Kate - Never too late
Kate left her country Hungary looking for happiness and fulfillment. She found the love of her life in the process and came to Los Angeles. She was a successful urban planner back in Hungary. However, she decided to pursue her career in interior design after moved to the U.S. She is now working on her master's degree at UCLA for interior architectural design.
Can you talk about how it all started? (i.e., When did you come to the U.S.? Came alone or with family? What made you want to move to a different country?)
I was 34, and I was working for a development company as an urban planner and project manager. created and managed many urban development projects in Budapest and Pest County, from small-scale urban design jobs to large-scale multi-level developments.
I had always dreamed of becoming a designer but Urban Development, at the time, did not satisfy me completely, something was missing. Urban planning projects last a long time, also it was very political what I do not like. One summer I visited my uncle in Canada, and I decided I want to move there. I got a one-year unpaid leave from my company. I was not sure what was going to happen, so I did not want to cut everything. My travel date was set to the 20th of November, but life changed my plan a little bit. I met with my future husband before the departure. He was visiting his relatives in Hungary at that time when we met, and we started dating. But my plan was to go to Canada no matter what. He visited me in Toronto 4 times in six month I was there, and I decided I will visit him in L.A.
We had an amazing time, and I did not want to go back to the old country. I had my return ticket to go back home but I decided not to go. He proposed and I said yes. He was the first man in my life who knew what he wanted. I called my parents and told them I am not going back home. Then I realized I have a lot to do to make my life happy again. I am here in Los Angeles, but do not speak the language well, and I have no money. For the first time in my life, I depended on a man and I am no longer that single women who have control over everything anymore. I was so used to that life that I have money, and I can do whatever I want. I felt depressed again; I felt I lost everything. Sure, I should be happy I found my love, but what about other parts of my life?
Can you talk about your education journey in America?
I went to Santa Monica City College and took some none credited free classes for two years.
I always liked to design things. I learned architecture in school as an urban planner. And I always liked interior design. It feels more feminine than urban planning. I thought, maybe interior design can be something that makes me happy. I have always liked creating things, either it is jewelry or furniture. Creating things was always a big part of my life. I also liked the technical drawings. My dad and my grandpa were both engineers, so I grew up in that environment.
My past work in global studies, having a detail-oriented mindset, and my love for creativity led me to begin studying Interior Architectural Design in 2015 at Santa Monica College to start my interior designer career path. I was so happy, and class by class, my English has gotten a little bit better. I started to think this will be the path that makes me happy.
At the same time, my ultimate goal yet to be achieved is to further my education. The part-time study-based MIA program provided collaboratively by Cal Poly Pomona and UCLA Extension is perfectly suited my ambitions and dreams.It is a great school. I can work and study at the same time. I am serious about school I think this is because I found myself again. I will graduate at the end of 2021 summer.
Can you talk about your career journey in America? Could also be some interesting, unexpected work experiences.
While I was studying interior design at the SMC, one of the interesting experiences I had was at a watch company. I was assembling watches, cutting leather, and crafting designer watches. It was a unique experience. I saw how an independent woman builds a business from nothing, and how she hired people to do the job.
In August 2017, I began interning at Kendall Planning + Design in Santa Monica, and once I completed the internship program in December, they hired me on board their team. Couple of months later during the spring semester at the Santa Monica College one of my professors told me there is this internship opportunity at HLW International commercial architectural firm (where we met). I applied and got hired, and I was so happy when they gave me an opportunity. It was a professional atmosphere. I met with a lot of talented people, and I also found some new friends there. I was 39 when I was hired as a junior designer.
Do you think being a multi-cultural and multi-lingual background has aided you or created struggles for you? It could be both. If so, please elaborate.
It is a hard emotionally digest to not be able to express my thoughts 100% in English. The language barrier I have is the biggest obstacle. It is not easy when you are surrounded with talented professional people. I always feel like I never going to get there, I am just a new girl here; The culture is different, and it is hard to be 100% me. Coming from eastern Europe, people are rough and truly honest. If things do not work, they do not sugar coat it. People in California are not direct and feel they fake sometimes. So, it is hard for me to navigate. I always tell how I feel, but I do not feel like I get honest feedback. It is not just the language, also the culture. It is so different, and I need to learn it.
Anything to add? Thoughts on the future?
I did not regret the decision to stay here after all. I have a second career, a loving husband. I travel a lot, and I have met so many amazing people. And now I have dual citizenship. I believe dreams come true before plans.