The Grass Is Always Greener

About the Author:

Kseniia is a 24 year old Ukrainian artist currently living in Norway. She lived in Kiev for most of her live and can speak Russian, English, Ukrainian and Norwegian. She has her own website where she reviews 3D pens and creates 3D painted art.

My experience with leaving Ukraine in search of a better life.

In the mind of every Ukrainian, from their childhood, is one goal. Get out of the country and be successful somewhere else. Many of us think that if you live abroad, you have more opportunities. But as I have come to experience, the grass isn’t always greener on the other side.

There is a lot of competition in Ukraine. Everyone is extremely motivated; they want to earn more and be successful.

Why is this?

Well, the average salary in Ukraine is not enough, for example, in 2017 it is around 7400 UAH per month.

What many people don’t know, is that this “average” is inflated by the IT industry where, for example, where multinational companies pay from $1000-2000 (26,000 – 52,000 UAH) per month.

Once you exclude those working for big multinational corporations, most people end up earning less than 5000 UAH per month.

Heating, water and electricity in a small apartment cost around 2,000 UAH in the winter. The minimum price for renting an apartment is 4,000 UAH in Kiev.

So do the math, and realise that in Ukraine it’s not possible to make a living just from a typical salary. This is why Ukrainians are so motivated, to either work multiple jobs or start their own business.

But let’s get back to my story…

Since I was a little girl, everyone in my family was encouraging me to find a way to leave Ukraine and make a life somewhere more prosperous.

Stereotypically, every Ukrainian wants to go to the USA, Canada or Western Europe.

However, the closest escape route is via Poland, and many Ukrainians end up working there and supporting their families who stay behind in Ukraine.

I started working at the age of 15 as a promoter after school. This is normal; most Ukrainians have to work from a very early age because their parents can’t afford to give them pocket money. After school, I decided to study monumental art in Kiev. During my studies, I continued working as well. I had multiple jobs but ended up working as a gilder, and was earning an excellent salary of 20,000 UAH per month, as I managed to work on some high-end projects in Crimea.

After graduating, I received an offer to go to Norway, to study my masters in an exchange program. The term “exchange program” is used relatively loosely here since no Norwegians ended up going to Ukraine :).

I had relatively good knowledge of English for a Ukranian, and I was chosen to take part in this scholarship. The scholarship paid me almost $30,000 over two years, which is a crazy amount of money for a Ukrainian student, and I couldn’t wait to get started.

Off I went to Norway…

I was excited to go to Norway and get to live real student life. I would finally not have to work after classes, and I would get to studying in Europe as I had always hoped to do.

To my surprise, I ended up being placed in a charming, but quiet, tranquil, mountain town, called Rauland, with a population of 1556 people.

This was a huge adjustment for a city girl like myself, coming from Kiev which has a population of 5 million people. In our student house, there were only 19 other students, and the only entertainment was streaming movies or surfing the web. Even studying was considered a form of entertainment.

There was nothing to do after class, and the closest liquor store is 30 minutes away on a bus that only travels three times a day. The same goes for the doctor and any other service.

It wasn’t all bad; I had many opportunities to travel around Europe during semester holidays, as I had a residence permit which allowed me to travel in the EU. This was a big deal, as back then Ukrainians needed a visa to enter Europe.

After year one of my two-year masters, I was asked if I want to stay, to which I replied “PLEASE NO!” I couldn’t wait to get back to Kiev, as I was afraid I might die of boredom.

How quickly everything changes when you meet the right person

In the summer of 2016 I had planned to go on a mini Eurotrip, starting in Oslo, and going to Berlin and Paris.

On my one day stopover in Oslo, I met a boy who made me question my decision to go back. After my Eurotrip, we spent the summer together in Ukraine, and we fell in love.

We came back together to Oslo, and during the times where I did not have to be at my university, I stayed with him in the city.

I finished my masters, made some new friends and started to learn Norwegian. I was looking for a job, but this is where my troubles began. Finding a job, especially in my field, as an artist was proving to be difficult, if not impossible.

An added difficulty was the fact that if I didn’t manage to find a job within two months for completing my studies, I would be forced to go back to Ukraine and leave everything behind.

I didn’t know the language well enough, and I didn’t know anyone in the art community in Oslo. This wouldn’t be a problem had I been living in Kiev since I built up such a big social network and had many connections in my field.

I realise that for the most part, my social network was eroded, and I had to build it up from scratch. This is my boyfriend came up with the idea to create a website to promote my art. He joined the Pro Niche Website course and after a lot of work created a website to promote my work and hopefully make money selling some of my art as well as the tools I use to create the art.

The website is about 3D pens and plastics, feel free to check it out, we are very proud of it.

I would recommend this approach to any Ukrainian moving abroad who has a particular set of skills but is unable to find work in his or her field. If you want to be your boss, this is also an excellent option.

You do not want to get stuck working a 9-5 job as a waitress or shop assistant and waste your good education.

It is ok to do these kinds of jobs to survive, but having your website can create a passive income and give you the opportunity to move back to Ukraine someday and live an amazing life. Even if you choose not to return, it is always nice to have the option, and just knowing this in the back of your mind fills you with a feeling.

In conclusion

Sometimes the grass isn’t always greener on the other side, just because you manage to move to a new country does not guarantee happiness. You have to earn it, as with everything in life.

I hope that my story will help those travelling a similar path. I am still finding my way, and I wish you good luck with your journey.

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