Meet Veera and Brandon in Austin

We love to feature our members as you all know.  So just before our 20th anniversary party we wanted you to meet brand-new Austin members whom you will meet at W Austin on Friday, Jan 11 2019.

Vera and Brandon recently moved from Dallas to Austin.
They both are health professionals, Veera as a Master Movement Trainer and Brandon as a Holistic Health Coach.

Originally from Finland, Veera has a lifetime of athletics and fitness under her belt. Veera is a Master Fitness Trainer who was a professional volleyball player before becoming a Personal Trainer and Group Fitness Instructor. Veera has traveled around the world as a Fitness Director on luxurious cruise ships helping people from different countries to stay fit while traveling. She received her Master in Kinesiology* degree from UNT and has her own Personal Training business in Texas and Online. She specializes in Mobility, Functional Training, Yoga and Zumba. Veera loves sharing her expansive knowledge and specializes in helping expats restart a safe, personalized exercise program with proper techniques. She makes exercising convenient for the people, and coaches them at their houses or parks close to them.
*”Kinesiology is the scientific study of human or non-human body movement. Kinesiology addresses physiological, biomechanical, and psychological dynamic principles and mechanisms of movement. Applications of kinesiology to human health (i.e., human kinesiology) include biomechanics and orthopedics; strength and conditioning; sport psychology; methods of rehabilitation, such as physical and occupational therapy; and sport and exercise. Studies of human and animal motion include measures from motion tracking systems, electrophysiology of muscle and brain activity, various methods for monitoring physiological function, and other behavioral and cognitive research techniques. Wikipedia.”.


The training business is called VekeFitness. Veera’s sister called Veera as Veke since she was a child and shortly became a popular nickname for her. Veera decided to open her own fitness practice as she understood that she has so much information related to fitness and nutrition that people are unaware of. What also drives Veera to help and share the information is that when she played competitive volleyball she was never communicated WHY they were doing all the exercises. Now that she understands how the body works and what exercise works on what, she wants to educate her clients that they have a better understanding of their own body.

Veera believes any success in life starts with yourself. Everything starts with a thought and determination. Once you commit to them and consistently work towards it you will succeed sooner or later. If you have decided to change your exercise habits or nutritional habits, next step is to commit to change your current habits. Once you commit, consistent work will result in your success. If we set unrealistic, unattainable goals the road to success takes longer or might not even ever happen. Life happens outside the comfort zone and our goals need to be set outside of them but not too far away.

Veera is known for her energetic and encouraging personality. She has learned to meet people where they are at through her experience working with over 1,000 personal training sessions and teaching over 3,500 group exercise classes. The biggest lesson she has learned along the way that every single person is different and there is no one size fits for all. Veera believes training to be a wholesome practice, not just a physical practice. Improving the physical, mental and emotional health is vital for the growth as a human being.

“She was with me in my up and down moments, helping me to keep up my strength and not forget my health, and control my nutrition. She taught me how I can listen and understand my body. She has a very positive and motivational approach that helped me to reach my goals and get over my body fear. With Veera, I accomplished my first 5k and now she pushed me to the 10K long distance. I am confident she was the essential ingredient of my adoption to a healthier lifestyle.”

Marwah Halwani, Saudi-Arabia

Veera plans to build her training business both locally in Austin and online.

Veera is active on social media platforms and has her YouTube site for Movement, Yoga and Zumba videos. Currently Veera has Movement Training Challenge 2019 – YouTube video series available where she launches a new movement everyday for the month of January, 2019.

Veera loves connecting with people from different cultures and going to coffee shops. Veera also balances her work and life by cooking nutritious dishes, going Latin dancing and developing herself in multiple areas of life. Veera is excited to connect with EuroCircle members and explore Austin together.

Brandon, originally from Dallas, is Certified in Functional Nutrition, Yoga, Eating Psychology, and Qigong.

Combining ancient eastern healing modalities with advanced western science, Brandon also has a Bachelors of Science in Exercise Sport Sciences from Texas Tech University.

Previously a Senior Consultant for the Dallas Cowboys of the NFL and Arizona Diamondbacks of MLB, he now primarily helps conscious entrepreneurs who are having health issues around their weight, energy levels, or mental performance. His coaching uses a combination of functional lab tests, mindfulness, and body awareness, in order to empower his clients to not only better understand their own unique bodies, but also have sustainable tools to keep it operating at its best. He loves traveling internationally, foreign/independent films, good wine, and connecting with other like-minded individuals who are passionate about personal growth, human connection, and conscious living. He looks forward to meeting and learning more about the diverse group of EuroCircle members in the near future.


If you would like to learn more about their stories and businesses, links to their websites and social media are below.

Swedish Lucia Choir & Christmas Bazaar

SWEA is extending an invitation to all EuroCircle members to join them for Christmas Bazaar and Lucia Choir.


On December 9th we’ll have Swedish coffee bread for sale in our café, a raffle, and other fun stuff! Kids can meet Santa and we’ll lead you through traditional dancing around the Christmas tree.

Gethsemane Lutheran Church, 200 W. Anderson Lane, Austin, TX 78752.

Christmas Bazaar opens at 3.00 PM.
Dance around the Christmas tree at 4.00 PM.
Lucia Choir Concert starts at 5.30 PM.

Entrance fee: $5 for adults and $1for children under 12 years.

Bring your family and friends, we look forward to welcome the Christmas holiday with you!

RSVP at Facebook

SWEA is a global non-profit for Swedish, or Swedish-speaking, women who have lived or are living abroad.
We have about 70 chapters in more than 30 countries and next year will mark the 40th anniversary of the organization;
SWEA Austin has a little over 50 active members but our reach is bigger than that in the Austin community. We uphold the important tradition of screening the Eurovision finale, as an example (together with SACC)

Every year we arrange a Christmas bazaar and perform a “Luciatåg” ( More at Wikipedia )to celebrate St. Lucy Day(Dec. 13th).

This event is popular with Swedes and Americans alike, we’d love to see our fellow Europeans there aswell!

Oktay Demirdal – New Life as a Home Mortgage Officer

We are always looking for Europeans – as well as European businesses – to feature at our website.  We have featured for example Gabi Vitui, who was as a realtor here in Austin.  Gabi is originally from Romania.

Well, one of the issues you face when you buy a home in the USA is the lovely mortgage process.  It occured to us we could feature another EuroCircle member who works in mortgage business so we asked Oktay.  Oktay will tell in his own words how he started as a home mortgage officer.  Oktay is a true mix of multiple cultures and speaks multiple languages fluently,

Reason for starting (and how did you get started)

After working about 18 years in IT, I decided to make a change in my professional life. I wanted a work place that offered a more flexible schedule. The timing seemed right when my good friend Michael Landers who is a 20+ experienced finance professional in the home mortgage industry asked me if I would consider becoming a home mortgage officer. The concept of finance is very familiar to me as an MBA from Leuphana University in Lueneburg Germany.

How do you define success?

To me being professionally successful means having a sense of accomplishment at the end of each day and socially it means having a great circle of friends who support each other. I believe also in continuous improvement and always want to learn new things.

What is/are the best skill/s you have for business/relationships

Successful relationships whether socially or in business are about trust, transparency and excellent communication. Throughout my career, I have been known for bringing people together and make a name for myself as a trusted adviser.

Biggest Success

Raising my daughter Mia who is now 14 years old.

Who is your most important role model?

I do not have one role model who outshines everyone. No matter how accomplished and successful a person is he/she will have strength and weaknesses. I have great admiration for Steve Jobs for his passion to succeed and turn things around with his endless energy and great vision. Politically I think Barack Obama was a great leader and inspiration for many people in the US.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?

I was born in Turkey, grew up in Hamburg/Germany when my parents moved there when I was little and now I call Austin, TX home since about 18 years. To make things even more multi-cultural my grandparents were from the island of Krete. I lived in different cultural settings on three continents, learned the culture and the languages. I can relate to individuals and understand them because I know their culture and their upbringing.

What is the most important lesson you’ve learned in your career to date?

The biggest lesson I learned is that you will not be successful in any career unless you have a passion for it and you must believe in yourself. Approach projects as challenges that you will master with creativity and by working as a team.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?

Maintaining a work/life balance is a big challenge in the US because we do not have the governmentally regulated vacation days like in many European countries. I found myself doing yoga in my lunch breaks instead of grabbing food or waking up early in the am and getting a nice bike ride or swim in.

What do you want COMPANY to accomplish in the next year?

We are local mortgage lender here in Austin that has a great track record for customer service and helping clients with the biggest investment of their lifetime. Due to our size we can be much more personable, responsive and available to our clients. We have our in-house underwriting and closing team that never missed a closing date. Looking ahead, we would like to see ourselves helping clients to accomplish their goal of a home/condo purchase.


Need any advice…here is where you find Oktay.

Business Name: Assurance Financial Home Mortgage Loans – NMLS 70876

Type of Business: Home Financing and Re-Financing & Foreign National Mortgage Loans

Business Location: 7600 Burnet Road Suite 515 – Austin, TX 787575



Oktay Demirdal at Facebook

Aly Modleski from Ukraine – Balancing Life as a Mom & Artist in Austin

EuroCircle is always looking for the local Europeans to feature at the website.  It is wonderful to hear different stories how people ended here under the sun in Texas. I noticed Aly at social media with her art and
got so curious I contacted her. I asked her to tell us about herself and her art.

Please introduce yourself?

My name is Alyona Modleski, and I’m from Kyiv (often known as Kiev), the capital of Ukraine. I’ve held many positions since obtaining my Masters in Banking and Finance.  I was employed within several banks, have worked for the American Chamber of Commerce in Ukraine, multiple Non-Government Organizations and as a United Nations office volunteer for humanitarian projects in civil rights, health, and youth rights.  Most recently, I was working at Daymon Worldwide, private brand marketing company.

My hobby and passion have always been art and painting. Since relocating to Austin in September 2015, painting has become my main occupation.

How did you get started in the art field?

My passion for art started from my family’s tradition of exploring Kyiv art fairs that would occur on Kyiv Day. Every year, on the last weekend of May, my parents, my younger brother and I would stroll along Andriyivskyy descent (Ukrainian Montparnasse) and all together we would select a small oil painting to purchase. Soon, every room of our family condo had a city landscape or a floral still-life work.

I started painting professionally six years ago, and oils have always been my main medium. 

I learned technical skills from contemporary Ukrainian artists and underwent training with the American artist Elizabeth Locke who taught me academic skills of centuries-old Dutch schooling.

What is art to you?

Art and specifically oil painting is a form of meditation to me. It’s a way of my self-expression and sharing my emotions and experiences with this world. When it is only me and the canvas, I can “let out” my inner self. The product of this meditation is always surprising, often even to me. I believe art to be the most authentic and natural way of communication with our minds, soul, and nature.

What is special about your art?

I paint mostly with the old-fashioned oils. This medium is a lot more “hassle” than with the so commonly used today acrylic paints. It requires more technical skills and much more time for the artwork to dry. Oil painting allows for a classically modest and at the same time bright and intense look.  The result of my work is a painting that has unique charm and style that I believe is only achieved through oils.

How do you define success?

Success is the feeling of satisfaction and a balance between our expectations, ambitions and actual achievements.

Did life in Austin effect you as an artist?

Oh yes, absolutely! Austin is a wonderful young city that has a fresh vibe. This culture and energy are very inspirational and refreshing to any artist. It gives me new themes and ideas to experiment with my painting. And Austinites are the most friendly and welcoming people I’ve ever met.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?

I don’t haha 😊… But I am trying hard to learn this skill! Four months ago I became a mom to a beautiful baby girl and since then every day is an unpredictable amazing adventure. I’m also a step-mom to two wonderful children and wife to a fabulous husband who helps make this all work and balances the impossible.


Do you do commissioned art?

Yes, I do. No job is too big or too small to consider, and I paint many types of subject matter. For anyone who would like to have a view of their home city in the office or are thinking of having a painting of their bridal bouquet in their living room, you are welcome to CONTACT ME HERE VIA EMAIL

I make paintings from a photo and create “freestyle” abstracts in a color palette that the client finds pleasing. We always discuss a theme, size, and style of the future painting with my clients beforehand.


Aly at Facebook

EuroCircle Travels to Jordan, Lebanon and Egypt – Sep 2018

Join other EuroCircle members on Sherry’s 8th Annual International Adventure.

This year you will explore 3 countries of the Middle East. The main itinerary consists of 8 days in Jordan and Lebanon. Travelers can opt to extend the trip to Egypt (priced separately). This trip is open to prior EuroCircle travelers in good standing, members of all EuroCircle chapters, and approved guests.

Tour Organizer:
Sherry Kumar
Sherry hosts this trip for her fellow EuroCircle members.
She will be your main point of contact prior to departure. If you have never travelled with Sherry before, please email her to schedule an informational call.

This is required for all new travelers, no exceptions.

Prices: (Subject to change)

Jordan and Lebanon Only: $1989* per person double occupancy. Single room supplement 320 additional.
Optional Egypt Extension (priced separately): $597* per person double occupancy. Single room supplement: 189 additional.
Non-RefundableDeposits are:

$800 for Lebanon and Jordan only.

The additional deposit for the optional Egypt extension is $140. Please make sure that when you place your deposits, you pay both for the main trip and the extension.

Sample Itinerary (Subject to change)

Day 1: Sept 12
Landing Day- Meet and assist upon arrival at Amman airport (Airport code: AMM) by our representative who will assist the group through customs and immigration. Transfer to the hotel in Amman and check in for overnight.

Day 2: Sept 13
Breakfast at the hotel and drive to visit the Greco- Roman city of Jerash which is the largest and best preserved Roman city outside of Rome. Afterwards return to Amman for a city tour of the capital with visits to the Amman Citadel and Roman Amphitheater. Then return to the hotel, to freshen up and dinner at Kan Zamaan Restaurant in Amman for dinner and overnight.

Day 3: Sept 14
After breakfast in hotel, drive to visit the World Wonder, Petra. This is Jordan’s Crown Jewel of Archaeological heritage. The city was built by the Nabateans as their capital over 2000 years ago along the routes controlling the trade between the Arab Peninsula, Africa, Asia, and the Mediterranean basin, making it a great success and allowed the city to prosper. After the visit, return to the hotel, and time to rest until dinner and overnight.

Day 4: Sept 15
After breakfast in hotel, drive to visit Oldest mosaic map of the region in Madaba’s St. George Church. From there continue to Mount Nebo and visit Moses’ Shrine overlooking the Jordan Valley. Then to Amman Airport for departure flight to Beirut.
Upon arrival in Beirut, Meet and Assist upon arrival and transfer to the hotel for overnight.

Day 5: Sept 16
Breakfast at the hotel and start with a city tour of Beirut to explore the city, different neighborhoods, and history of the great coastal city. Continue to visit the Jeitta Grotto with its great monumental natural creations, then to visit Harissa with Majestic views over the city. Return to the hotel for overnight.

Day 6: Sept 17
Breakfast at the hotel and start with a visit to the Beqaa Valley with its great Roman Temples ruins. Then continue to Ksara, a region that is very fertile and famed for its great wines. Then continue to Baalback, Lebanon’s greatest Roman treasure, can be counted among the wonders of the ancient world. The largest and most noble Roman temples ever built, they are also among the best preserved. Then continue to Anjar to visit the Umayyad era ruins. Return to the hotel for overnight.

Day 7: Sept 18
Breakfast at the hotel, and departure to visit The Ouadi Qadisha (the Holy Valley) and the Forest of the Cedars of God (Horsh Arz el-Rab) is a cultural landscape encompassing one of the most important early Christian monastic settlements in the world. Then continue to visit the ancient coastal city of Byblos which is believed to have been inhabited around 8000B.C. Then return to the hotel for overnight.

Day 8: Sept 19

Last day of main itinerary. Flights back to USA or optionally continue to Egypt.
Breakfast at the hotel and departure to Beirut Airport for departure flight to Cairo (or USA if you opt for the main itinerary only).
Upon arrival in Cairo, Meet and assist at airport, and transfer to the hotel for check in. Start with a tour to Khan El Khalili bazaar for the afternoon with a great selection of shops, crafts, traditional cafes, followed by dinner at a local restaurant. Then return to the hotel for overnight.

Day 9: Sept 20
Breakfast at the hotel and take a full day tour to the most significant sites, starting with the Pyramids in Giza, the best known monuments of Egyptian Antiquity. Then continue to visit Memphis and Sakkara with more Pyramids and Royal tombs. Afterwards return to the hotel for overnight.

Day 10: Sept 21
Breakfast at the hotel and start the day with a visit to the Cairo Museum. This is one of the most treasured and rich museums of the world with artifacts and treasures collected from the Pyramids, tombs, and other monuments. A must see for any traveler. Then continue to the One of Cairo’s most popular tourist attractions is the Citadel which houses a number of museums, ancient mosques and other sites, located on a spur of limestone that had been detached from its parent Moqattam Hills by quarrying.
Afterwards, return to the hotel for overnight.

Day 11: Sept 22
Breakfast at the hotel, and transfer to Cairo Airport for departure flight back home.
Jordan & Lebanon Price Inclusions:
• Meet and assist upon arrival with visa
• Transportation in a private A/C vehicle with and English speaking driver
• Services of a professional English speaking guide throughout
• Entrance fees to all mentioned sites
• Dinner at Kan Zamaan restaurant
• Accommodation with breakfast at the 4* hotels

Egypt Price Includes:
• Meet and assist upon arrival
• Transportation in a private A/C vehicle with and English speaking driver
• Services of a professional English speaking guide throughout
• Entrance fees to all mentioned sites
• Dinner at local restaurant in Cairo
• Accommodation with breakfast at the 4* hotels
Not Included:
• Airfare (You will purchase both international airfare and middle-east airfare yourself. Flights between the 3 countries are not included, and will be priced separately and estimated below. You will pay for these short flights through our travel consortium).
• Visa Fee for Egypt
• Sightseeing not listed in the itinerary
• Meals not listed in the itinerary
• Personal expenses such as room service, internet charge, laundry, drink, fax, telephone call, optional activities, etc.
• Gratuities, tips to guides, drivers, bellboys, etc.
• Excess Baggage Charges
• Travel insurance
Flights in the Middle East + Egypt airways Amman-Beirut – Cairo

These flighs and times are simply estimates. Prices are not guaranteed. You will purchase these flights through our travel consortium, so that you can travel with the group.
Flight Date From Dest Departs Arrives Terminal Flying Time

ME313 06-SEP-18 Amman- AMM Beirut- BEY 18:50 20:00 01:10h
MS710 10-SEP-18 Beirut- BEY Cairo- CAI 12:00 12:20 01:20h

Estimated Prices:
Middle east + Egypt airways Amman-Beirut – Cairo : USD 500*
Price subject to availability at time of booking
Prices are quoted Feb 2017 and are guaranteed to change by the time of booking.

How to prepare for your EuroCircle trip:
If you have not traveled with us before, you must schedule a call with the organizer Sherry Kumar. The purpose of the call is to get to know you and you to know her, inform you about other travelers, and see if we would make compatible travel companions, and inform you about how to prepare for the trip.
You will receive a copy of Group Rules, which all travelers must sign prior to making a deposit.
Deposits are Non-Refundable (no exceptions).

Email Sherry Kumar here

The Special Hideaway – Home of Happiness

The things that make us happy in life are often rather simple: fresh food, peace, nature, good company. These simple ingredients form the core of the special hideaway on the sunny southwestern French countryside. The Happy Hamlet, a lifetime project of a French-Finnish/Czech couple with a multicultural background, offers an inspiring story to anyone with the same motto for life as they like to preach in the Hamlet:
Do what you love and love what you do.” 

When Suska Karjalainen and Nicolas Prevot were still living partly (her) in New York and (both) in Djibouti, life threw some unexpected elements in their way. It became necessary, on a short notice, to pack their belongings from a bit all over the world, as France was destined to become their new home country. After sharing an experience of renovating and running a Guest House in Djibouti, they had decided to not only do the same, but to expand from the offer of a typical B&B to experiences around different themes. Inspired by their own international network of professionals in many fields, they started the house hunt suitable for themed retreats in fall 2015.


The list of criteria for the property became rather long – and so did the search itself. It took several months, 25.000 kilometers on the road, and almost a 100 visited properties. But the hard work paid off, because the former goat cheese farm that centuries ago used to be a hamlet or a settlement of many families, became their new home the following spring.

Even if found partly in ruins, there was that special something that they knew would make a world of difference in their advantage when entering the very competitive market in the travel industry. The vast renovations were quicker than anyone would have imagined or believed, and so The Happy Hamlet ( opened its doors for the first guests in the summer 2017. The charm of the old white stones of the several buildings which together form the property, and the vast nature that stretches on over 30 acres of own land, provide an unbeatable combination to relax and unwind. “It is an outcome from sweat, blood and tears, for sure, but most of all it is love that one feels all around. Love from family, love from friends, love from the artisans who sometimes spent even their free time just to help us finish on time. The property may have a soul that dates back to 16th century, but it’s also all those people who’ve pitched in and whose presence and participation give the Hamlet its good vibes of today.”, says Suska visibly moved.

Today the Hamlet hosts retreats around various themes ( yoga, pilates, other well-being, fitness, arts, literature, food&wine, coaching and more, always instructed by top professionals in each field. Even if last summer was their opening season, the guest feedback has already been overwhelming. The word has spread and the Hamlet has been covered by several media, too, latest in the Finnair inflight magazine this January and in the UK Living France magazine in December, featured as one of three Feel Good retreat spots in France:

Why do people love the Hamlet? The “luxury” does not come from golden faucets or the trendiest decor, but it does offer a stay with a soul – and an ambiance that is intimate as if visiting a friend.
“We are literally in the middle of nowhere, but that’s exactly what we needed in order to create the atmosphere we envisioned”, says Suska and adds “Besides, being surrounded only by wild nature, sunflower fields and rolling hills and having the band of birds or the frogs down by the pond, or the owl at night as the only noise pollution.. I think life could be worse, definitely.“, she laughs.
There is a natural swimming pool (no chlorite nor other chemicals!) and a sauna in a barrel, and the guests can enjoy their meals made with fresh and clean produce from own garden or nearby producers. Surely no need to mention the wine – there are hundreds of vineyards, small and family-run, organic and little castles,… The stay might soon seem oh so very short for all there is to do and see, to learn and to enjoy the French “joie de vivre”.


Compared to many typical retreat spots the Hamlet goes beyond the “feeling like at home” idea. The group size is always very small, the neighbors stop by for a chat, the places visited, such as the vineyards, are actually those of friends, and the stays are always all inclusive in the true meaning of the term. On top of the instructions, meals and drinks, accommodation, and visits in the region, all the snacks, drinks or anything else one may desire, is always at hand and for no extra costs. “We think it is disturbing while traveling that there are situations where enjoying and relaxing becomes a budget thing. We wanted to host stays where the guests can forget their wallets and budgets and concentrate on the most important: themselves and their own well-being.” Suska explains and adds that this has already proven to be a well-appreciated approach. Guests seem to love even the fact that meals are served just like at home, no menus and thus no difficult choices to make!

As the Hamlet is in the beginning of its journey, its natural “home market” has been Finland.
This means, that in its first phase many of their retreats are in Finnish. The list of names of instructors is rather impressive for the Finnish market: Teresa Välimäki, one of the best known female chefs in Finland, popular author-writer Katja Kallio, musician and yogi Mariko Pajalahti, and many other Finnish celebrities. However, the offering expands more and more to the global market, too, and there are already retreats instructed in English next season: in July Yoga & Wine & Goodness ( and a Bodyfulness retreat in August ( The whole month of April is reserved for a Creatives-in-Residence program (, and the Hamlet is also open for any private or business rentals or venue hire for events ( “We are small and we like to be that way. It allows us to be flexible and open to any and all suggestions – that makes it more interesting for us, too!“, Suska says and runs away as the guardian dog has started to bark, meaning someone has popped in to say hi. Without notice, which is how it still works on the countryside.


Happy Hamlet

– homepage:
– FB:

– All retreats:

– In English: Yoga&Wine (July 9-14)

– In English: Embodied Sensuality & Heart’s Desire / Bodyfulness retreat (Aug 7-12)

– Creatives-in-Residence:

– Rentals, Venue hire, Events:
– Finnair Blue Wings:
– Other testimonials/feedback:

Contact Suska Karjalainen:

Email Suska here

Live an authentic life by Mirela Bitkowski – Austin based Psychotherapist

Please introduce yourself.
My name is Mirela Bitkowski and I was born and raised in Iasi, Romania. I moved to the US in 2007
to pursue a career in mental health, where I spent four years studying in San Diego, California before
moving to Austin, Texas. I received a Bachelor in Psychology and a Master in Mental Health
Counseling from St. Edward’s University. I am a psychotherapist helping adults and families, who are
struggling with a variety of issues, develop healthy relationships and live life with vitality, fulfillment,
and authenticity.

How did you end up in Austin of all places?
When I was living in San Diego, my husband and I decided to visit some friends in Austin and spend
some time here. We both had a great time and fell in love with Austin’s culture, natural beauty, and
food. When we got back to California, we started debating about making another transition and a few
years later, we decided to move here permanently and call this wonderful city our home. We still visit
California every once in a while since my husband’s family lives there, but we really enjoy living here.

How do you find the lifestyle in Austin compared to your hometown?
I would say that my lifestyle now is completely different from how I grew up in my hometown. At first
when I moved to the US, it was a huge transition and I didn’t realize at the time how difficult this
process of adjusting to a new life was going to be. My hometown is a fairly small town with great
architecture, amazing nature, and it’s very easy to get around. One can basically walk everywhere,
especially when compared to Austin. I do miss the food there, but most importantly, I miss my family
and older friends. However, when it comes to Austin, I love the diversity of cultures, all the different
foods, and its natural beauty. Even though it was and still is a huge transition, I am fortunate to have
amazing people in my life who are supportive, kind, and encouraging and I love spending time with

How do you make your living now – and how would you like to develop that career?
I am an Austin based Psychotherapist and I am very passionate about helping people overcome
challenges and difficulties in life. I provide counseling and therapy services to children, adolescents,
adults, and families. I also enjoy working closely with immigrants and internationals from all over the
world that are trying to adjust to a new culture, make new friends, decrease stress, overcome their fears,
who wish to be happier, healthier and achieve their dreams. As a therapist with first-hand multicultural
experience, I deeply understand the intricacies and difficulties that come with living abroad and strive
to help people become more empowered, find balance, and achieve their goals. To me, it is such a
privilege and an honor to get to know people in therapy and see them make positive changes in their
life, improve their relationships and self-esteem, as well as become more confident and self-reliant.

I care deeply about every individual and family coming in my office and I deeply value our therapeutic
relationship. We all need help from time to time and I believe every person can benefit from therapy.

What made you decide to become a Psychotherapist?
Not to sound too stereotypical, but I’ve always kind of known that this was the career I would like to
have in life. From an early age, I started reading self-help and psychology related books. I was always
intrigued with why people think, feel, and behave the way they do and was looking to understand how
people got to that place in their life. I also remember being fascinated with a radio-show whose host was
a psychologist talking about different therapy related subjects every day. I remember my friends not
understanding why I would listen to that radio show, but for me it was incredibly captivating. I was
always passionate about mental health which is just as essential as physical health.

What inspires you to help others?
I’m inspired when I see someone begin to feel better about themselves. That means different things for
different people, but it can be reaching a specific goal they have, being able to love again, or process a
painful experience. I truly believe that as people move from a place of fear and become more self-
aware and empowered, they are not only healing themselves, but also promoting change in the family
and social system. If you want to see change in the world, a good place to start is with yourself.

If you could teach the world one skill or technique to improve their lives, what would it be?
I want people to become more compassionate toward self and others and know that by judging
themselves harshly or even hating themselves is not going to bring them happiness. We all have an
inner critic that is telling us that we are not good enough, not beautiful enough, not strong enough, or
not smart enough, etc., but letting that critic take control of our thoughts is not helping us improve our
lives. Instead, a lot more helpful and beneficial in the long run is to learn to embrace yourself – flaws
and all – through self-compassion and self-acceptance. Scientific studies have shown that self-
compassion actually tends to reduce anxiety, depression, improves relationships and helps people make
lasting positive changes in their lives.

What do you like to do in your spare time?
When I’m not working, I enjoy hiking, exploring the outdoors, and the beautiful nature that Austin has
to offer. I’m also passionate about traveling to different countries around the world, which forces me to
step out of my comfort zone. Experiencing different cultures allowed me to become culturally sensitive
and appreciate diversity and differences in everyone. Most importantly, I enjoy relaxing and spending
time with family and friends.

Do you try to go back to Europe every year?
I do try and go back every year to visit family and friends. It’s really a long way to go to visit
family, but it is also a very enriching experience. I always enjoy spending time with family and catching
up with old friends. While we do talk and Skype every week, it’s definitely a lot better to see each other
face to face and be there physically. Although I love my life in Austin, I also love and miss those amazing european
cafes and bakeries, european architecture, as well as being able to easily get around
to places.

Could you share with us what are your plans for the future?
In the very near future, I want to focus on growing my practice and sharing my knowledge with other
people that are striving to reach their full potential and live the life of their dreams. I truly believe that
with the right support, we all have the capacity to lead a happy, authentic, and fulfilling life.

Connect with Mirela:


How did Tomi Hinkkanen from Turku, Finland end up being a journalist in LA in the first place?

EuroCircle Team asked me to write a few words about myself, so here goes:

My name is Tomi Hinkkanen and I am a freelance journalist. I work mainly for Finnish news outlets. I have been working as a reporter in Los Angeles since 1994.

As you can imagine, journalism and the way it’s done has changed a lot since then. When I started there was just a phone and a fax machine. Deadlines were a little more lenient too. Now the story has to be done exactly when an event is over and preferably before that.

I am what you call a general assignment reporter, which means I cover a wide variety of topics. One basic category are Finnish people doing something interesting in America. I once met an old Mormon lady in a remote village in Utah, who spoke perfect, although antiquated Finnish. And she had never been to Finland! Her parents had taught her the language. I’ve recently worked on stories about a WW2 lotta (volunteer nurse), a Finnish holiday resort in Central California created by a Finnish immigrant, and a Finnish comedian, who was voted the funniest person in the world.


Don’t I cover Hollywood stars, being in Los Angeles, you might ask. Over the years I have done lots of movie star interviews. They are arranged by the movie studios, who have their publicists sitting in on every interview session. If you ask something they don’t like, they will ask you to rescind your question at the threat of being blacklisted from that studio’s junkets, as the studio interview events are called. I attended many junkets and met many stars, most of whom were nice. But I never quite got used to the idea that someone else can dictate what I am allowed and not allowed to ask. And yes, I have been blacklisted too for asking wrong questions. So, those star interviews have pretty tapered off for me aside from an occasional gig. think it’s a good thing. I rather spend my limited time doing something else than being an advertising arm for a Hollywood studio anyway.


What do I then like to cover? The best part of my work is that I get to travel across this vast country and talk to people in faraway places. Before the last presidential elections, I went to Texas and the Midwest to chat with people. It was almost like going to a different country. My favorite trip last year took me to Salem, Oregon to witness a total solar eclipse. It was the most memorable experience of my lifetime!

How did I end up being a journalist in LA in the first place? I first came to the US from my native Finland at 19 to study film. I graduated from Columbia College Hollywood with a B.A. in Cinema degree. I then returned to Finland. I made corporate pr-movies and then got into broadcasting, first on a local radio station. One might say I liked to hear my voice on the radio. I was then hired by MTV3, a Finnish TV network as a domestic news reporter, first in my hometown Turku and later in the capital city Helsinki. I did that for five years. Then California called out to me again and I returned to the Golden State – this time as a freelance journalist.

The first years were tough. I should have made a lot more connections with potential employers back in Finland. Now I had to create those contacts from afar. Little by little I managed to gain a steady clientele. I first missed my co- workers, but by now I’m quite used to and comfortable being the lone wolf.


How has journalism changed during my time? As I said before, in the beginning there was just a phone and a fax machine. But there was also mail. And people responded to letters. Now we have gazillion ways of reaching people, but it’s harder than ever to reach them. Finns are especially notorious for not answering their messages. Stories have gotten shorter. Nowadays it’s just the facts, ma’am. Because of digitalization, newspapers can now get stories for next to nothing by copying and pasting stories previously published in big news outlets. Therefore, it’s harder to sell topics. Interviewees have gotten pickier too. But I’ve got to tell you: having a story written about yourself by a professional writer is a wonderful thing for you and your loved ones. Topics have remained pretty much the same. Perhaps editors have become stricter than before. In the past, an average Finn living in LA, doing something interesting might have been a story. Now that person has to be sexy or a celebrity or preferably both in order to make it into the news.

What will future bring? As everybody has a smart phone in their pocket ready to record sound, pictures and video and faraway countries are just a plane ride away, are we foreign correspondents needed anymore? I would like to think so. Surely you can interview people remotely and I have done so too on an occasion. And of course reporters can fly in, do a bunch of stories and leave. I have done that too. But nothing replaces a seasoned, well-connected reporter, who knows his or her turf, culture and customs and can put the story in the right perspective. We are fewer and farther apart, but we are still here – for now.


Finally, I would like to reach out to you. I’m always on the lookout for interesting stories, so if you think you have one, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

In this present anti-immigrant atmosphere, it is important that we immigrants stick together. I would like to see more solidarity especially from us Europeans toward our brothers and sisters from across the southern border. The circumstances in which we relocated to the United States may have been different, but we are all human beings and in this boat together.

Thank you for reading my story and have a wonderful year 2018!


Email Tomi here!

Karolina Zelenekiene, Chicago based young graphic designer/make-up artist from Lithuania

My name is Karolina Zelenekiene. I am 23 years old graphic designer and make-up artist from Lithuania. For those who don’t know, Lithuania is   a country in the Baltic region of northern-eastern Europe.  It is a former Soviet bloc nation bordering Poland, Latvia and Belarus. Our lovely capital Vilnius  is known for its medieval Old Town, a UNESCO listed historic centre.  Lithuania’s historic heritage sets it quite apart from the other two Baltic countries.

Those of you who are travelled in Eastern Europe may have heard about Lithuanian dishes such as zeppelins (cepelinai) and cold red beet soup (šaltibarščiai).

This year brought a lot of changes into my life. First of all I got married to a  wonderful man wife after 4 years together.   I  graduated from the Vilnius Academy off Arts (graphic design degree).  Lastly,  my husband and I decided to move to Chicago.

This is the first trip so far away from my hometown. And it is  not just a trip,  we are starting a new life together in Chicago.  I have never been so far away from Lithuania. I have never lived in another country more than 2 months. If I ever went anywhere, it was only  for a holiday. In Chicago we have lived only 3 months.  That means we have not gotten to know to know the city very well yet.

After we visited downtown Chicago, we decided that we want live in there one day.  We currently live in Willowbrook.

The biggest passion in my life in addition to design is make-up. It is a hobby I have had for about 3 years. It all started as I like to do make-up on myself. For my birthday I got professional make-up courses as a gift. First  I took the courses to do professional make-up on myself.  When I learned more I started doing make-up for my friends and for clients.  By the time I finished the make-up courses I had created  a logo, business cards and facebook page for myself.  I participated for unpaid photo shoots only to learn and train on new faces and get  new photos for my fan page.

Little by little my circle of clients expanded in Lithuania and I ended working almost all weekends. Some of my clients were upset, when I told them that I will move abroad.  When we came to Chicago  my husband suggested I continue my hobby.  He knows what I like –  so I started to promote myself. Right now only  Lithuanian girls come to my for professional make-up.  However,  I hope that in future I can attract other nationalities as well.  I’m very new in Chicago.  It  is always harder to start from scratch, but in time I hope so that my clientele will grow to what I had in Lithuania.

I  am happy to all kinds of make-up from bridal make-up to fashion shoots, special effects or Halloween make-up. I love Halloween as a celebration because it allows me to  experiment with special effects.


In the future I may open my own Make-up studio.
In addition of doing make-up for the clients I could teach girls  how to do make-up for themselves (or their clients).
I can not imagine my life without both of my passions – make-up and graphic design.

If would like me to help you with your make-up or design, my information is below.

Email Karolina
Instagram: karolinak_makeup and karolinadesign

The Accent of Us by Giacomo Ravo (Austin, TX)

The Accent of Us

Hello EuroCircle members and international friends!

I just launched The Accent of Us, a podcast show that highlights stories of international entrepreneurs, innovators, and professionals that moved to the United States and contributed to the economy, society, and science in the most innovative country of the world. You can listen and subscribe to the podcast on iTunes

Why I started the Accent of Us

During the 6 years I lived in the United States I met so many talented people that moved here from so many different places around the world to start businesses, careers, and exciting projects. I’ve heard so many fascinating stories and now I want to capture this stories with The Accent of Us and share them with the international and local communities.

Why this name?

First, let’s start with the definition of accent. The accent is a distinctive manner of expression, a distinctive mode of pronunciation of a language.

All people that move here from other parts of the world are so distinctive and unique. They are adding so much diversity to our community and bringing so many new ideas.

About Me

First, an interesting fact about me: I clearly have an accent when I speak English, I am not going to hide that.

What’s interesting is that now I have an accent when I speak Italian as well. When I go back to Italy people tell me that I have an English accent. So it looks like now I have an accent wherever I go. I grew up in Naples Italy and moved to Austin Texas in 2011 after completing a Master’s degree in Engineering Management in Florence.

In Austin I worked in manufacturing and technology companies and completed the evening MBA program at McCombs Business School. I have always been passionate about technology and the way technology improves people’s lives. I am interested in everything international and I love to hear stories of people that come from different backgrounds.

Contact info

Twitter: @theaccentofus; @giacoravo