As a communications officer with special responsibility for alumni, I have the best job in the world. I get to meet alumni and hear their stories about career choices before and after their studies.

Last autumn, I met Manuela. She is from South America, where she studied journalism and communications at a university in a very troubled area. The university and its programmes were founded on the idea that communication increases understanding between people and could help reduce problems in the area in the long run.
 
After graduating, Manuela worked in communications for a couple of years for a human rights organisation in her home country, but she was hungry for a little adventure. A friend in Sweden arranged a job for Manuela as an au pair for a family that spoke no other language than Spanish. As an au pair, Manuela lived completely isolated from Swedish society – she spoke Spanish with her employers and her friends, and she read and watched the news in Spanish on her computer. It was like a Spanish bubble, she said.
 
However, Manuela met a Swedish man she was going to help with his Spanish. They fell in love, and she decided to stay in Sweden and try to learn Swedish. Manuela said she was no good at learning languages because she had never done it before – her teacher in Swedish for immigrants even said it was going to be difficult for her, as Manuela did not even speak English. She was also afraid to speak. Even when having coffee with her classmates from the Swedish course, she did not dare to order coffee in Swedish, but instead asked someone else to do it. But Manuela bit the bullet and passed her Swedish courses in spite of being shy, speaking quietly and being afraid that no one would understand what she said. At the same time, Manuela worked as a nanny and felt good about not understanding much Swedish, because that meant she did not understand when the children were being mean to her, and mean they were – so mean that the rest of the staff grew angry with them.
 
Then Manuela came in contact with “Korta vägen” – a collaborative project between Stockholm University and the Swedish Employment Office with the aim of helping newly arrived foreign academics establish themselves professionally as soon as possible through coaching, training in how to write a CV, going to job interviews, and internships.
 
Manuela wanted to change direction; she did not think she could work as a communications officer without speaking much of the language. But her coach encouraged her: “Of course you should use your skills”, said the coach and arranged two interviews for jobs as a communications officer. Manuela dared to take the plunge, and is now working in an all-Swedish environment. Her duties include reading advanced texts and leading meetings in Swedish. So, thanks to the university and Korta vägen, Manuela got her self-esteem back. Now she wants to go further and work with integration issues from an insider perspective.
 
Manuela is not her real name.
 
Narrator: Karin Tjulin