Alumni Stories: Iwona Fluda
“It is difficult for me to say whether it is a combination of subjects I studied, or my innate curiosity about the world and questioning imposed norms and ways of thinking that allowed me to cross my own boundaries and look at the world from the perspective of endless possibilities. Probably a combination of many factors. For me, education is not only a university degree, but above all awareness that I learn all my life. (...)”
Name : Iwona Fluda
Place of residence: Zurich, Switzerland
Job position: working towards a more creative world
Field of study: Geography and tourism
- What is the best memory from your time at the Jagiellonian University?
My best memories are related mainly to the faculty members from whom I had the privilege to learn. It is all the people who, with their desire to share knowledge, also outside of working hours, their modesty and class created an amazing atmosphere. My most distinct memories include discussions with the professor of sociology, amazing conversations with professors of soil geography and soil science, astronomy and tourism.
- How did your career start? What were the turning points?
It all depends on how you define your professional career. I studied and worked at the same time. After finishing my undergraduate studies at the Jagiellonian University and the University of Rzeszów (German Philology), I continued my studies at the University of Silesia in Katowice (German Philology) and the University of Trier (Germany) in the field of socio-economic geography and tourism.
If a professional career begins when we start making money - it began many years ago. As a student, I spend my holidays working on vegetable and flower farms in the Netherlands. I also had an evening job, waitressing in wineries in Germany in-between my lectures. The money I’d earned allowed me to finance my studies, so I could develop my skills and gain knowledge. Looking back, knowledge is important in my daily work. These experiences have also taught me perseverance, organization and planning skills, which prove to be indispensable for me in my daily functioning.
My work in Germany also includes an internship at a tourist agency in Berlin, followed by language classes in German, mathematics and geography (I taught them in primary schools for several months), work in technology startups and photographing events.
Then I went on a scholarship to Switzerland, where I worked for a year for an NGO: the Swiss Peace Council. There, I wrote articles on world problems, armed conflicts, violations of human rights, and actively participated in conferences, e.g. I spoke about volunteering as an alternative to intercultural conflicts during an international conference at the UN in Geneva.
Then, I went to Hong Kong, where I supported the work of the marketing and communication department at the German Chamber of Commerce, I was a volunteer in organizations dealing with intercultural education and entrepreneurship. My one-year stay in that place was definitely a breakthrough in the way I looked at the world and my career, a kind of beginning of transformation in my life at every level, in relationships with self, others and the world. The stay in Hong Kong made me realize once again how privileged I am with the possibilities, knowledge and freedom of choice that I can use freely.
After returning to Switzerland, I once again began my journey with the world of entrepreneurship.
- How did education contribute to your career development?
Education certainly opened up paths and opportunities for me that I didn't even know existed. It is difficult for me to say whether it is a combination of subjects I studied, or my innate curiosity about the world and questioning imposed norms and ways of thinking that allowed me to cross my own boundaries and look at the world from the perspective of endless possibilities. Probably a combination of many factors. For me, education is not only a university degree, but above all awareness that I learn all my life. The desire to gain knowledge and new experiences took me to places such as the University of Vienna, where many years ago I was on a German scholarship, or MIT in Boston, where I had the opportunity to take part in business training.
Photo from the graduate’s private collection.
- Tell us about your current job. What do you do?
My working life is now divided between my Creative Switzerland startup project, where we create a community with the goal of supporting creativity, entrepreneurship and intercultural communication, and working in an association involved in transformational education, cooperation-based leadership and social innovation.
I also advise small business owners and non-governmental organizations from the creative, tourist and educational industries on how to create marketing strategies and make their own mark in the business world, and I run creative workshops. There is one principle that drives whatever I do: ‘creativity is everything’.
- What are your biggest challenges now?
Realizing and accepting that processes and creation take longer than I thought at the beginning of the project, and changes, especially those that we want to see at the level of society, take years to materialize. I see this in projects in which I am currently involved. Sometimes the people I meet live in an illusion, they are completely lost, they run after something that is difficult for them to define and they expect me to solve their problems with a marketing strategy. Which (unfortunately) doesn't work that way. My challenges include honing my powers of observation and the ability ask the right questions, set clear boundaries and sometimes refuse to do business together. Still, every challenge is an opportunity to learn something new about people and the world.
- What are life and work like in Zurich?
It depends a lot on what you do here, where you live and work. The perception of Zurich and Switzerland, as with every other place, is very individual and certainly everyone who lives here has a different story to tell. For me, Zurich is a place with many secrets and possibilities, full of creativity and warmth. Zurich is a wonderful haven for me. But it is also a bubble from which I need to escape from time to time, so as not to lose touch with what the world looks like in other places. For me, it is also a place where I see that creating business or private relationships takes a long time and is based on deep trust and that takes time. Spontaneous action that we often see in other places is sometimes missing here.
- What is your definition of success?
Success is all those moments, days and months when everything I do, think and feel, is in harmony. It's such inner freedom that can't be bought for all the money in the world. It has been my greatest success so far and I wish everyone could experience it in their lives.
- What advice / tips do you have for students entering the job market?
It is hard for me to give any advice when I know that I wouldn’t listen to it myself when I graduated. Each story is different, each person has different needs, requirements, a different plan or idea for themselves and a different vision of the world. What works for me may be completely inadequate for someone else. It's important to accept this simple fact and create your world in your own way.
What I have learned over the last 10 years that I have spent outside of Poland can be encapsulated in the following list. If I were to write a letter to a younger version of myself, I would include the following points:
1. Education does not define my professional path and I always have a chance to change – if it seems impossible for some reason, I look for or create my own opportunities.
2. Experiment and be creative, a constant desire to learn and discover are key to me.
3. Curiosity about the world and openness to its diversity - it is not without reason that people say that the magic of life begins outside the comfort zone - it is worth taking risks, crossing borders (not only geographical ones), even if this only makes sense to me.
- How do you think the Jagiellonian University should cooperate with its graduates?
I would like to keep in touch more with the Jagiellonian University - as part of joint ventures, lectures, creative workshops, meetings with graduates and students. I think we can learn a lot from each other.