From Russia 🇷🇺 • To Spain 🇪🇸

How living abroad can empower one’s life

The story of Liliya • January 31, 2024

Liliya in the botanical garden

About Liliya

In this exclusive interview, we sit down with Lillia (aka Lily), a Russian expat who has been living in Spain for the past 12 years. She shares her journey, experiences, and valuable insights into life abroad. Lillia’s story is a testament to the power of personal growth, empowerment, and the pursuit of one’s dreams.

Hi Lily, glad to have you here! Could you please tell us a bit about you?

Sure! My name is Lillia (or Lily), and I am originally from Kazan, a big city located one hour and a half plane distance south of Moscow. As I finished my university degree in Russia, I decided to apply to a Master’s program in Spain and got accepted. I then moved to Cordoba, Spain to study, which marked the beginning of a 12-year journey in Spain. (Time is flying!) I now live in Valencia but I have also lived in Madrid, Malaga, and Barcelona. When it comes to work, I have changed careers multiple times ever since I arrived in Spain but I have found in tech advertising the ideal field for me to develop my abilities and now, after starting as a Junior 5 years ago, I get to manage a team of 16 people.

What were your first impressions of Spain when you arrived, vs. now, after 12 years in the country?

Initially, before moving, I had the typical touristic view of Spain, but living here made me realize it is not all about fiesta and siesta. I have quickly understood that Spain is very diverse, with varied cultures, contrasting landscapes, and even different languages. Also, just like any other place, it’s not all about partying; people work hard to make a living. Of course, I have met people who came to live in Spain for fun and sun because they got burned out in their home country but, in my opinion, there is so much more to discover. In the end, your experience of the country will depend on your goals. What do you come to Spain for? What kind of lifestyle do you want to have? These are important questions to ask yourself before moving.

What motivated you to come to Spain in the first place?

What motivated my move was the strong desire to change my environment because I really wasn’t content with the Russian traditional way of life. I have always been free-spirited and liberal so I really wanted to break the mold of the “conservative mindset” that I grew up with and that is preponderant in Russia. Moreover, I really can’t stand harsh winters and need summer year-round. Luckily, I have been able to find my little piece of subtropical paradise in Valencia, where I have been based for the past 4 years.

You’ve had the opportunity to experience different cities in Spain. Can you recommend a specific city for someone considering a move to Spain, based on your own experiences?

Each city in Spain offers a unique vibe and lifestyle, so it depends on an individual’s preferences. If you’re seeking a fancy urban experience, then Madrid is the best choice. If you are more into surfing or love the hipster scene, then I would recommend Barcelona. Now, if you prefer a more relaxed pace and proximity to the sea, Valencia is fantastic. The best would be for you to come for a while and experience it yourself. Explore the cities, connect with the expat community, and consider your personal and professional goals.

What is your favorite spot in Valencia?

I enjoy nature so the Turía Park is my go-to place. As one of the biggest parks in Europe, there is so much going on there such as concerts, yoga classes, people drawing, and other kinds of activities. But at the same time, it is not overcrowded so you can also find your little spot of calm and tranquility. This park is such a gem. In other cities, it is not easy to encounter such a vast green space.

How have you been able to move abroad and have such a thriving career? Do you have a wealthy background or did you get financial support?

I understand that people wonder if I am privileged as we often see the end results and not the process, or the beginning of the journey.

When I moved to Spain, I was completely alone. I shared a flat with 3 people I did not know because I did not have enough money to rent my own place. I had then to face the challenges of paperwork and bureaucracy. It’s essential to be mentally prepared for this, as setting up everything in Spain can take time. However, what stood out to me was the serviceable attitude of the people, including bureaucrats. They were generally pleasant to deal with, and you rarely encounter negativity.

What really helped me move forward was taking initiative. I started from scratch, with no experience and very little money. I didn’t wait for opportunities to come to me; I actively sought them out. For instance, I knew that I would need money very soon and so, I looked for a job frantically, everywhere. I found a job teaching English online within two weeks of arriving in Spain. I wasn’t even an English expert, but I knew I could start with beginners.

The key is to take bold actions toward your goals, regardless of your starting point.

Super interesting! As you have been living in Spain for a while, what is a valuable lesson that you can share with us?

The most significant lesson for me has been the realization that I am the creator of my life. Moving abroad, I had to build my life from the ground up, which was no easy task. I came here alone and had to overcome many obstacles to be where I am now. However, that experience taught me that I am in charge of my destiny. You have the power to shape your life, make choices, and work towards your vision. This realization empowered me to focus, work hard, and go for what I wanted.

Another vital lesson has been to be open to different perspectives. I’ve become less judgmental and more receptive to different cultures, ways of life, and beliefs. Spain’s diverse expat community has exposed me to a myriad of life stories and backgrounds. Being open-minded and non-judgmental has enriched my life significantly.

It’s incredible how your journey has empowered you to take control of your life and embrace diversity. Could you share some instances where you applied these lessons to your life or career?

When I arrived in Spain, I didn’t have a clear path ahead. But as I interacted with different people and heard various perspectives, I realized there were different options available. I had always felt that the traditional Russian way of life didn’t resonate with me, but I couldn’t see the alternative paths.

Living in Spain exposed me to individuals with diverse jobs, lifestyles, and relationships. It was eye-opening. I started to apply some of these principles and visions to my own life. For example, seeing people live on their own terms with less societal pressure inspired me to explore different career options and lifestyles. Some people were eternal travelers, some others never wanted a traditional marriage with kids, and some others had very unique jobs. This openness allowed me to grow as a person and shape my life according to my core values.

What advice do you have for people who dream of moving to a foreign country but are held back by fear, particularly the fear of failure?

Fear of failure is a common obstacle when contemplating a move abroad. You can invent any kind of scenario in your head in any kind of situation. “What if I can’t make a living there? What if I starve to death?” You know, when I got that first teaching job, my roommates were so surprised that I could get it at all. The key is to start somewhere, with anything, and to progress from there. Studying or getting an online certification, for example, could get you far. There is always a way.

My advice is to recognize that fear will always be present. It’s part of the human experience. But, if moving abroad is important to you, you must move through it and take action towards your goals. Don’t let the “what ifs” paralyze you. Take small steps, seek opportunities, and, most importantly, don’t be afraid to fail. Failure is a valuable teacher. The only failure is in not trying at all.

Do you have any tips or recommendations on how to make friends or connect with people once you arrive in Spain?

Building a support system is essential for a fulfilling life abroad. One of the first steps is to connect with the expat community. Join social groups, attend expat events, and use online platforms to meet people with similar interests like, which is perfect for casual get-togethers. There are as many groups as there are hobbies. Hiking, playing board games, going to Karaoke, you name it.

Also, be proactive and don’t hesitate to reach out to locals. I once went to an event where I met really interesting people that I wanted to keep in touch with so, I created a Telegram group and added everyone. This way, we could keep in touch and meet in the future.

In your professional life, networking is equally important. Attend industry events, join professional groups, and seek out mentors. Since last year, I also organized business events which gives me the possibility to connect with new people. Networking not only opens doors to career opportunities but also helps you learn from others’ experiences.

We are the ones putting the mental barriers delimiting what kind of life is right or wrong. When you see that other people don’t have these barriers, you start thinking, why am I having them then?

Amazing tips! Would you have any resources to get a glimpse of the culture before moving to Spain?

Taking Spanish courses not only helps overcome language barriers but also allows familiarising yourself with the Spanish culture before making the move. Also, I was doing some language exchange online, and later, once in Spain, I was practicing Spanish by hitting up strangers on the street.

When it comes to artists, I would sometimes listen to Rosalía, a very famous Spanish singer who got popular with her flamenco pop style. Also active in the flamenco scene is dancer Sara Baras. I discovered her on stage last year and am really fond of this more modern version of flamenco.

And also do you have any last words of advice for people looking to move to Spain, but still doubting or wanting to know more?

Life is an adventure, and moving abroad can be one of the most transformative adventures you’ll ever undertake. Embrace the unknown, believe in yourself, and remember that every challenge is an opportunity for growth. Most importantly, never underestimate the power of taking action towards your dreams. You have the potential to create a life that empowers and fulfills you, no matter where you are.

You have to take bold actions for what truly matters to you.


In Lillia’s journey from Russia to Spain, we find a powerful lesson in personal empowerment. Her story reminds us that regardless of our starting point or the challenges we face, we can shape our lives, redefine success, and live on our own terms. So, for anyone dreaming of moving abroad, take a shot at life, embrace the adventure, and let empowerment be your guide.

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