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When Expats Become Local Heros - "On the frontline in Switzerland"

After nearly a year of watching the Covid-19 crisis from the sidelines, IKEA expat partner

Annet van't Westeinde is delighted to be now assisting her host country’s public health


A call to arms

“I’m a public health nurse with a background in treating infectious diseases, so when the pandemic emerged, I was frustrated. I felt like I should be doing something. But, of course, I was in a new country and I knew it would take some time to get registered as a nurse,” says Annet, who moved to Switzerland in early 2020. “At one stage, I even considered moving back home, where I would have been able to find work in my field. I just wanted to be of value in a crisis.”

Language barrier

“In Switzerland, besides the administrative steps I had to take, I also had to improve my German to work inhealthcare. Due to social distancing I couldn’t join a class. However, luckily I was allowed to do a one-on-one class and I found a great tutor via UNUmondo. As I’d been unable to have much of a social life and meet new people, he became like a best friend to me!” says Annet, who also greatly appreciated her talks with Global Connection consultant Doris Betz and career coach Regina Reinhardt.

Too much expertise

“With Regina, I looked at some other possibilities, such as volunteering at a non-profit organisation. But I already had a volunteer role with the Dutch Probation Service, which I do in collaboration with the Dutch Embassy. Also, with a voluntary role, I wouldn’t be able to use my knowledge of treating infectious diseases as a nurse. If I simply wanted to have a job and earn money, another option might have been to find work

as a medical assistant. But, again, that wasn’t what I wanted,” says Annet, who eventually completed the registration process, and achieved the requisite B2 level for German, all of which put her in a position to resume her career in Switzerland.

All’s well that ends well

“It was a challenging year for me so I’m really happy that I managed to hold on and find work as a nurse at the Corona Centre, Test and Reference and Vaccination centre of the University of Zurich,” says Annet, who admits that the Swiss patient