Interview with Sandra Cordon
continued from former post: Inspiring Expats
Mary: Hi Sandra! Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us on my blog. What were the main reasons which prompted you to take this leap?
Sandra: I had wanted to live in Italy for a long time; it had such a hold on my heart! But, having a strong practical streak, I did some pre-planning. I applied for work at UN agencies headquartered in Rome; I constantly watched for any other job openings in the field of Communications. Most importantly, I obtained an Irish passport (my father was born there.) This gave me all the rights of an EU citizen, including the ability to live and work permanently in Italy.
A few years passed and absolutely nothing appeared that would have eased the transition (such as paying employment!) Meanwhile, I was feeling increasingly stagnant in Canada — both personally, and in my career. I desperately needed a new life, a new challenge. I didn’t want to look back in my old age, and regret not trying this adventure.
I finally decided to take the plunge on my own, without a job to come to, or even any prospects. I hadn’t even saved a large enough cushion to live on! But I knew how easy it would be to procrastinate year after year until it was too late. And here I am!
Mary: What was the hardest part of leaving Canada?
Sandra: Telling my mother, who is 86. Call me a coward, but I’m still pretending that I’m just here for a few months….and a few more months….and a few more months. By now, I think she suspects! I will have to confess to her soon that my move here is permanent.
Mary: What has been the most difficult part in Rome?
Sandra: Rents in Rome are very high while salaries tend to be very low. I don’t know how families make ends meet. Ideally, I will at some point be able to move out of the city into a smaller, more affordable town – hopefully, in Umbria. And with Italy’s train network, it won’t be difficult to come into Rome for a day trip any time I wish.
Mary: How do you envision your life a year from now?
Sandra: I imagine myself spending more time writing and less chasing work assignments; and I pray that my Italian language skills will be much improved!! I would also like a dog.
Mary: What have you learned about yourself through this experience?
Sandra: I had moved often in Canada when I was a journalist, so I already knew that I was quite independent, able to start over in new cities, and also accustomed to loneliness. I’m not afraid of being alone, which is a common fear that I think too often holds us back from doing what we want. That experience has come in handy once again! I’ve learned that I can deal with my fears — I have many, but I’ve learned to live with them.
I’ve also learned that I can live with a lot fewer possessions than I previously thought. In Canada, I loved my home; I was convinced that I really needed my own, comfortable things with me. That they were essential. But it turns out that most of my belongings don’t actually mean as much to me as thought. I left all of my furniture, books, decorations, almost all my clothing — everything in storage in Canada, and I don’t miss any of it (except perhaps my Italian ceramic dishes!)
Mary: Do you see Italy differently now that you live here?
Sandra: The largest difference that I’ve noticed, with a twinge of regret, is that Italy has lost a bit of the mystery and magic that it once held as my favourite vacation spot. For example, it’s no longer quite so exotic to hear Italian spoken, because I now hear it every day. Little things that are so special when you only see (or hear!) them for a few weeks a year on a much-anticipated holiday, become a little less magical when they become the new normal.
Everything has a price, and that’s the trade-off I’ve accepted for living in such a beautiful, historic country.
Mary: Thank you, Sandra, for sharing your story with us.