Meet Our Members: Sue Meyer

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My first visit to Vienna was a look-see trip for 3 weeks in March whilst my husband, Bob, and I searched for an apartment and prepared for our permanent move in late April. Having worked in the Oil and Gas business for 40 years with most of the major Oil Companies, Bob started a new job in a new location with a new company, OMV. Hopefully, this will be his last gig.

As an Expat in the UK, I was a member of both the American Women of Berkshire and Surrey (AWBS) and the American Women’s Club of London (AWC). These international groups provided me the opportunity to meet so many ladies and enjoy all the events and outings.

I was so happy to Google find an AWA in Vienna. I met some members at the Welcome Coffee on Wednesday mornings, and I had the chance to embrace a little of the Vienna life style and culture for what will be our new home for the next 3 to 5 years.

How I ended up in Vienna

A little bit about me! I was born in Newcastle and raised in North Yorkshire, England, where I also ran a Freelance Hairdressing Business for 15 years and started a family.This is my 11th overseas move in 19 years. Starting in 1999, I moved from the UK to Newfoundland, then back to the UK where Bob and I married. We shuttled back and forth between the UK and Houston, Calgary, London, Newfoundland, California, Maryland, and now Vienna. Along the way Bob and I have bought homes in Paradise, Newfoundland and Bordeaux, France which we are now renting out whilst being based in Vienna. We still have to decide where we will base ourselves when Bob retires.

Family matters

Bob and I have been married for 12 years and have 5 girls between us; Bob has 2 who live in London and Huddersfield and I have 3 living in Newfoundland, Houston and Bordeaux). We have 3 grandchildren and 3 nephews.

How I keep busy

I am 57 years young- age is just a number to me- and I love yoga, having discovered Aerial/ Anti Gravity Yoga, a combination of Pilates, Yoga poses and dance, all with the use of a hammock. I also go to the gym and run, completing 3 half marathons, and play golf and tennis. Listening to live music, dancing, drinking wine, eating out, visiting theatres, museums and art galleries, plus walking, hiking and travelling keeps me very busy. I love a new challenge but within reason-I would not bungee jump or parachute!

And so to more fun here

Now that I am back from Newfoundland where I finished packing up our personal items and have moved into the new apartment in the 7th district, I look forward to meeting new people, making new friends, and enjoying life to the fullest.

Meet Our Members: Kirsten Detrick

Woman in the 21st Century: 8 Lessons for 2018

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In 2016, my career in the bio-pharmaceuticals industry brought me to Vienna. As Managing Director of Central Europe and Austria for my Japanese-headquartered firm, I am responsible for various businesses with nearly 700 employees, juggling this role with that of wife to Herb and mother to our son Hadley (18) and daughter Lucie (15). Here are eight lessons I’ve learned that might be of interest to other women of the 21st Century.

Pursue your passions. My interests are diverse. Chemistry and Creative Writing are disciplines with little overlap, but I centered university studies around them and have never regretted the decision. Despite their divergence, each activity brings great pleasure and satisfies my intellectual needs in different ways.  Although I am not a scientist, I still apply logic and analytical rigor at work. One day, I’ll write my 1,000 page novel, but until then, I communicate creatively in writing at the office.

Reach for the improbable. In 1990, I had 6 months between the end of my job as a health care consultant and the start of business school. My dad encouraged me to seek a health policy job in Washington, D.C. My chance of landing this kind of a role was somewhere between remote and impossible. To prove how crazy Dad was, I wrote letters to ~ 400 politicians, then wore out a pair of shoes walking around Capitol Hill, cold-calling senate and congressional offices to present myself and my credentials. To my astonishment, I received several offers, and ended up working for the Senate Majority Leader.

Practice humility. During business school, I developed a love of marketing, a discipline I had never heard of before starting my MBA program. Desperate to find any kind of a job in the packaged goods sector, I applied to dozens of companies and eventually landed a job with a major pharmaceutical/consumer products corporation, working on an antiperspirant/deodorant brand. Marketing deodorant is far from glamourous, but it formed the foundation of my business career, by introducing me to strategic fundamentals and business basics.

Take the Road Less Travelled. In 1992, I was thinking about traveling in Europe for a month with friends, even though I had been there several times before. My parents encouraged me instead to visit Japan and China, even though doing so would require solo travel. I decided to give it a try and years later, this experience opened doors for me professionally and personally.

Accept Imperfection. When my husband and I were building our family, we both held fast-paced, stressful jobs. Finding good child care was a challenge, mostly because we wanted Mary Poppins for our nanny (it turned out she was already employed). We “settled” for day care and it was a spectacularly positive decision. My children learned socialization skills, made friends, and enjoyed every minute of the day. Keeping a perspective on what’s essential vs what is “nice to have” has been critical in allowing me to successfully juggle work and family obligations. As a wise colleague and mother of older children counselled me: “…although you might miss the time when your son eats his first Cheerio, there will be thousands more to follow – and you will enjoy them just as much.” Her lesson taught me to shift my focus from moments missed, to moments shared.

Accentuate the Positive. In 2013, after a difficult product launch resulted in numerous job losses at my company, I was moved to a part of the firm considered to be “dead-end.” At the same time my career was derailing, my parents’ health began to fail precipitously – a “perfect storm” of problems. Ironically, being out of the corporate spotlight enabled me to throttle back on work…which, in turn, gave me time to be fully attentive to my parents’ urgent healthcare needs. Today, with them both gone, I realize that my 18 months of career deflation was actually a priceless opportunity for more time with my parents.

Trust Your Children. We moved our then 13- and 10- year old children from California to Zurich in 2013. Although a transatlantic move was challenging, the kids integrated cheerfully and grew to love Switzerland. Three years later, I was given the opportunity to have full P&L responsibility in Austria. I asked my son, at that time a rising high school junior, how he would feel about moving in his 3rd year of high school. In response, he said “Well, it sounds like a good career move for you, Mom, so I think we should go.” Both kids looked at the opportunity as an adventure, not a burden. Nearly 2 years later, they adore their newly adopted hometown of Vienna and have demonstrated resilience, tenacity and optimism in re-adjusting to a new city.

“ABCD” - Always Be Chasing Dreams.  After a first year spent acclimating to my work and helping my family settle in to Vienna, I am once again pursuing new personal goals. For example, I ran for the Executive Board of the American International School in Vienna last year and was subsequently asked to become Chairperson. I take weekly German lessons in a quest to improve my conversational skills.  I continue to volunteer as a guest speaker at a variety of venues focusing on women in business. And yes…I’m still chasing the elusive dream of publishing my great 21st century novel.

 

Meet Our Members: Diana Rodolsky

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Although born in Vienna, I lived in Germany, Switzerland and Austria for the first years of my life. After these years of unrest, I finally found a real home in Philadelphia at the age of nine. However, with an Austrian mother I never felt entirely American, and in my early twenties I gave in to my nomadic tendencies and moved to Rome. Later, I began to feel curious about life in Russia, since I had begun to immerse myself in the splendid literature that was created in that country.  Perhaps I was naïve, but I was convinced that life in Russia would be adventurous, and so I packed my suitcase and travelled to St. Petersburg where I studied Russian for about a year.  After returning to Philadelphia, I once again packed my suitcase sixteen years ago to return to the city of my birth. In essence, up until my move to Vienna, my life was a struggle between leaving cities and returning to them.

As the granddaughter of a Jewish Viennese psychoanalyst, I became interested in Freud’s writings shortly after my move to Vienna. However, my international background also influenced me in my decision to become a psychoanalytically oriented psychotherapist. Although my numerous moves caused me to endure many hardships, they also helped me to better understand cultural as well as individual differences. They taught me not to overestimate my ability to understand foreign cultures and people. With a broadened horizon, I became fully aware of the individuality of human suffering. Working with patients has taught me how diverse approaches to life and ways of thinking about one’s personal history really are.  I believe that psychotherapy can be compared to a journey that not only reveals a new way of relating to one’s past, but also helps discover new ways of integrating previous experiences into the present.  It is a process of learning not only for the client, but for the therapist as well.

Although my family was originally from countries that belonged to the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and Vienna is now my final home, I have come to realize that I need a connection with other English-speaking women. When I found out about AWA from an elderly lady who was once a member, I decided to join. What I like most about AWA is the great diversity of the members’ cultural backgrounds. Thanks to AWA for offering such an opportunity!

 

Meet Our Members: Teddy Weyr

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Teddy Weyr

Vienna. This city on the Danube is a part of my soul. My roots run deep here. This is where I was born, though I grew up shuttling two hours by train along the Hudson River between my father’s home in New York City and my mother’s in Hyde Park, NY, FDR’s hometown.

I spent my junior year abroad in Vienna and returned here 10 days after graduating from Skidmore College with a BA in German and English. I started out teaching English and doing translations (I also took courses at Webster University here) before following in the journalistic footsteps of my father and his father before him. I was blessed with wonderful mentors who helped me get started freelancing, which led to a job at The Associated Press. I worked for the AP here for 10 years, also covering Eastern Europe and the Balkans during the fall of the Wall and the wars in former Yugoslavia.

I was a member of the AWA then and recently rejoined after returning to Vienna 20 years after I left to continue my journalistic career in Baltimore (with the AP), Washington (Voice of America) and, most recently, Germany (with Stars and Stripes). In 2007, I completed a Masters in Publications Design at the University of Baltimore. 

Late last year, I made the difficult decision to take a risk on making a fresh start. I quit my job and returned in February to the city I love with a passion. My desire to share that with others led me to the course to prepare for the rigorous exam required to be certified as a Vienna tour guide. The three-semester course began in September. In the Spring, I took a diploma course in Event Management, also at the career development school here, BFI.

I said my roots run deep. My grandfather, Siegfried Weyr, wrote extensively about the city, its history, its legends, historical figures from all walks of life, famous and not. He, too, loved Vienna and returned immediately after the war. He, my father and grandmother spent the war years in London and the United States, finally settling in New York City. My father, Thomas Weyr, also has written about Vienna, how it suffered under Hitler and his memories of his childhood and his return as an adult after the war. My grandfather’s uncle, Rudolf von Weyr, was a sculptor whose works, including the lions in Nussdorf, are scattered about this city. 

My husband of 17 years, Mike, (also a former journalist, now retired) has supported me through every transition and allowed me to follow my own path. We have no children, but two cats.

In between studying Vienna’s history, art and legends, I want to do some freelance editing, writing and translating, and to put my new event management skills to the test. 

AWA was a welcome source of support through my previous years in Vienna, and I am glad to be back in its fold, looking forward to getting involved, networking and making new friends

Meet Our Members: Laurie Richardson

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I've been involved in AWA for so long, most people know who I am – but since we have so many new members, I'm delighted to introduce myself. I came to Vienna in 2006 from Washington, DC with my Austrian husband Friedl, our son Lucas and dog Daisy. I love this city and everything it has to offer. Our son will be leaving the nest next summer to study at an American university, and we'll always go back to my home country to visit family and friends, but Austria is our home now.

When I arrived in Vienna, I spoke German and had several Austrian friends. My sister-in-law gave me a copy of Living in Vienna, so I knew about AWA, but I thought I could go full-immersion into Austrian assimilation. When I realized that I needed a connection with English-speaking women, I found my way to an AWA meeting in September 2007 and signed up to work on the team researching and writing the 2008 edition of Living in Vienna. I wound up being co-managing editor, and found a circle of international friends at AWA. I had the privilege of being AWA's Vice President for Programs (2008 – 2009) and then President (2010-2012).

Through AWA, I got involved in FAWCO, the global network of American and international women's clubs with 64 member clubs in 34 countries representing around 12,000 women. I have been FAWCO's UN Rep in Vienna since 2012, and served as FAWCO Vice President for Global Issues from 2013 – 2015. I am now FAWCO's UN Liaison, leading a team of 14 UN Representatives in New York, Geneva, Vienna, Athens and Bonn. FAWCO is a UN-accredited NGO with consultative status to the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), so we can send delegations to UN conferences. Dedicated to improving the lives of women and girls, we focus on gender equality, women's empowerment, human rights and climate justice.

I was born on United Nations Day and when I visited the UN in New York at the age of 7, it made a big impression on me. I did an internship at the UN Development Program in New York as a graduate student, and I applied to their management program, but they didn't hire any Americans for several years. Since I've wanted to work with the UN for as long as I can remember, my FAWCO work is the fulfillment of one of my life's dreams. I'm eternally grateful to AWA for leading me to FAWCO, and grateful for so many things in life!


 

Meet Our Members: Maria Ciliberti

The Twenty-first Century Woman:  Anything is Possible

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I love watching “Outlander,” “The Crown,” and “Game of Thrones.”  It’s fascinating to see what life was like for a woman in the 1400s, 1800s and mid-1900s.  In spite of the allure of times past, I believe there is no better time to be a woman than in the twenty-first century.  

We can be married or single. We can be married with kids or single with kids. We can be stay-at-home moms, full-time working women, or part-time working women. We can be self-employed entrepreneurs or empty-nested, loving wives. I can’t think of any option not available to us these days.

In 1981, I studied chemical engineering and financed my degree while working full-time. Scarce financial resources and lack of free time didn’t allow for much fun, but I believed such sacrifices would pay off.

After university, I got married and worked in a paper mill. Three years later, I changed companies and simultaneously started an MBA program. Working full time in  a position that required business travel while attending university at night, I once again had chosen a hard road. After finishing my MBA, my career options expanded tremendously, opening doors to marketing, sales and business management.

For career growth, I accepted positions in cities 2 hours away from my home. This became especially challenging when my son was born. When he was 2, I took a position with General Electric Plastics in Bergen op Zoom, The Netherlands. My spouse was based in Cologne, Germany, so childcare solutions were difficult. “Where there’s a will, there’s a way,”  and I made it work. I drove 3 hours a day to and from daycare providers, had little sleep and felt the continuous pull on my heart that I was missing key moments in my son’s childhood.  This was probably the most difficult time in my life, but again, I thought these sacrifices would pay off in the future.

Several years later, I took a better position in Europe that involved significant overnight travel. As a single mother of a 12 year old boy, I once again faced the problem of suitable childcare. An American expat male colleague offered overnight supervision. He was a complementary role model during my son’s teenage years and became my husband and partner for life.

Juggling it “all’ was not my only challenge. Being the only woman in a business meeting, earning the respect of male colleagues and superiors, and numerous other aspects of business life needed to be overcome. Some of these challenges prevail for women who choose the working-woman lifestyle. Today’s women are not only surviving but are thriving, no matter which life style options they choose. It’s great to be a woman in the twenty-first century - loads of options and anything is possible!

Meet Our Members: Susan Mikes

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Whenever hiking the Wienerwald, I  like to spot plants of healing qualities, remedies to locals in need. Growing up as a pharmacist’s daughter, I felt an early calling to beauty and health. After highschool I went to college at Suffolk University in Boston, MA where I studied Philosophy and was active in the performing arts.

Promoting health, beauty and wellness has always been a part of me. My Mom told me that as a small child during nap time, I would sneak out and secretly go to her closet and vanity and play dress-up with her clothes and makeup. Following my move back from Boston to Vienna, I joined the family business, trained as a PKA and make-up artist. My artistic sensibilities affect everything in my living situation, beauty and health pull it all together. That‘s how I bring harmony into every day  and that is what drew me into the family profession. Zen studies and meditation plays a  major role  in my daily  life now.

My whole childhood I was aware of the AWA. My mother was a long time member and I was always inspired by her enthusiasm for the community. I am naturally drawn to international communities and looking forward to volunteer and join in on events. Week-ends I go on long walks with our family dog and spend time in nature.

Meet Our Members: Sangita Wilk-Sanatani

Journey to my roots by Sangita Wilk-Sanatani

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October 2016: I sat on my bed in my ancestral home in Bengal looking out the window and vividly remembering images from previous journeys. With tears rolling down my cheeks, I reviewed my past experiences and then asked myself: What is THIS journey about? Neither child nor mother, just myself here… in search of my roots, my heritage... my Bengali heart!

 I arrived in the comfortable home of my cousins in Kolkata before moving on to our village home where one of my main ambitions was to learn Bengali, of which I only knew a few phrases. I easily got in touch with villagers, and during evening walks sang with children and practiced simple conversation. Sitting on the train to Santiniketan, in the process of typing a message: “On my way to the home town of Rabindranath Thakur (our national poet)..”, when I was filled with emotion. Where did this sentiment come from? Who within me sent and who received this sudden wave of love and devotion

 I originally planned returning home for Christmas, but as the time approached, my heart cried so badly that I needed to seriously think about extending my stay for another 2 months. I struggled against feelings of guilt and the opinions of both my Austrian and Indian family! Finally, I surrendered to the Greater Heart and, looking back, it was actually in these last two months that the transformation really happened!

 Frequent reflection of my family history – between Kolkata and Santiniketan -I journeyed through waves of enthusiasm, disillusionment, and finally a sense of integration.

„Me in Bengal“ and „Bengal in me“ had become One.

 On the morning of 25th February 2017 my suitcases were packed, and I knew I was taking a flight back to Europe. Still, it didn’t FEEL as though I was leaving. I felt as though I had always been there and would remain there. After nearly 5 months, I had mastered the language to a confident level … a beautiful experience of self-guided learning.

 I still had time for a last day trip and I set off for the botanical garden in Kolkata. The great banyon tree was calling me! It is awe inspiring to look at something that resembles a forest and imagine this is one tree… so many stems growing out of one central root: Doesn’t this say something about us as humans? I finally understood that I had roots in Vienna and in Bengal and it was possible to be two and more at the same time.

The anecdote of this final outing: Different tickets were sold – whether you are a foreigner or a local. The chap behind the counter examined me and asked “Where do you come from?“ I replied in Bengali, giving my (Kolkata) home address... He handed me the ‘local’ ticket, and with a feeling of deep gratitude I realized I had been accepted!

Meet Our Members: Monika Sautner

Everyone who visits the AWA office comes face to face with a beautiful work of art: a bright tapestry of swooping green and orange curves, fashioned from intricate geometrical patchwork. Yet few know that this design was fashioned by one of our very own members! Monika Sautner tells us a little bit about herself and her creative craftwork.

My parents were from Vienna, but I was born in 1940 in Nuremberg, Germany, where my parents had moved to look for work. I was only a small child during the war, but I remember fleeing our burning house when I was only 5 years old. I can still hear my mother telling me to jump over a pile of glowing embers.

We moved back to Vienna after the war. Things were difficult at first. At school, we sat in the classrooms wearing winter coats and gloves as there was no heat in the building! – and we had no supplies to speak of. My mother made me my first notebook by hand, she did this by sewing together sheets of baking paper! Nowadays kids have so many books, notebooks, computers… but it seems like they’re not learning anything.

I trained to be a social worker, helping families in difficult situations. I had a super boss: a woman who always gave us little handcrafted gifts on special occasions. I loved her creations and thought “I could do that too!”. That’s how I got started with crafting, really. After my second daughter was born I stopped working outside the home. My crafts made being a housewife more interesting as my hobby really brought joy to my life. You should see my flat now – it’s so full of crafts it’s like a bazaar! I only need to ensure I manage to clear a space on my bed for sleeping!

I also used to volunteer at the Catholic pilgrimage site of Lourdes, in southern France. I’d go for several weeks at a time, often meeting the same group of fellow volunteers there, year after year. Because I can speak five languages – German, English, French, Italian and Spanish – they could always use my help in the office, giving information to the pilgrims, and helping with the lost-and-found.

The AWA is a great place for me to keep up my languages – speaking English to everyone, going to the Italian class – and I also teach the beginners’ German class on Tuesday mornings. I love helping out with the crafts – I donated some lovely wreaths for the Easter Affayre event – and if anyone is interested in buying a patchwork quilt, please get in touch!