in the suburbs, commuting was my first big challenge. I obtained my driver’s licence right away, but I was scared to drive. It took me months to get used to the highways and driving every day, but having mastered that among many other things, I feel like nothing can scare me. Once you move to a foreign country and learn to live and love the life there, you know you can handle everything life throws at you.    

About the author
Vassi Atanasova is a digital marketing specialist by profession, and an artist by heart. She is an Eastern European expat in the US, planning on travelling more and writing more. You can check out her latest author profile or her personal blog, and connect with her on Twitter @VasilkaEM

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