A Swede life: Journalist carves out new career in a foreign land

Eric Gourley
Since moving to Sweden four years ago, Eric Gourley '10 (Journalism) has visited 19 countries, including Zambia. 

Editor’s note: After living in California his whole life, Eric Gourley ’10 (Journalism) moved to Sweden nearly four years ago. Here he writes about establishing a new career in a foreign land and exploring cultures around the world.

It’s hard to believe that August will mark four years since I relocated to Sweden from my native California.

Just a few months after graduating from Sac State with a journalism degree, I packed my life into boxes, put a 10-year sports writing career on indefinite ice and moved across the pond with the Swedish au pair I had met in Sacramento.

In retrospect, it was a much huger leap than I realized at the time— leaving home for a country I knew virtually nothing about, one where I had limited job prospects and where English, although spoken by the vast majority of people under age 60, isn’t the primary language.

My journey from stateside sports writer to international marketing communications pro has had plenty of ups and downs. I was unemployed for my first few months here and underemployed for much longer as a freelance writer and editor and then communications agency fill-in. Once earning steadier employment I survived an incomprehensible high-speed train commute of six-plus hours most weekdays for the better part of 14 months, during which I covered the approximate distance from Sacramento to Los Angeles daily and circumnavigated the globe by rail three times.

After honing my corporate marketing/communication skills on the agency side, I’m now the global brand content manager for one of Sweden’s oldest and proudest engineering companies.

Throughout the professional transition, I’ve always been able to rely on my education. I’ve always applied the same communications principles I learned at Sac State—engaging the audience, being complete and concise and delivering digestible messages—whether it’s been sports writing or corporate communications, at home or abroad. For most expats in Sweden, securing gainful employment is solely dependent on first mastering Swedish. I’ve been able to develop myself professionally while relying predominantly on my English skills and communications experience and education.

After spending my first two years here living in my girlfriend’s small hometown in the western Sweden countryside close to where she was studying, we finally moved to an apartment a few minutes from the heart of Stockholm, one of Europe’s most beautiful capitals and a city that routinely ranks among the world’s most livable.

Quality of life in Sweden is very high. My permanent residence permit affords me most of the generous social benefits Swedish citizens enjoy, including healthcare and childcare that are heavily subsidized by the government, as well as a guaranteed pension. When you count minimum vacation allowance and public holidays, salaried Swedes enjoy a minimum of around eight paid weeks out of the office in total every year, and some of us are fortunate enough to enjoy even more.

The benefits of living abroad generally outweigh the drawbacks—staying awake at all hours of the night to follow my beloved Dodgers from nine time zones away, enduring long, cold and dark winters and paying “ballpark prices” for beer at even the cheapest bar.

Living in Europe has enabled me to travel extensively, too. Before moving to Sweden I had only been to five countries. I’ve since traveled 19 more, including a large part of Europe, Australia, South Africa and Zambia. I’ve also been fortunate to have made 13 trips back to the West Coast to get my fill of everything I miss most—family and friends, Mexican food, American sports and mild weather.

Read more about the differences between life in Sweden and the States at my sporadically updated blog: caliswede.blogspot.com.

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