Ana-Maria

Ana-Maria

Diary of a Romanian in the EU: how your life can change when you have the courage to go for it

Ana-Maria Hoogendorp left Romania 9 years ago to start a Master’s degree in Amsterdam. She overcame the fear of trying out a new experience and started a life from scratch in another community. After 9 years, Ana Maria developed close ties with Amsterdam through a successful career and made friends from many parts of Europe, who became like family. In her view, anyone who lives for a set period, or even a lifetime outside Romania will help their country more than we think.

I had a very strong attachment to family, friends and places. But this opportunity cropped up and I said to myself 'Go for it!'. Now, 9 years later, I don't regret a thing.
Ana-Maria,
32
години
Corporate recruiter
While the variety of university courses on offer has certainly increased during the last 9 years, even at the time when you left Romania, there were many options available. How did you come to the choice you made?

First of all, I didn't want to be very far away from home, but also not in a place where Romanians didn't have a very good reputation. Therefore I chose Holland. This was a country I didn't know much about at the time; it was almost the opposite to our culture. But I've grown attached to it over time, as I've matured. The key reason for my decision was the university I was going to study at – one of the best in Europe – as well as the fact that the courses would be given in English.

When you decided to leave, Romania was embarking on its journey as a Member State of the EU. Did this factor help you?

I think that the key factor at the time (2008, at the height of the economic crisis) was that if you were in the EU, the fees for a Master’s degree were 5 times less than those paid by students who weren't from the EU. Therefore, the fact that Romania was a member of the EU, even though it was the early days, offered me options which have crucially influenced my career. Not to mention that my life has changed and I’ve also changed as a person. My decision to study in Amsterdam has only had benefits. I probably wouldn't have done this if I hadn't been given the opportunity to leave Romania, and my life would have turned out totally different today.

From a recruitment perspective, how do you view the flexibility allowing people to study and travel abroad? How do you think this influences people's personal development?

This flexibility opens up a whole load of opportunities: social, personal and professional. Whether you want to pursue a career in a company or public institution or be an entrepreneur, you just need to want to do it. I know it sounds a bit like a cliché, but that's what it's about: you need to have courage. It is much easier for companies to take on new staff quickly when they don't have to wait for a work permit, especially for urgent vacancies. On the other hand, this situation provides mobility for employees and opportunities for development. And this is the lovely part of it: it is not only about their personal development, but also about the development of the communities they come from because the employees pass on everything they learn, which produces a domino effect. I know a few Romanians who have lived here or in other EU countries for a while and later decided to return home and set up successful companies there. This is an economic win-win situation: the companies have a suitable labour force and you, as an employee, are doing what you enjoy in a country where you want to be, which contributes to Romania's development.

Do you think that if you had been less well-informed, you might have not taken the decision to study in an EU Member State and establish your career there?

I would have definitely stayed in Bucharest and done my Masters there. Perhaps I wouldn't have ever left. If I had been asked 2 or 3 years ago before actually moving, to make a decision about whether I wanted to leave Romania, I would have said that this option didn't feature in my plans. I had a very strong attachment to family, friends and places. But this opportunity cropped up and I said to myself ‘Go for it!’. Now, 9 years later, I don't regret a thing. Nowadays, you can continue your higher education in another country straight from leaving secondary school. If I could be 18 again, I would decide to study every year at a university in a different country.

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