Chats Vol. 1- Love immigration, winter in Stockholm, and a journey home

For the first edition of Chats, we talk with Pascale Engla Serp. Raised in Northern California in a town where they have an annual butter and egg parade, she has spent the last few years living in Sweden, Italy, and the USA. Her claim to fame is that she was my roommate in university and the only other friend I can count on to travel as much as me. With us today, she shares her experience as a “love immigrant,” her struggles in Sweden, going home, and a move to New Zealand.

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Are you Stockholm right now?
Yes! I am living in Stockholm until April 17th and have been living here since early January.

Now I know you and Sweden have a love hate relationship but what has been your favorite part of living in Stockholm the last few months?
Well, as you know I’m a sort of “love immigrant” so I think my favorite part would probably be growing in my relationship with my partner. We got to see each other without the allure and hue of constant travel and I know I have learned a lot about being in a relationship in general. We were also very lucky with finding an apartment in a very nice neighborhood in Stockholm so we really had the space we needed to grow in our own ways, which led me to a lot of discoveries about what direction I want and don’t want my life to take. 

And okay- I will let you lament for a moment on what have been the biggest challenges?
I think this question really ties in with the last question. I complain a lot about the weather here and the fact that I came at literally the worst time in Sweden (December to March). People, as you know, keep to themselves here and that is amplified even more when it is dark for most of the day and freezing. The real thing I have faced is being a really social person in a very independent obsessed country. Now, when I lived in Sweden last time as an au pair I was more open to meeting people and had a lot more resources to do so. Another thing is that I was single and I was really at a point in my life that I wanted to have a partner again. I guess I thought I owed it to myself to make myself as vulnerable as possible and I’m really happy I did because I found the kindest man at the right time. Being here in Stockholm has made me realize that I miss having a sense of community. I was raised in a small town atmosphere where people knew each other and were interested in each other’s lives. Now, for some people (maybe you LOL) this is exactly the opposite of what they want, but for me it made me feel safe. There is really no sense of community here or at least I haven’t found it. But, on a more positive note, I’m not sure I knew I wanted that until I was able to miss it. 

Och din svenska?

I haven’t been particularly motivated to learn because I have been dealing with so many other inner battles and all those battles were about how I really didn’t want to be in Sweden anymore so my interest of the language fell off my priority list pretty fast. Eventually, I’ll get back on the band wagon because I would like to do that for my partner, but now is not the right time. 

Are you still teaching English online? What has that experience been like?
Yes, I am teaching online and it is my primary job right now since I can’t legally work in Sweden. It is a great way to make money online and teaching in itself is a really rewarding job. I have so much more respect for teachers because it is not easy. I would prefer to teach my students in person, but it’s a good stepping stone in my teaching career and again very good for someone who travels often. Online teaching is funny, sometimes I have classes that have up to twenty students in them and then others where there are only three. The company I work for really focuses on giving the students positive reinforcement all of the time and as much I believe that is good most of the time, it limits me from disciplining them in anyway. Most of the time the kids I have are amazing and sometimes they randomly go to the bathroom during class and show the entire class their private parts, which puts me in a difficult position haha. I do have to say that you can not rely on teaching to make you a lot of money because the schedule of students is constantly changing and I never get as many classes as I would like to teach. It’s just not very reliable. 

So you're going home for a couple of months? What will you be doing? 
Yes, I will be home form late April to early August working in Sonoma, California at a spa and hotel as a server full time. I will also be pursuing some acting opportunities (I hope). My goal is to save as much money as I can during this period of time before we leave for New Zealand because I have not been able to save anything during my time in Sweden. 

What are you most excited about?
I’m most excited about spending time with my family and friends and actually having the time to do that. Whenever I go home it’s for a short period of time and I never really have enough time to set things up with old friends. I’m also looking forward to the time of recessing my life story and where I would like it to take me. 

What are you worried about adjusting to life in the States again? 
I’m not worried about adjusting because I was recently living in Texas, but I am worried about falling in to old habits and not accomplishing all of the things I want to when I am home. I also feel the stigma of being an adult woman and living at home, but this is such an American construct. So many Europeans our age stay at home until they are married or done with their studies (especially southern Europeans). I think everyone is on their own journey and making them feel judged for the journey they are on is not helpful. For me, it’s what I need to grow and feel like myself again, the self I am still trying to get a better picture of. 

But this is all leading to something exciting because you are moving to New Zealand in August! What made you guys settle on New Zealand?
Yes and this is exactly why I want to get to a better spot within myself before we leave for New Zealand. We settled on New Zealand even though we were originally thinking of Australia because it seemed the most different from where we came from. We also wanted a place where we thought the people were friendly and it would be an easier integration process. The fact that English is the main language is a big plus. My partner and I are no strangers to knowing other languages, but we didn’t want that to be the focus of our year there. We want to learn about the people there, the culture, and how we can create a sense of community in a completely new country. 

Could you explain the working holiday visa process for someone interested in doing the same?
The working holiday visa for New Zealand was just an online application. For me, I did not have to pay anything, but I think my Swedish partner had to pay a small fee. Basically, you just have to say you will have a certain amount of money in your account when coming to New Zealand and provide all of your information. I think I got the acceptance in my inbox a couple of days later. For one year Americans can work at a certain job in NZ for 6 months at a time for Swedish citizens and probably most other Europeans can work the whole year. It’s very easy to get a working holiday visa if you are really interested. 

What are you most excited about exploring in NZ?
I’m excited about everything! I want to see as much as possible with the time we have, but I also, like I said before, want to create a sense of community so staying in one place for awhile is also a goal. The south island is of course very adventurous, but I kind of like going in to it not knowing very much and then learning as I go. 

What will you guys be looking to do for work?
I would like to find something within the theatre arts and my partner would like to find something in music. Either as a producer of music or a teacher. We don’t expect to find this right away so we’re perfectly open to getting jobs that are a bit more accessible when we start out such as in hospitality or working as server. We’ll see what happens!

Are you planning on going to Australia? You HAVE to go to the Whitsunday’s.
We are planing on going to Australia first before we go to NZ. We’ll be staying with some friends in Sydney and then going to Melbourne and from there NZ. We have to get to NZ before our visas expire so we only have a couple weeks to work with, but we will try to see as much as we can. But we will be in NZ for one year so it’s very possible we will return to Australia! 

Okay I'm wearing a BU sweatshirt while I write this so as your former academia partner-in-crime what do you hope to do in the next few years career wise? Arts? Travel- related? International relations? Im considering big changes myself, would love to hear your thoughts. 
I feel like so much has changed since we were living in Stu-vi or in our little brownstone on Arundel. I don’t feel like I am the same person I was when I was in college. My priorities were so different. I loved being in school and getting to have such a social life for two years in Boston. Within the next few years, I really want to start to build up my acting profile and try to see what I can do within that field. I studied international relations and while I enjoyed it immensely I never thought I was serious enough to work for a government institution. I always preferred learning about people and culture rather than politics. So traveling was my best method to diving deeper in to my degree. I would like to use what I have learned and will learn from my future travels in my work as an actress. My love for acting has never really left and I feel empty when I’m not involved in something theatre related. I’ve also thought of working in youth theatre or in education outreach because theatre had such a big impact on my childhood. I believe I survived a lot of painful things because of the community I gained from being a part of theatre. Theatre is a unique experience that children/young adults can be a part of that helps them grow as well as feel loved and supported just as they are. I hope to someday provide youth theatre outlets to kids who need it the most. 

Any final thoughts on being my first interview? 
I love that I’m your first interview. You and I went through an extremely transitive time and I think that’s what made us so close. Even though we don’t see each other often I still consider you one of my closest friends. I also really respect all of the life changes you have made. You are often a source of inspiration for me and even though our lives seem they are a bit in reverse we’ll definitely meet somewhere in the middle sooner rather than later. Tell Mama Kesler I say hi!