Erika Bezzo, owner of ChangeXperience, is a strategic and intercultural coach with ICF (International Coach Federation) certification, specialised in helping those who leave their home country to start a new adventure abroad. Her thirteen years of experience as manager in marketing and communication led her to live and work in Italy, Germany, France and Spain. She holds coaching sessions in Italian, Spanish, French, German and English and has just launched a new version of her website, now available in English, Spanish and Italian. We met her to learn more about her role and understand how she can help expats in their transition.
Erika, what is, exactly, the role of a coach?
Imagine having a nightmare while sleeping. You are trapped in a reality from which you cannot get out, you are sick, you are looking for a solution but you cannot find it. The malaise grows, you run, you struggle in an attempt to put an end to that anguished situation, but nothing, you cannot do it. Suddenly someone wakes you up and you are in a new reality, which allows you to observe from the outside, from a new perspective, the “nightmare reality” that seemed to you to be dead end. The Coach is the one who “wakes you up”, leading you to explore reality from a new perspective, from which you discover paths and solutions that were previously not visible. And it accompanies you on this journey of discovery until you reach the goal.
How do you carry out your business?
With my private customers, who live almost everywhere in the world: the sessions are mainly online. With companies, I generally go to the client, for individual and group training and/or coaching.
How much did your previous work experience help you to become a coach and professional trainer?
My experience in the company has been fundamental. When your customers are managers, entrepreneurs, freelancers or employees who every day have to deal with an organisational structure, hierarchical relationships, power games … having lived the company life allows you to understand closely what they are talking about.
Did the fact of having lived in different countries help you?
Moving on average every three years leads you to experience continuous and constant change exponentially. Expatriation is the only event in life that leads you to face so many challenges and changes simultaneously: work, language, country, culture, friends, colleagues. In my case, the first transfer also coincided with my wedding. Expat life is an experience as exciting as it is destabilising: when I help my customers in the transition, I know exactly what they are experiencing because I have tried it on my skin, several times. And they feel it. Once, a French manager of a large German multinational said to me: “I chose you as a coach because you are a woman, a foreigner; you know what it means to work in this country (ed. Germany) and you speak my language”.
How did you deal with the inevitable changes that accompany every move?
The first time, with the blissful unconsciousness of a 27-year-old girl. Later, with greater awareness, great curiosity, desire to discover and learn new languages and new cultures, but also with organisation, determination and stubbornness.
What did you take with you from the places where you lived?
From Germany the essentiality of the content, from France the value of the form, from Spain the value of lightness, in the positive sense of the term. The Spaniards have the great advantage of knowing how to smile even in difficulties; it is a great force.
And what about Italy?
I lived in Italy till the age of 27. This is the place where I developed my core identity. From my home country I take a lot of cultural peculiarities, but probably the most distinctive one is the art of getting by.
One of the most important aspects of your work is the intercultural one. What pushed you in this direction?
As soon as you arrive in a new country, you don’t know its culture, values, customs. You therefore continue to behave as you would in your country of origin. Misunderstandings arise that generate anger and frustration. If someone gives you the keys to interpret the behaviour of others in the host country, your ability to adapt to the new cultural context is much faster. The desire to help people feel comfortable and quickly find their new balance is what prompted me to put at the service of others what I have learned in recent years as an expat, in addition to my intercultural studies.
In 2014 you founded Italia Altrove. What is the purpose of the association?
I could no longer hear: “Ah, are you Italian? Pizza, mafia and mandolin …”. Pride and the desire to promote the best of the country had me started, to communicate a different image of Italy. The Association, through art, literature, music, theatre and Italian talent in general, aims to export one of the best versions of our country.
What kind of activities do you organise?
Among things, we invite contemporary Italian authors to present their books, organise musical and theatrical events, have a reading club that meets monthly to discuss a book by a contemporary Italian author.
Can you reconcile all these commitments and get some space for your free time? What are your interests?
Well, family is a priority. After the birth of my second daughter, I left the corporate world and moved on to the freelance profession in order to manage my time in a more flexible way. Like everyone, I am constantly looking for the right balance between private and professional life: I apply the techniques I use with my clients first of all to myself. When I am travelling, I am away even for a whole week, but when I am at home I try to be very present. Much of my free time is dedicated to volunteering through Italia Altrove. The rest I dedicate to reading (I am a compulsive reader) and to sport. My two hours of pilates a week are essential. When I was in Germany, in addition to pilates, I was jogging in the woods near my home. Since I am in Madrid I have not yet managed to resume this routine in a stable way, I miss both the woods and my jogging companions, but I am working on it. This is also part of the constant adaptation of expat life!
Click here to read the Italian version