Creating community and finding purpose across borders
Hilary Kaye-Cormack is no stranger to moving. She’s lived and worked in China, New Zealand and Sweden over the past two decades and has recently returned home for the second time to settle in Auckland. She shares the important lessons she’s learnt along the way, including how a previous return to Aotearoa helped better prepare her to come home the second time and how her offshore journey has let her bring home invaluable skills.
Hilary and her husband always knew they wanted to live overseas. In 2010, her husband accepted a role in Shanghai, China and the couple, along with their daughter, set off for a new adventure. After living in China for eight years they returned to New Zealand so their daughter could start University.
Settled back in New Zealand, they felt lucky to be at home as the pandemic swept across the world, locking down country after country. Then in the middle of 2021, Hilary’s husband was offered a role he couldn’t turn down.
“The role was in Gothenburg, Sweden and it was a great opportunity for him, and one we felt was hard to pass up. Our daughter was settled at University so we decided to go for it. The second time we left New Zealand, it was in the middle of a Covid alert level 3 lockdown. It was a very interesting time to travel knowing that we could find it difficult to come back.”
The challenges of returning home
After two years in Sweden and one pandemic later, Hilary and her husband returned to New Zealand to be closer to family. She says this time around she was better prepared for what a move home might mean.
“When we first moved back to New Zealand after being in China, I found it was a big adjustment coming home, culturally, personally and professionally. I found it difficult to find a role that recognised and valued my experience and China knowledge.”
“The second time around I knew I had to be very proactive about preparing for the inevitability of returning home so I decided I would either build on my experience by working in my field, and if that was not possible, learn and develop in areas that would complement my experience and background. When we started talking about leaving Sweden, I reached out to my existing networks early. Through my network I secured a role with the Serious Fraud Office (SFO).
“The SFO appreciated my unique set of skills that bring a different perspective. I’m really excited about what we are working on at the moment and I’m excited to be recognised for what I bring to the role.”
Learning through travel
“The experiences I have had really help me not just professionally but in the way I approach life. Living and working in such different environments challenges you to have to think another way. You have to think about things in a much bigger, broader space and you think a lot more about the global impact of things.”
Hilary says her time offshore has helped shape her as a person and given her incredible skills which she has been able to bring back to Aotearoa.
Her time overseas helped her develop a level of resilience and robustness which she thinks all exploring Kiwi should have the opportunity to experience.
“When we lived in China there was a big expat community, and we had our daughter, so finding a community was easier as you have a lot of opportunities to connect with others through children. When we moved to Sweden, just my husband and I, finding a community was much harder, there were not as many expats and many of the groups were younger people. I essentially had to create my community and invest in it and that was a really valuable lesson.”
“I think as a Kiwi it’s a real privilege to be able to travel and live overseas but then also to be able to come home and bring what you have learnt back. My advice to others is to embrace travel, make the most of the opportunity, think of it as a gift, as a learning opportunity. Embrace the challenges and the differences.”