Gabi’s Story – From Satu Mare, Romania to Austin, TX

Please introduce yourself?

My name is Gabi Vitui. I was born and raised in Satu Mare, Romania and I have some Hungarian blood in me too. I was in my second year at University, studying Marketing, when I got the opportunity to come to the US. The short version of my life changing decision goes somewhat like this:

I always wanted to accomplish more in my life. So, after finishing high school and attending university, I saw myself in the same life cycle as many around me; nothing wrong with that, but I wanted more, somehow. At the time, I was in a relationship and his dream was to come to America. At that time, I would’ve gone anywhere to stay with him. – Oh… those irresponsible love feelings that drive you J. We both applied for our work visas and almost a year later we received a phone call telling us that we had a week to go to the US Embassy. From that phone call, I had approximately 2 weeks to go to the interview, get my visa, my airplane ticket…and the hardest part – to say goodbye to my family. I ended up leaving alone, without boyfriend, as he didn’t get his visa. Heading to the big world with my recently received passport and barely speaking English. Now I speak not only Romanian and Hungarian, but also fluent English and Spanish.

How did you end up in Austin of all places?

In August 2005 I ended up in Estes Park, Colorado – a small tourist place in the mountains with not much to do but work where they put you to. I ended up working in Housekeeping – talk about cultural shock and work/educational shock. I never thought I will work in a position like that since I had a pretty comfortable life back home and I was in school. However, that phase in my life made me more determined and made me realize that I am a strong person. It was a difficult part of my life – missing home, my family, food and my old life. Amongst some of the hardship I went through, I had the pleasure to become friends with an American couple who were my supervisors. These amazing people that God has put in my life are the reason I made it to Austin. They decided to move back to Texas, and I soon followed.  They took me into their lives and treated me as the child they never had. I came to Austin in December 2006 and I decided to stay.

How do you find the lifestyle in Austin compared to your hometown in Satu Mare?

Well, at first it was super hard. I was without DL and car for about 2 years and most of you know that public transportation in Austin is not good at all. I didn’t know many people here the first few years, but slowly I started to make friends. I am blessed to have many good friends and some are like family. My home town is a small city of a population of approximately 109,000, located on the North side of Romania, bordering Hungary. Romania has all 4 seasons, and I definitely do not miss shoveling snow. We used to walk, take the bus or a cab to school, downtown and many other places. I did not know how to drive when I came here because I never had a need to learn. The transition was difficult, but here I am and still making it. I still miss the food (somehow even if I follow my mom’s recipe, still doesn’t taste like back home), the small town feel where time stops seems like and of course most of all I miss my family.  However, what I love about Austin is the diversity of cultures and food which I would not have the opportunity to be exposed to in my hometown. I love to try all kind of different foods. Also, I consider opportunities in Austin, USA in general are far more and better than back in Romania.

What is the best and worst about Austin for you?

What became the best part of Austin is the friends I have made. Being alone for many years, without knowing the language and knowing other people, you learn to appreciate the great people who come into your life. Even though Austin is changing rapidly, it still has the small feel to it, with lots of green belts, lakes, trails, live music, good restaurants… you name it. You can’t really be bored in this city. The downfall of the city is the lack of effective public transportation and traffic issues.

How do you make your living now – and how would you like to develop that career?

I am a full time Residential and Commercial Realtor at Austin Options Realty.

My journey to the US, as mentioned before, started in 2005 as housekeeper. When I moved to Austin, I started working in retail for 11hours/ day, sometimes with no days off. Thanks to some good friends I started working in an office environment and I was encouraged to take some classes at ACC. Until then, I learned English on my own, talking to people, reading books and searching every other word in the dictionary. I have years of experience in sales, office management, legal assistant and other admin. I never stop improving and challenging myself and that pushed me to change career. Yet again, I was encouraged to become a realtor, most of all by my current broker who’s been a good friend of mine for many years. He’s been bugging me about it for 2 years until I finally made the change and I am glad I did.

I work mostly by referrals and I appreciate my friends and my clients to refer me to their family and friends. I chose this career because it is a passion of mine and not just because of the money. I want to help others pursue their dreams and establish their new lives here in the Austin area. That’s what success looks like to me.

What made you change careers?

When I bought my house I had a feeling of accomplishment and joy among some feeling of fear of course. But in that moment I realized I wanted to help others to accomplish that dream as well, be part of their journey to find their home. Plus, I love looking at houses, decorate and remodel them when I have a chance. I consider myself a social person – love meeting new people and helping them in any way I can. I call it pay back for the help I’ve received and continue receiving. So I figured it will be a great fit for me and the money is good too J.

What do you absolutely miss from your country/elsewhere heritage (food, culture, movies etc) …or elsewhere?

What I really miss is my family. This is a common feeling for us foreigners more so when we can’t just go to visit them whenever we would like.

When you think about what did you think about life in Austin before you moved there – did your misconceptions turned out to be wrong?

Absolutely! I associated life in Texas with the old TV series Dallas, some of you might be familiar with it. I though it will be farm life and cowboys. It makes me laugh even now.

Knowing more about life and having lived with your decisions for a while (like work) – would you still choose to be there and why? Why not..

I try not to think about what would’ve been if… We make decisions and we have to live with them and its consequences. I tried and still trying to make the best of what comes toward me and at times is very difficult. Nonetheless, we all want to better our situation and we act according to what we know, the life experiences we accumulated, living conditions and emotional state at that giving time. So I guess I am where I am supposed to be and I am thankful for it, but and I can’t wait to have it even better J.

What cafés or restaurants do you recommend to tourists to go to in Austin  and why? Or to do something else.

Hmm, tough question. I go to as many places as possible – if you mention food, I am probably flying there. I’ve been recommending for a while Numero 28 Italian Restaurant (they should have a special Pizza for me hahaha – hint hint), St. Genevieve Restaurant, Fonda San Miguel Mexican Restaurant (best ceviche so far in town) and many more. I like all kinds of places, but I am not necessarily fond of “keep Austin weird” and casual all the time. People should put some shoes instead of flip flops depending on the place they go to. Dress to impress!

What would be your ideal life – with no monetary issues to make it happen!

Travel the world in a fancy way!

Would you move back to your country Romania fulltime?

I can’t see myself living there anymore. If life would take me back for whatever reason, I guess I would adjust to it, but it is not my desire.

Anything else you would like sharing with us?

I know all of us have a story, one’s harder than other’s. This is a glimpse of mine and I learned to be proud of it.  I want to encourage you and myself as well to never give up. It might be difficult at times, but go for your dreams. If you don’t know what those are, just try different things and t

EuroCircle Profile: Gabi at EC forums

Facebook: Gabriela Vitui

Email: Email Gabi