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from Turkey to Colombia with EPAM Anywhere: a relocation story

a world map with an arrow from Turkey to Colombiaa world map with an arrow from Turkey to Colombia
written by People Partner, EPAM Anywhere

In this article, we have a captivating personal story to share with you about unlocking the relocation benefits at EPAM Anywhere. Join us as we delve into the experiences of our People Partner Ilona Zhavrid, who embarked on a transformative journey, blending remote work and the thrill of relocating.

Discover the opportunities and advantages that EPAM Anywhere offers for those seeking a change of scenery and a chance to embrace new horizons. So, let's dive into this captivating tale and explore the exciting world of remote work and relocation with EPAM Anywhere!

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Tell us about yourself

My name is Ilona, and I have a background in teaching the English language. Back in 2018, I had an incredible opportunity to kickstart my career at EPAM, which had always been my dream.

During my time at EPAM, I had the privilege of being involved in some exciting projects, such as the development of programs for kids and seniors. Apart from my professional pursuits, I discovered my passion for singing and joined a choir.

Around two years ago, I embarked on an exciting new chapter by joining the EPAM Anywhere program as a People Partner. This decision opened up a world of possibilities for me, allowing me to expand my horizons and take on new challenges.

In 2022, I took a leap of faith and relocated to Turkey, where I lived for nearly a year. It was during this transformative period that discussions about the potential of relocating to Latin America started to arise, sparking my curiosity and sense of adventure.

What motivated you to embark on such a significant journey?

Let me share with you my remarkable journey as a People Advisory Specialist from Turkey to Colombia and how EPAM, including EPAM Anywhere, played a pivotal role in facilitating my relocation.

At first, when I stumbled upon this opportunity, I was hesitant and felt unprepared for such a significant change. The idea of traveling alone to a distant country made me apprehensive. However, as I delved deeper into researching Colombia and pondered over the possibilities, a shift in mindset occurred. I realized that limits exist only in our minds, and everything becomes achievable when we embrace the unknown. Additionally, the prospect of exploring a different continent and experiencing a different part of the world was immensely enticing.

“Taking a leap of faith, I decided to seize the opportunity. I must emphasize that throughout this journey, my colleagues at EPAM and EPAM Anywhere provided unwavering support.”

Ilona ZhavridPeople Partner, EPAM Anywhere

I took proactive steps to prepare myself, thoroughly studying our internal knowledge base about Colombia and ensuring I had all the necessary documents in order. Fortunately, the document processing went incredibly smoothly, thanks to the guidance and assistance provided.

EPAM's commitment to fostering a seamless relocation experience is truly commendable. The resources and support extended to me through EPAM Anywhere were invaluable. They eased the uncertainties and challenges that often accompany such a significant move, giving me the confidence to embark on this adventure.

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Share your relocation journey with us! What were the key steps involved? Any standout memories or surprises along the way?

Having undergone a relocation earlier that year, I had a general understanding of the process, which proved beneficial. To begin, I gathered all the necessary information regarding the required documents and ensured they were prepared in advance.

Next, I engaged in discussions with the relevant parties to determine the dates of my departure and establish the most suitable route for relocation. This communication was crucial in ensuring a seamless transition.

One aspect that made the relocation process remarkably smooth was the constant support and guidance provided by the dedicated relocation specialist. Their continuous availability and assistance helped me navigate through any challenges I encountered.

When it came to choosing a place to live in Bogota, I had the opportunity to consult with my colleagues already residing there. Their insights and recommendations proved invaluable in making the best decision for my needs and preferences.

However, one of the most heartwarming moments of my relocation journey was when my colleagues surprised me by greeting me at the airport on my arrival day. This gesture truly touched me. My relocation specialist expressed that such a warm welcome was not uncommon there, highlighting the unique spirit of the Colombian people.

These unexpected surprises and the genuine eagerness to connect with colleagues showcased the welcoming nature and camaraderie that exists within the EPAM community. It was a humbling experience and served as a testament to the exceptional environment created by EPAM and its commitment to fostering strong interpersonal connections.

Tell us more about the adaptation process and the challenges you faced

The adaptation process in a new country was made easier with the support of my colleagues, who assisted me with important aspects such as medical insurance and work-related queries. However, I did encounter some initial challenges, primarily due to the language barrier as I hardly spoke Spanish. It took time to grasp the basics, but I found that people were genuinely helpful, especially when they realized I was a foreigner.

“The support and guidance provided by my colleagues, coupled with the willingness of the local people to assist, made the adaptation process smoother and less daunting.”

Ilona ZhavridPeople Partner, EPAM Anywhere

Upon arrival, my first steps involved opening a bank account, purchasing a local SIM card, and selecting the preferred area of the city to reside in. Additionally, it was crucial to choose the appropriate prepaid healthcare and pension fund options. Despite being in a new environment, I never felt abandoned or alone, as there was always someone available to offer guidance and advice.

One particular challenge I faced was adjusting to the high altitude of the capital. However, Colombia provides flexibility in terms of choosing a city with lower altitude or even exploring coastal areas, offering various options based on personal preferences.

relocation from Turkey to Colombia: Ilona Zhavrid in Bogota
Ilona in Bogota

As you settled into your new life in Colombia, what aspects of the country and its culture pleasantly surprised you?

As I settled into my new life in Colombia, I was pleasantly surprised by several aspects of the country and its vibrant culture. The genuine warmth and support I received from both my colleagues and strangers left a lasting impression.

One delightful culinary discovery was the unique combination of hot chocolate with cheese. It may sound unusual, but it's definitely worth trying. Colombia's gastronomy offers a variety of interesting and delicious foods that continue to amaze me.

Sports hold a special place in the hearts of Colombians, with cycling being considered a revered passion. I love the enthusiastic attitude towards physical activities and the emphasis on staying active.

Recently, my colleagues introduced me to a popular Colombian sport called Tejo. This engaging game involves throwing iron pucks, known as "Tejo," at a clay-filled box. The excitement lies in aiming for the target or making the gunpowder explode. To add to the fun, the losing team buys beers for the winners!

Ilona Zhavrid on the Tejo playground
on the Tejo playground

These delightful experiences have enriched my journey in Colombia, allowing me to immerse myself in the local culture and forge connections with both my colleagues and the wider community.

How has your journey been with the Spanish language?

When it comes to the Spanish language, my journey has been a combination of prior knowledge and continuous improvement. Having learned Spanish in the past, I had a basic understanding that still serves as a foundation. Interestingly, my proficiency in English has been an asset in comprehending Spanish, as there are similarities between the two languages.

EPAM has provided us with a Spanish language course, enabling us to enhance our language skills. With each lesson, my grasp of the language improves, and I find myself more comfortable with Spanish. Additionally, the locals are always eager to teach us new words and phrases, allowing me to incorporate some slang and surprise my colleagues.

During my initial months in Colombia, I had a chance to interact with employees at my bank's customer support and medical centers in English. Some healthcare professionals also spoke English. Furthermore, there are delivery apps available in English, which has been immensely helpful.

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Have you explored any hidden gems, participated in local festivals, or discovered any breathtaking natural landscapes in Colombia?

Although my time in Colombia has been relatively short, I have already had the chance to embark on a few unique experiences outside of work.

One remarkable place I visited near Bogota is Zipaquira, home to the awe-inspiring Catedral de Sal (Salt Cathedral). This underground church is nestled within the tunnels of a salt mine, creating a truly mesmerizing setting.

Bogota itself is surrounded by majestic mountains, offering breathtaking views. One particular mountain stands out, where a church sits atop its summit at an impressive altitude of 3,152 meters. The sight of a beautifully constructed place of worship amidst the mountains leaves me in awe of human ingenuity. The panoramic views of the city and the mountain range from this vantage point are simply spectacular.

Can you share a funny or heartwarming story about an encounter you had with a colleague or local resident in Colombia that made you feel welcomed and part of the community?

One of the most heartwarming experiences I've had in Colombia was when I met the daughter of my Airbnb landlords during my stay. What began as a casual conversation soon turned into a beautiful friendship that made me feel truly welcomed and part of the community.

This wonderful young woman invited me to a dinner, where we shared stories and experiences, fostering a genuine connection. Little did I know that this would be just the beginning of an even more special occasion.

The entire family graciously invited me to their home to celebrate a birthday. Despite the language barrier, as only a few spoke English, we found a way to communicate and connect. We even played bingo together, which not only brought laughter and joy but also helped me learn numbers in Spanish along the way.

What made this encounter even more remarkable was that Camila, the daughter, went above and beyond to assist me in finding the perfect apartment. Her kindness and support made the process seamless, and I am grateful for her invaluable assistance.

What advice would you give to someone considering a similar move to a new country for work?

If you're considering a similar move to a new country for work, I encourage you to seize the opportunity and embark on this transformative journey. Here are some pieces of advice based on my own experience:

  • Embrace the experience: Relocating to a new country opens doors to personal growth and a broader understanding of the world. Embrace the chance to immerse yourself in a different culture and gain valuable life experiences.
  • Be patient and adaptable: During the initial phase of adaptation, be patient with yourself and your surroundings. Embrace the new culture, the different approach to life, and allow yourself time to adjust. With time, things will become more familiar and comfortable.
  • Seek insights from others: Connect with people who have already relocated to your desired destination. Engage with locals, read articles, watch videos, and gather different perspectives. However, remember to form your own opinion based on your experiences and observations to avoid potential disappointment.
  • Research and prioritize: Identify the key aspects that matter most to you in your new country of choice. Whether it's healthcare, taxation, or other factors, invest time in thorough research to ensure you are well-informed and prevent your relocation depression upon arrival.
  • Follow your instincts: Trust your instincts when making decisions. Ultimately, you are the best judge of what aligns with your aspirations and values. Listen to your inner voice and follow your intuition.

Looking back on my own relocation journey, I can confidently say that choosing Colombia was the right decision for me. It has enriched my life, broadened my horizons, and opened doors to incredible experiences. Stay open-minded and embrace the opportunities that come your way with remote work at EPAM Anywhere. Good luck on your own relocation journey!

written by People Partner, EPAM Anywhere
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