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With a little help from my friends…

Ieva Bite, 27, from Riga in Latvia, has been living and working in Reykjavik in Iceland since the end of September 2008. In Riga, Ieva was working in an advertising agency but she felt restless and wanted to experience something new professionally, personally and geographically. Having talked the idea through with her boyfriend Martins and their friend Janis they all decided to start looking for jobs abroad – together!

“We didn’t have any preconceived ideas about where we were going or what we were going to do: we were completely open to suggestions.” One day Ieva was talking to some Lithuanian friends who had moved to Iceland to work, and when they learnt that Ieva was thinking of doing a similar thing they were quick to recommend coming to Iceland. “They were really enthusiastic about Iceland and the possibilities available over there, so we started to do some research.”

Ieva’s friends also introduced her to EURES, which has played a key role in all three of the successful job hunts. Before this Ieva had never heard of EURES but her friends explained how it works and the services offered. “Learning about EURES made our dreams a reality. We registered on the website before leaving Latvia and browsed the jobs available in Reykjavik. On our first day in Iceland we had our first meeting with our EURES Adviser Arni Stefansson.”

Ieva and her friends talked through their hopes and requirements with Arni and he set about helping them to look for jobs. Although the financial crisis meant that it was not the best time to be looking for work in Iceland, all three of them are now working. “It took us one or two months but now we are all settled with work.” Martins and Janis are employed as cleaners in a gym and Ieva is working at The Indian Mango, an Indian restaurant. “Arni went beyond the call of duty helping me to find work, and even set up an interview for me himself.”

Ieva is very happy with her work: she finds the restaurant nice and cosy, her colleagues are very friendly and it is no problem that she does not speak Icelandic because many of the clients are tourists and many Icelandic people speak English. “I was amazed when we first arrived; nearly everyone of all ages speaks English here. We all learnt English to a good level at school back in Latvia so we really haven’t experienced a language barrier here.”

What they have experienced are some cultural differences: “When looking for jobs we were surprised that people didn’t reply to applications, or never called despite having said they would. We soon learnt that if we wanted a response we needed to ring people ourselves.” Apart from that they find Reykjavik a very relaxed and calm city and they have made many new friends, mostly from Lithuania and Sweden.

And how long are they planning on staying in Iceland? “We’re not sure, we know we will stay for at least a year as we’re having a great time, but maybe at some point we would like to move somewhere warmer – we’ve had snow here since October! I feel we are in a very good position: learning many new things, with many new opportunities. I am also still working as a long-distance freelance writer for colleagues in Latvia, so I still feel professionally connected there too.”

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