I Should Have Started Sooner
Lynn Sikora Hamburg
I am a Girl Gone International because...
I try to keep my country count larger than my age !
A trip to Ireland with my Grandma at age 14 was my first international experience. My eyes were opened to the world around me and I never looked back. I was already studying German, toured Germany and Austria with my high school band and knew before I started college that I wanted to study abroad.
I survived almost 10 months away from home in Innsbruck, Austria. Immediately upon return, I started looking into ways to go back. I set off to Vienna, Austria to teach English for two years after I graduated. After that, I was back in the States and my life felt too routine. While I was doing everything I knew I should be doing, it didn’t feel right.
My next big opportunity came when my company (children's publishing) asked if I’d be interested in moving to the German office for a year or two. I said yes without hesitation and was in Hamburg, Germany three months later.
Almost six years later, I’m still in Germany!
Through GGI I’ve made quick and deep connections which have turned into what I already know will be lifelong friendships no matter where we end up in the world.
I love that Hamburg is the founding city. What makes Hamburg unique is that so many of the new GGI hubs have roots to Hamburg. A lot of GGIs eventually leave Hamburg and want to find that same feeling they found here, so it’s exciting to watch it spread and grow.
A lot of girls have said to me how grateful they are because GGI is always there when they’re going through a tumultuous time in life.
Our community is all about looking out for one another and supporting one another — no judgement. It means coming together and looking out for one another. We are all very different people with various backgrounds and paths, but we also have this GGI mentality that binds us together. We can offer a kind of support that other friends and family can’t ever give.
You helped nurture and grow our very first GGI Book Club which is now in cities all over the world, respect! Why was this project so special to you?
I have a large social circle here in Hamburg with probably all but two connecting back to GGI. And a large majority have come from book club. There’s something about reading and discussing books that binds us together.
Unexpected topics arise and you share things you might not under normal circumstances. It brings you closer. Six of us went on a trip together to Poland to visit a hometown. Now only three of us are still in Hamburg, but we are still connected.
Friendship makes our world go round!
Sometimes it’s not always about a lasting friendship, but also about short-term friendships. Recently, I found a woman selling a book I wanted to read. There was some back and forth and then vacations got in the way and by the end of it she said I could just have the book. We spontaneously agreed I could come that afternoon. I wasn’t having a great day and it was raining (classic Hamburg weather!). When I reached the door, she welcomed me in, put a glass of wine in my hand, and I stayed for two hours and left with about six books! It was something I could have never planned or expected, but her friendship that day meant so much to me. We were virtual strangers and lead very different lives in Hamburg, but for that afternoon she gave me some very much needed friendship.
How has GGI affected or impacted your life or the lives of others?
I have become more confident in who I am as a person. The GGI mentality and lifestyle was something I could never name or identify about myself before, but then suddenly I understood these parts of me that had been confusing or locked away — and I wasn’t the only one!
I have seen so many various types of connection come through GGI. I am so happy when someone selling a washing machine connects with someone needing a washing machine or even something as small as someone needing to borrow an air mattress for the weekend or help finding a good restaurant. When you start somewhere new, your support system is limited, but GGI steps right in and you find overly generous people.
How did you get involved with Girl Gone International?
I first found another expat group with men and women, but just couldn’t make any female friends — and was only getting hit on by guys! I started searching for other groups and came across GGI which wasn’t even called GGI back then — it was HIW — Hamburg International Women.
I went to a women’s college so I knew a women’s group would make me feel right at home. Anne was the first person to greet me at the event in May 2012 right before she left the city. I made four friends that night and we are still in contact. Shortly thereafter, a book club was founded and I eagerly joined the first meeting and was eventually leading the group. From there, I kept wanting to do more and now I’m Co-Manager, while also running the book club and helping organise events and unite people through books.
What are your thoughts on ‘settling down’?
My version of settling down has changed drastically. I still want a life partner, children, a home, furniture of my own choosing, a pet, but I know I’m not there yet. I like being independent and free. I now know I have to find a guy that can understand this part of my life and find a way to blend it and make it a reality.
What does ‘home’ mean to you?
Home to me is a place where you feel safe and loved. You can certainly have more than one home — it’s more of a mentality than a physical place. I recently spent some time back in Chicago, but when I landed my parents were already up at our lake house in Wisconsin. My sister brought me by the house to do a quick unpack/repack and I really realised it was just a house. Without my family (and pets) it felt empty and void even though I called it home for over 20 years. The second we reached the lake house, a house filled with my entire family and a couple of dogs, I felt that feeling of home.
What piece of advice would you give a girl wanting to go international?
Do it – don’t spend your life wondering what if. You won’t regret it. Always choose experiences over things.
What is your life motto? Or any quotes to share?
“Come what may.”
– Moulin Rouge