By Alexandra Paucescu
When embarking on a lifetime diplomatic journey, you might feel confused, meaningless, disoriented or even lost. It usually happens at the beginning, when you have to leave all your life behind and rebuild parts of it from scratch in another setting, in a foreign environment and in totally unfamiliar circumstances.
Many brilliantly succeed in reinventing themselves and finding new ways of expression, rediscovering old passions and making use of talents at their true potential.
Nausheen Shaikh is certainly one of them. Born and raised in Mumbai (formerly called Bombay), India, she studied economics and was an accountant by training. She recalls having a regular 9 to 5 job, facilitating consular services for prospective travelers to the United States, at the US Consulate in Mumbai, job that she really loved.
But, as in all our diplomatic life stories, after getting married to a Foreign Service official, she had to move abroad. First stop: Amman, Jordan in 2017. The Hague, Netherlands and Washington DC soon followed.
When asked about how she coped with the change, she tells me: ‘in a nomadic lifestyle, you constantly have to acclimate to new circumstances. Your mindset becomes flexible and open to what’s different and unknown. As expat, you make certain choices that will allow you to have an interesting and rewarding experience. At the same time, there are challenges which may not seem real to others back home’.
She also says that she found the diplomatic community to be extremely resilient. People learn to adapt and embrace change.
‘I have no regrets but there are certainly challenges, which vary from person to person and from country to country. Challenges for some may be the weather, for others safety or how expensive some countries are. However, for most it’s usually being away from family and friends. But technology helps us to remain close and I always try to build a family from my friends, wherever I go. Maintaining friendship takes work, commitment and understanding – but the payoff is HUGE!’
There is a certain wisdom in all our philosophy of life abroad, an art of navigating on foreign far away waters… ‘For me, the most rewarding experience of living as an expat has been the opportunity to learn new things. Living overseas, learning new things becomes merely a part of daily life routine. Social customs, language and of course, art are all different from home and learning about and experiencing all those differences has been enjoyable’.
While living abroad she rediscovered her artistic nature and explored ways to address it. ‘I’ve been creatively inclined ever since I can remember but did not have the chance to passionately pursue my card-making hobby, because of work and time restraints. After moving through, the one thing I had plenty of was TIME. So there was absolutely no excuse and I was off with my paper, stamps & inks.
Right after moving to Jordan, I connected with a local association of expat women. Through that association, I met a community of people who would soon become my customers and friends. I invested many hours in my craft, while also teaching friends and participating in a number of bazaars and pop-ups’.
Years later now and she still enjoys her art work. Gorgeous colorful and joyful cards come out of her hands. She found her unique way of expression and of bringing joy to the world.
After all, as she says herself, ‘don’t dismiss the little things! Keep a positive outlook, trust your resilience and focus your energies only on these challenges’.
About the author:
She speaks Romanian, English, French, German and Italian, gives lectures on intercultural communication and is an active NGO volunteer.