A marriage of career and lifestyle

Migrant stories

Organising your wedding can be stressful, but organising a fast move to the other side of the world can be even worse, say an Italian couple who did both.

Ilena and Andrea considered several working in several countries, and fell in love with New Zealand

Ilena Isak and Andrea Stocchero honeymooned in New Zealand, touring the country for 20 days in October 2012. Both felt an attraction to the far-away country with untouched areas of “wild nature”. They loved it and returned home never thinking they would soon make the country their home. A few months later, Ilena had a job in Rotorua and the couple were settling into a new lifestyle.

The hardest thing so far has been the decision to migrate, to leave family and friends. Andrea and Ilena had been considering a move, looking at jobs in various countries. Both had skills that were in demand and they researched opportunities on the internet and applied for some jobs. Ilena is a scientist specialising in analytical chemistry and Andrea is a specialist in sustainable architecture.

Opportunity arrived suddenly when Ilena spotted a job at Scion, New Zealand’s forestry research institute. Her qualifications in analytical chemistry were perfect for the job using mass spectrometry to research the composition of wood. Scion’s headquarters is in Rotorua on the edge of the Whakarewarewa Forest, one of the places the couple had enjoyed during their honeymoon.

“Everybody is always friendly and open - minded. If you have any problems you can just ask anybody. Everyone will help you.”

The interview was over the internet, Scion offered the job and Ilena and Andrea were on the move. That’s when things got really stressful. Still working in northeast Italy, the couple faced a lot of documents to prepare, visas to sort out, and a big move to the other side of the world.

A couple of months after arriving in New Zealand, Ilena says most of their belongings are still on a container ship “surfing the ocean somewhere”.

The couple's professional qualifications could have qualified them for skilled migrant visas - but, as an "Accredited Employer" (an official status that assists them to hire overseas when required) Scion were able to recruit Ilena more quickly under the Talent (Accredited Employer) work category, and Andrea was eligible for a visa as her partner.

For help with the paperwork, the couple used the services of a New Zealand-based immigration adviser. She was essential for their peace of mind, Ilena says, organising documents and providing tips and suggestions for the move. The adviser told them that their visa process went through in some sort of record time – taking under a week.

The adviser suggested an international relocation company. “They were really nice, and got things really organised which was good because we couldn’t,” she says. The first part went well and Ilena and Andrea are looking forward to the arrival of their belongings. “Scion was really kind to us, helping with the relocation, and reimbursing costs.”

The couple arrived in New Zealand, expecting to find a friendly and open community - and they did. “Everybody is always friendly and open - minded. If you have any problems you can just ask anybody. Everyone will help you.”

“We like being in touch with nature and we like the culture. We want to have the lifestyle that people have here – it’s the main reason we came, along with the job opportunity.”

The worst experiences of New Zealand so far have been unexpectedly expensive groceries and cold Kiwi houses compared with those in Europe. “But we can put up with these disadvantages because we really like New Zealand, and the other things make it all worth it, Ilena says. “We like being in touch with nature and we like the culture. We want to have the lifestyle that people have here – it’s the main reason we came, along with the job opportunity.”

Andrea, who is registered with the Italian board of architects, is working on getting his qualifications recognised in New Zealand and finding a job in his field of expertise, sustainable architecture. “I see sustainable architecture here is developing quite rapidly but I believe there is still a lot to do.”

Both are happy starting new lives in New Zealand. They don’t have any big set plans for the future and say they intend to enjoy every single moment of their new experience.

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