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Today I am interviewing another blogger who has quit her job to live abroad. Coincidentally, she is also a student and blogger like me! You can find Shruti’s blog at Indian Girl in Germany.
If you want to learn more about starting a blog, don’t forget to check out this post here!
Tell me about yourself
Hello! I’m Shruti. A little over year ago, I moved from India to Germany to start a brand new life from scratch where I knew nothing and no one. I am a full time student and a part time Marketing intern. When I’m not doing either of the two, I’m juggling travel, yoga, biking and blogging!
What did you do before you moved abroad?
I hold a bachelor in Economics and an MBA. So I’m currently doing a second Master (in Development Economics) and I hope I will finish this before I turn 27! *Fingers crossed*. I have also worked for Procter & Gamble and helped build two digital start-ups in India in tourism and real-estate. The most exciting work stint I had until now was definitely spending two months in Jakarta, Indonesia at a textile factory. (Weekend trips to Bali, Yay!)
Why did you decide to move to Germany? What were your motivations?
The first time I came to Europe was about 5 years ago on a student exchange semester. I was in Warsaw, Poland and travelled extensively with my backpack (ah, the good old days) throughout Europe. I fell in love (or at least was reasonably attracted) to the idea of Germany and at that point was also into a German guy that ended soon after as many exchange encounters do.
However, the small introduction I had to the country made me want to go back and study the language a bit more. While people loved the sound of French or Italian, I loved listening to German, even though at that point I barely understood more than five words.
Two and a half years hence, I found myself frantically researching on free schools to continue studying. My first thought was to move only to learn the language, but the Type A person that I was, this didn’t seem a good enough reason to move. So I applied to a few programs that matched my background and piqued my interest and shipped myself here!
I moved to Germany to learn the language, get a sense of work-life balance and challenge myself to create a life where no one knew me and I knew nothing.
How did you save money to move abroad?
The move to Germany was not a well calculated move, I have to say. But this is also the kind of person I am. When I want to do something, I like to move fast. Between deciding and actually ending up here, I had about six months. So I did what I could to save up as much as I can in that short frame of time as I was also paying off student debt from my MBA. I managed to save about $14,000 by direct debits into saving accounts, not eating out, selling extra stuff I didn’t need, renting out the extra room in my Airbnb, cutting and throwing away my credit cards and pretty much anything else I could do. I have written a detailed post on my blog on how I saved this amount in six months!
What do you find most difficult after moving to Germany?
The language and food was for me personally the most difficult for the first six months. My German is not fluent yet, but I have a pretty good command so I don’t struggle anymore with daily activities. Dealing with bureaucracy and paperwork was definitely very painful, especially when you have no one to really help you translate important documents or fill forms. As for food, there are very few German dishes I love and would recommend, but having been raised in India, my standards when it comes to food are rather high. Additionally, I do not like red meat at all and German food traditionally involves a lot of the same. I definitely struggled with figuring out how and what to cook as 60-70% of the ingredients in the supermarket were completely unknown or new for me!
How is the cost of living in Germany compared to in India? How do you cope with the change going from an employee back to being a student?
The cost of living in Germany is most certainly higher. Thankfully, I do not live in a big city so the prices are about 3 times higher than I was used to in India. In the first year, I relied a lot on my savings pool to ride me through. Had I planned this better or had more patience, I would have tried to get a scholarship to ease the financial burden a bit. Luckily, I got my part time internship the same month I ended up in Germany and that has been very helpful for enabling me to be more relaxed. I worked pretty much full time during my semester breaks to fund my travels and trips back home. I certainly cannot live the same way I did back home (with a full time income), but I also knew and accepted this fact when I moved here to study.
Studying and working 20 hours a week has its tough spots though and I wouldn’t recommend everyone to do it. My university is also split between two towns so I spend a lot of time in transit, but well I chose this life so I got to own up to it!
Were your friends and family supportive of you moving abroad?
I think I had a mixed reaction when I decided to move abroad. My father didn’t see the point of me leaving behind a stellar career (in most Indians’ eyes) to start all over again. My mother who knew my wandering heart equipped better with this decision. Most of my friends supported this decision, especially the ones who had themselves lived abroad for a considerable period of time, and the ones that didn’t support me had the same concerns as my father. These concerns, I had and will continue to have. But then again, we can’t have it all can we?
Do you have any tips/advice for people who want to move abroad? Especially for studies?
The only advice I have for people wanting to move abroad to study or even to work is to figure out the exact motivation. There is no magic carpet ride to establishing a new life, and your first six months or even a year will be harder than what you experienced at any point in your life. But depending on your priorities, it might very well be totally worth it.
You mentioned you’re learning German. How is that going? Do you have any tips for people planning to learn a new language?
Yes, I studied very little German before I moved as I had no time to do it. But once I landed here, I took the placement test at my university and somehow jumped to A2. I self-studied to catch up to this level. And then followed it with B1. I’m now at a B2 or an upper intermediate level, I would say. I’m still a year away from being fluent but I can manage very comfortably on a daily basis. All my tips I’ve gathered in my post How I went from Zero to Talking German in 1 Year.
Have you found yourself in any unpleasant or difficult situations because you don’t speak German?
I have found myself struggling to get basic tasks done such as booking doctor appointments or getting a haircut. I often sit the day before, learn new vocabulary and then contact people. It is painful but it works very well since I do not take the easy route out by asking them if they speak English.
What do you love most about Germany?
The fact that people do not meddle into each other’s lives and the amount of holidays you get when you work here. It’s ridiculous!
What don’t you love about Germany?
The fact that every interaction should have a motive or a purpose. It’s also difficult to befriend Germans unless you met at university or a sport club. Friends at work is unheard of.
What do you plan to do once you finish your Master degree?
I am hoping to work in a Marketing related field, but also toying with the idea of launching my own business. I am not sure which path I will take yet, as I still have to start and finish my thesis in the next six months!
I see that you love to travel. Where are your favourite places to visit?
I love visiting the various lakes in Germany. Out of everywhere I have been so far in Europe, Italy has my heart. Simply because there is so much to do and experience and in many ways it reminds me of India!
Why did you start your blog and what is it about?
I started the blog as a way to document my big move. Not a lot of Indian girls move to Germany and most would prefer to go to US, UK or Canada especially because the Indian community there is more established and language is not a barrier. I wanted to change that status quo and inspire more people to take this leap. Not just Germany, but the idea of moving abroad and taking things one step at a time. The blog also has a focus on travel as it continues to be something I love doing and providing tips on how to travel better and cheaper.
Most recently, I have launched into life and career skills simply because of the range of questions I received on this front on a regular basis. I wanted to use my platform for people to learn something of value and implement it in their life.
What is the hardest part about blogging for you?
aBeing visible. There are so many things that do and do not work depending on the niche that you are present in. Each month I try to focus on one or two key strategies to figure out what to do next and what kind of content makes most sense for me and my readers. I don’t want to write about what 1000 other people already wrote about. Simply, because by the time I get visibility on that front, it would be a done and dusted topic anyway. It is also incredibly hard to make people subscribe by email. That is where the jackpot is, and that I think is the hardest to get to.
What do you love about blogging?
Being able to inspire people and be creative even if it is in very small ways. I think sharing your voice is so critical, and I did a piece on ‘What it Feels Like to be a Girl in Germany’ which is never going to generate any money for me, but is perhaps the best essay I wrote after I was bullied about sharing my views on child rape in India. I love having a voice and sharing it with people, even if they do not necessarily agree to what I have to say.
Are you making money from your blog? Can you see yourself becoming a full-time blogger?
To be honest, I was on a free and limited platform until two months ago. I started to take this seriously from April 2018 and treat it more like a side business than just a hobby. I got sick of not completely diving in, and used my semester break to completely revamp my website and create an actual strategy for 2018. I spent around $200 on my new self-hosted platform and theme with the aim that I would recover it within this year. I started monetizing my platform a month ago and made some revenue from ads and affiliates, but in the long-run I would not be relying on this monetization strategy alone.
I would love to be able to do this full-time, but I am also well aware of the fluctuating nature of blogging incomes. One month you have great traffic and ad/affiliate income, the next month it’s zero. The niche that I am in (travel & lifestyle) is already quite saturated. I would like to create a differentiated space for myself and work on building great content, traffic and a loyal reader base. I’d love to build my own digital products and sell them once I feel I have the traction I need. I think if I’m able to make it into a $5,000/month blog, I would definitely consider going full-time. Anything less, would still require me to have a day job given taxes in Germany!
Do you have any advice to offer to new bloggers?
- Focus on building quality content for your readers and a loyal reader base before you do anything else. This would translate into your email and social media followers and the way they engage with you on different platforms.
- Monetize when you have built a certain authority on your niche. You can start selling affiliate products from day 1, but if you do not have your reader’s trust, the resulting sales are more likely to be one-offs than actual long term conversions. Determine the goal and the agenda of why you want to blog and find the best way to combine them.
- Do not be disheartened if what everyone else says doesn’t work for you. I don’t think you need to buy specific courses or go to a special elite school to become a kickass blogger. Trial and error will take you further than you know, and if you cannot afford to invest in a blogging course, don’t. Do it when you feel you can easily afford it and it will certainly add value to the niche you are in.
- Be consistent, patient and listen to your audience. The feedback you get via emails, comments or even shares is incredibly enriching. Over time, it’s important not only to blog about what you know best, but also to add value to your readers like no one else in the industry does.
Thank you so much Shruti for sharing your story! I just loved reading this interview because it reminds me so much of myself. I’ve also done an interview over at Shruti’s blog, you can check it out here: Canadian Girl in Switzerland.
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