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Emily Clark - Dallas, Texas

Story published in Nov 2017  | Interview conducted in October 2016

Emily is an athlete, a real estate agent and an animal rescue volunteer in Dallas, Texas. She moved to Texas to be part of the swim team at SMU in 2008. She is Belgian, Greek and now also American! I followed her for a couple days of HIIT training, house hunting and cute dogs.

 

Video available with English subtitles.

How did you end up in the United States?

Emily: I was a national swimmer for the Belgium national team and I got a scholarship invitation to come swim for a college here in Dallas, Texas-- SMU. It was phenomenal, really good team spirit.

Tell me more about your swimming career!

The athletic part was quite different, a different experience compared to Belgium because in Belgium you were going to school and your whole athletic life was a completely different life. Here in college, it's part of every college.

What did you study in college?

I graduated top of my class with a degree in environmental engineering. I worked as an engineer for about two and half years and I specialized in water treatment design. I struggled a little bit going from life, athletics and school to go into a corporate job where you're mostly sitting at your desk from nine to five. I was still active, doing my swimming in the morning and kickboxing at night.

 

I just felt like I was dreading it. I was waiting to get out there-- like getting into the office, but already hoping to just be out of there. Just too sedentary lifestyle for me and I always thought being an independent-- being your own boss, that was my dream. Real estate is that easiest field to get into and to start your own business, so I decided to study and get my certification then while I was still working.

 

It was hectic, but I finally got it done. I just made a transition and I have not regretted it a second. That was in January 2016.

That's really cool! How does it feel to open up your own business?

It's not that easy. I was very lucky one to have a husband who has a steady income because it is a risk you're taking. You're getting paid by commission not salary, so there's times you're not making any money and there's time to get a nice check coming in. I do enjoy setting my own schedule very much, but I enjoy most is to be able to be creative and constantly think of ways to improve your business and your methodology.

 

How can I be more efficient? How can I make my client's life easier? How can I do a better job of making my business grow? That is the most fun part about having your own business.

What a typical week in the life of a real estate agent?

Basically, as a real estate agent-- Well, it is your job not only to show a house. People-- your clients call you and they're like, "Well, I like this house, this house, this house now and that house." It's my job there to schedule these showings and it's not that easy sometimes because you're really at the mercy constantly of the listing agents on the other side.

 

Yet your client is just thinking you're pressing two buttons and everything's scheduled, but it takes some coordination to get all that in order. That's part of the job and I don't mind doing it. It's so much more than just opening a door and showing a house. It's about pleasing the people and making sure they have a real good experience and they think of you as their realtor and their go to person whenever they have questions. That's my goal-- is to make it a pleasure for them to work with me.

What do you like to do outside of work?

I like spending time with my three dogs, I love loving them. I do volunteer at a local non-kill shelter, there's millions of dogs that end up in shelters. Unfortunately, if they don't get adopted on time, that means they get euthanized and we're talking about millions every year. I love doing that in my free time. I'm also very much into the world of fitness.

 

It's still-- it's a part of you, you can't let go. It was the way I lived. I can't imagine a life without constantly working out, I actually get anxious and sad when there's a day that I can't work out. I coach at a gym-- a UFC gym and I coach some swimming and an aquatic master's program. Yes, I work out a lot and I spend a lot of time in the gym coaching or working out.

After eight years living in the United States, what is your favorite thing?

What's to me the most inspiring is I see so many people who are generous and dedicated to a cause that they care about. They spend their free time volunteering, raising money, giving money. I've been blown away about how inspirational people can be here and generous.

What was your biggest surprise moving to the United States?

I anticipated it, but I'm still blown away by it-- is how religious people are in the United States and how religion is involved in their life, in their choices and just the way they look at things. We know people who are religious in Belgium and they go to church. They'll go to mass, but it really stops there and here it's just in about everything in their live. You go to their home, there's crosses all on the wall, bibles in every room.

 

Some of the social issues and stands they take, it's phenomenal. To me, I have every respect for people practicing their religion, I find it a bit sad when we resort to religion to solve the world's problems. When you hear, "Oh, we're praying so hard for these people affected and by some hurricane or whatever will-- " How about we actually go out and do something about it-- is what I sometimes-- That angers me a little bit inside but yes, that's phenomenal-- religion, yes.

What is your biggest challenge as a Belgian American ? Is it bridging that gap with religion?

Yes, the religion-- I feel bridging that gap is hard because it's a subject I never bring up, I can't talk about it. I don't feel the need to talk about it and you miss out on a lot of social opportunities, but also even employment opportunities. When you don't have that, you've got to find another place to build your social network. Yes, that one is tough.

Where is your go-to place to build your social network outside of church?

The gym, the swimming pool or the volunteering places.

As an immigrant, it is hard to make friends. What is recipe to make friends?

It starts with yourself, it's easy to get caught up in the-- Well, I'm not Belgian anymore, I'm not American anymore-- what I'm I? I'm something in between. Well, how about you're true to yourself instead, on an individual level? What are some of the things you really deeply care about? What are you passionate about? What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

 

Find people in those circles because you have that common ground, it's really easy to bond when you have a common passion.

If you had one advice to give to a fellow Belgian moving to the United States, what would that be? What advice could you give for someone who has a problem fitting in?

You need to be happy with who you are. If you're happy about who you are, what you care for, what your passions are, people see that positive energy and they will want to be your friend. They will think you're happy there and it all just goes smoothly from there on. I do hear that a lot, that people are struggling to fit in because they feel like they're neither Belgian anymore and going back to Belgium wouldn't solve this issue. Yet, they don't quite feel American.

 

There's quite a lot of Americans out there who are not really what would you think as American and who would be more aligned with the way you think and act. Just try and work around yourself and be happy with where you are and who you are and everything else will just fall into place.

Is there anything you would like to add to this interview?

I would love to add something and it speaks louder when I show it to you. ADOPT, DON'T SHOP. Please. [laughs]

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