Ph Credit: Courtesy of Joanna Szreder
WHO IS JOANNA SZREDER?
In addition to being a passionate blogger (she is the author of The Blond Travels) Joanna is also an online English teacher. She is half Polish and half British and she is currently living in Thailand. One might call her a “digital nomad” as she lived in many and different countries, but this is not the right way she would describe herself. As she explains, in fact, she used to spend very long time in each place she lived in: that's the best way to get closer to the other cultures!
HOW DID THE PASSION FOR BLOGGING START?
Joanna is a freelance working as an online English teacher but also as a blogger, her real passion, as she explains: “I love it and I could blog all the time, all day. I write in English and Polish. I want to inspire others to move abroad, so my articles are not only travel-related, but they also talk about my experiences of moving abroad”.
The way to happiness is not the same for all but for sure it must be something related to satisfaction, fulfillment and motivation coming from what we daily do in our profession and life. That’s the reason why when we work passionately we are happier as Joanna does:
“Passion plays a huge role in my life, especially that most of my life I spent looking for it. I always wondered how people can stay up at night, or work on weekends. Now I know that if you have a passion for something and you love something very much then you can’t stop thinking about it, you can’t stop planning and working. I love having a passion, I love my blog and the things I do. I am a very happy person because I found my passion”.
Double work means high competence in planning and scheduling the day. Joanna’s week is focused on the teaching work, which it takes around 6 hours daily for 4-5 days per week, and of course on the blog. Online teaching requires quiet places to talk with her students and she mainly prefers staying at home while teaching but the blogging time gives her more dynamism and vitality, also getting in touch with other bloggers and new friends, or just writing out in cafes:
“I always remember to get out of the house and do something at least once a week.
I also sometimes go to a coffee shop and write there.
I do try to schedule my work. I even put small things in the calendar, like ‘reading time’, and I try to read a few blogs a day and some news, too. To me having a routine is important”, Joanna says.
"Now I know that if you have a passion for something
and you love something very much then you can’t stop thinking about it, you can’t stop planning and working"
HOW MUCH IS IMPORTANT TO HAVE A PERSON TO COUNT ON?
“I think I need some support all the time. I think everybody does. When you work hard and give all your energies to something, then it’s important to have someone next to you to give you some strength”.
WHICH DIFFICULTIES JOANNA FACED IN HER WORK?
There are many kind of difficulties a freelancer may face professionally, especially living and working abroad. Something she sometimes feels not fully satisfied about is being stuck working at home and the feeling of lonliness:
“being an online teacher can be lonely sometimes, especially when you work so many hours. I am stuck at home for most of the day and don’t really cooperate with anyone. I only talk to my students”, she says.
A part from this Joanna has never experienced unpleasant situations as a professional. In Thailand, for instance, women can be at a very high level of decisional work position but at the same time might deal with gender discrimination:
“Thai women are very independent, they own business and are bosses of big companies. But when I worked at my school, female teachers had to wear a skirt almost every day. You couldn’t sit in a certain way and you had to always be quiet and polite. Whereas men could drink and party and be loud. Thais are lovely, but those things bothered me a little”.
Joanna likes travelling a lot and while visiting other countries the way women are treated changes according to different dimensions, such as the culture and the religion, and very often the way it changes is not positive. For example, she tells how she felt somehow “objectified” travelling across India.
“being an online teacher can be lonely sometimes, especially when you work so many hours"
WHAT DID JOANNA DREAM WHEN SHE WAS A CHILD ?
“I can’t remember, to be honest. I think I wanted to live abroad - that was one thing I know. I remember planning a move to Australia once. I don’t remember who I wanted to be”.
ARE WOMEN TODAY TRULY FREE TO CHOOSE THEIR DESTINY?
What is interesting about women rights perception is that obviously western and also eastern european countries are part of the progress in that way. Formally women rights are recognised as fundamental in Human Rights Convention. Yet it is possible to clearly distinguish an unofficially level where traditions, cultures, and social values still represent an obstacle to achive gender equality in women lives, in their education, profession, health and reproductive rights, and so on.
As Joanna points out, despite she strongly believes women may choose their destiny thanks to the rights they achieved, in Poland “traditional values” still rule women and men lives:
“people think that a woman should get married and have kids in her twenties. If you’re a strong, independent woman then in many circles you’re a weirdo, or just an angry feminist”.
Joanna also lived in England where she used to appreciate the way gender equality is taken in consideration by a liberal society which doesn’t accept sexism in any form, especially within the professional field:
“I think everyone should have the right to choose her/his own career path. If someone wants to be an electrician, let her/him. They will probably be the best electricians ever. Why not let people choose for themselves and let them being happy?”
IN YOUR COUNTRY, POLAND, DOES THE RELIGION OR THE CULTURE AFFECT SOMEHOW WOMEN'S INDEPENDENCY?
I asked this question around September 2016 when a huge civil strike called “Czarny Protest” (Black Protest) took place in Warsaw and in other big Polish cities like Crakow, and Wroclaw. Also in some cities in Europe women and men too organized non-violent protests in solidarity with Polish women.
The reason of the protest was the proposal law of a complete banning of the abortion that Law and Justice ruling party, which is supported by the Catholic Church, was almost up to make real the last September. Fortunately that proposal did not pass at the Sejm (lower house of the national legislature of Poland) but the law still remains one of the most restrictive in Europe, after Malta and Vaticano.
Women in Poland are allowed to have an abortion only in case of danger for the woman’s life or health, in case of rape or when the fetus is seriously malformed. We can say abortion right in Poland still doesn’t exist for women, at least legally because abortions are still ongoing illegally, around 150,000 per year (www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/sep/21/stop-abortion-law-crackdown-poland-reproductive-rights). After the comunism religion has always been a big role in Polish society. According to the last Global Index of Religion and Atheism by Win-Gallup International (a global opinion poll which measures global self-perceptions on beliefs) Poland is one of the most religious country in Europe and this fact is highly connected to some hard issues related to women rights, for example the reproductive rights. They way religion rules women and men’s lives depends on different aspects, as mentioned above: for instance the more people are undereducated and poor the more they are religious as reported in the Win-Gallup International Report: “RELIGIOSITY IS HIGHER AMONG THE POOR: People in bottom income groups are 17% more religious than those in top income groups”.
Back to Joanna she answered this:
“You’re striking the right chord here because I am now in Poland and lots has been going on in terms of women’s rights here. I haven’t lived in Poland for 13 years and I am staying here for a couple of months. I am observing and listening to people and I’m in shock. Women have rights here, but it seems that they are not treated equally. Women have a lot of duties, not only outside of their homes, but they also do all the cooking, cleaning etc. Quite a lot of women don’t have time to develop themselves and they are often brought up to be intelligent and great, but they also think that the domestic duties need to only be fulfilled by women and whereas men are breadwinners”.
In Poland if education and employment widespread represents a relevant goal to girls and their families as well, unwritten norms are still anchored to the necessity of seek for a husband and set down family as the biggest achievement a woman may reach. However Joanna highlights how she has never felt limited by those social norms, she has always followed her passions, never had problems in getting a job:
“I sometimes gets silly comments and questions, but that’s all”.
This patriarchal and old way of thinking not only affects women professional potentials but also their reproductive and health choices:
“In our society, it’s important for you to have a husband, or at least a boyfriend, your biggest achievement is to get married. It’s not so important for a woman to have a career and a passion. I think it’s changing slowly, but it will take a lot of time for it to change completely. Our government is also trying to restrict women’s reproduction rights at the moment, so that adds to the whole picture”.
DREAMS AND FUTURE PLANS?
“To me it’s very important. I can compare myself to how I felt just a couple of years ago. I didn’t know what my passion was, I didn’t have a goal and I just wanted to go to work, earn my money and get out of there. Now, I do what I love and I feel very happy. If you know your passion, you are a happier, better version of yourself”.
JOANNA SZREDER IN BRIEF?
Ambitious, sensitive, friendly