On this sunny fall day, Ana Fressl hangs up the phone and looks happily out of the window from the Aperian Global office in Kolding, Denmark. She has just spoken to her Indian colleague in our Bangalore office about a new client invoice. She passionately affirms:
“I simply love what I do. I believe that in the globalized world that we live in today, it is crucial for worldwide companies to have a global mindset and acquire knowledge about how to work across cultural boundaries.”
Ana’s remarkable story has greatly influenced this passion and is the reason why she is sitting here today. It all started in Bosnia, more than 23 years ago. Fleeing the civil war, Ana arrived in Denmark on a cold January day in 1993. She was 8 years old. During the first two and a half years in Denmark, she lived with her father, mother and brother in a refugee camp, waiting for their asylum to be granted – a life outside of what many would consider normal. Ana remembers that it felt “like living in a parallel society. We did not have permanent residence in Denmark, so my parents were not allowed to get jobs and my brother and I were not allowed to go to school. In a way, life and time stood still.” Even though life back then did provide plenty of fun memories, it was also a period characterized by uncertainty and fear – the fear of not knowing what the next day would bring. Would they still be there tomorrow?
Even after asylum was granted, the integration process took time. In a small town in Denmark, a war refugee from Bosnia has a hard time shedding labels, however welcoming the community might be. It wasn’t until Ana started school in another town that she became aware of the fruits of her efforts to integrate and learn Danish. “I’ve always had a good ear for languages, so I didn’t really have much of an accent. Suddenly, I found that it was no longer obvious that I was foreign and people actually didn’t know until I told them that I was not originally Danish,“ Ana remembers. As a young girl, Ana succeeded and thrived in the Danish system.
She studied languages in university and realized what passion and deep interest she had for learning about other cultures. Focusing on the diversity of the American culture, she pursued and completed a Master’s degree in American Studies. Her own process of integrating into a new culture during her youth planted the seed for a growing interest in cultural differences and their significance in society. Ana is now part of our family at Aperian Global, a company that she believes can make a vast difference in people’s lives worldwide. Her work has allowed her to help others develop a global mindset abroad and at home, preparing them for their careers and assignments.
Ana’s unique experience means she recognizes the importance of cross-cultural understanding and communication. Ana interacts with global companies collaborating across cultural boundaries, and her contributions highlight the importance of teamwork across cultures – a task she is very suited for, both because of her skills and her personal interests.
Ana looks back down at her keyboard and the blinking cursor after observing some passersby through the window. She has been asked to write about her hopes and dreams for refugees entering Europe this time around. However, the harsh and hostile rhetoric as well as the reluctance to help from some of the population makes it hard for her to formulate a clear thought. After a few more moments of reflection, she starts typing:
“My thoughts circle around the children who are the most innocent and blameless victims. These are children that have been stripped of their childish innocence and have already borne witness to too much cruelty and pain. They need relief. They need safety. They need to be allowed to be children again, and not bear grievances and fears that they are all too young to bear. My profound hope for them is that they are met with understanding and acceptance wherever they end up.
I hope that they find peace and a safe place to call home. And I want them to know that there is hope. Hope of healing. Hope of a better, more peaceful and safe life.”
She clicks ‘Send’ and picks up her headset for another call – this time with one of her U.S. American colleagues. Proud of where she is from and where she is now, she realizes how privileged she is to help others on their path, one day at a time.
If you’d like to leverage the work of the Aperian Global team yourself, check out our training programs and solutions. We’d be happy to help you develop a system for engaging fully on overseas assignments and projects. Contact us today to learn more.