We are always looking for interesting Europeans to feature at our website. Tea happens to live in Washington, DC which is fairly unknown city to me personally. I have been there but I have very vague memories. I just recall thinking Lincoln Memorial was really impressive. Nowadays I wonder how President Trump is liking living in DC after spending all his life in New York City. But let’s find out more about TEA in her own words…
Please introduce yourself:
My name is Tea Ivanovic, I was born in Belgium, to parents from the former Yugoslavia (even though my grandparents now live in Serbia, I have roots from several countries). I lived in several different European countries (Switzerland, Greece, Turkey) before moving to the United States for college. My graduate degree at The Johns Hopkins University Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies took me first to Bologna, Italy, and then to Washington D.C. After completing my graduate degree, I stayed in Washington D.C where I now work as a Washington Correspondent for Oslobodjenje, the leading newspaper from Bosnia and Herzegovina, and I am a Fellow for the Center for Transatlantic Relations SAIS. I studied International Relations in college, and hold a Masters degree in International Relations and International Economics.
How did you end up in Washington, D.C of all places ?
My graduate program consisted of spending a year in Bologna, Italy, and a year in Washington, D.C. After graduating, I accepted a job offer and stayed in the area.
The best and worst about DC for you. What is a typical day and weekend?
There are so many things I love about D.C.! It’s such a vibrant city with so much to offer, and it is really the center of policy-making in the world. At the same time, there is lots of green space, and it’s just a very pleasant city to live in. It’s big, but not quite as hectic as New York City.
There is no real “typical day,” as I’m juggling a few things at once. I wake up around 6 or 7am, make a cappuccino and check the news and my emails. Then, I start writing or editing – which I prefer to do in the morning. Some days I’ll be covering a live event or panel discussion, other days I’ll be organizing one. Often, I’ll be overwhelmed with articles I need to write, chapters I need to edit, or something else entirely. The same goes for the weekend – if something needs to get done, I need to get to it right away.
How do you find the lifestyle in DC compared to your hometown in Antwerp, Belgium?
Even though Antwerp is my hometown, it’s been a long time since I’ve lived there. I played tennis, so I traveled the world for tournaments before I left for college. In addition, my dad’s career took him to countries like Switzerland, Greece, and Turkey, and my mom and I often went with him. My parents live in Antwerp right now, and I go visit them as often as I can.
There is quite a bit of difference in lifestyle between Washington D.C. and Antwerp (or Europe for that matter). You can tell it as soon you leave the house – people use the car way more often than back home. Public transportation is great in Belgium – especially the trains. Admittedly, Belgium is a small, relatively densely populated country of only 11 million people, so compared to the U.S, it’s quite natural that cities are better connected there. On the other hand, roads and cars here are so big! That’s the first thing I noticed when I landed on U.S soil for the first time seven years ago – it’s rare to find an interstate that counts less than four or five lanes, and that’s just not something you see in Belgium. I always joke about this when I go home to visit my family – everything is so tiny!
How do you make your living now – and how would you like to develop that career?
I completed my graduate degree last May, and since then I’ve been doing a few different things. It’s really been a year of transition, and I’ve learned a lot about myself. Currently, I am a Washington Correspondent for Oslobodjenje, the leading newspaper from Bosnia and Herzegovina, I’m a project manager for the Mediterranean Basin Initiative, and a fellow at the Center for Transatlantic Relations (CTR-SAIS), the nation’s leading university-affiliated think tank. My work consists of lots of writing, whether it’s news articles, op-eds, book chapters, and a lot of event planning and digital marketing. I love it. It’s never boring, and – I know it sounds cliché – I learn something new every day.
Do you see any differences between nationalities easily – yours vs. Americans vs. other Europeans?
I really don’t like to generalize, because you can’t know someone just based on their passport or nationality. People will often say I’m European based on what I wear and the way I carry myself – whatever that means.
But to answer your question, I’m sure there are differences between the “typical” American and the “typical” European, but in the age of globalization where people are constantly moving between states, country, and continents, I feel that – at least with the people I interact with – those differences are becoming increasingly blurred.
What is the essence of DC o you – what do you absolutely want your friends to see or feel in DC vs. your country?
Washington is such a policy hub. And while that is awesome, because you meet so many interesting people on a daily basis, people tend to forgot about everything else in this city. That’s why I always like to take my out-of-towner friends to places they can’t read about in tourist guides (after we go see the White House and the Washington Monument of course).
What do you absolutely miss from your country/elsewhere …or elsewhere?
When I talk to my European friends, we all agree that one of our favorite things is Europe is that you can travel to such diverse places in very short periods of time. When I lived in Antwerp, I could go to Paris in London in a few short hours by train, and when I was working in Milan I would go to Belgium every other weekend to see my parents.
The other thing is the food (and wine). When I lived in Bologna for my first year of graduate school, I gained about 8kg in ten months! I was living in a country where every meal is an experience. I’ve never enjoyed eating so much!
What do you miss the most – and the least from your own country?
The typical working culture tends to be quite different. From my own limited experience and from what I’ve heard from friends who have worked on both sides of the ‘pond’, European working culture tends to be a bit more “relaxed”. You work from 9-5 pm and aren’t really expected to answer to emails outside of those hours. You also get way more vacation time, and of course there is the maternity leave issue. In the U.S you are very much expected to come in early and stay late, and time off is very limited. I think it’s part of this meritocratic culture; “if you don’t work hard, you’ll never succeed.” As most things, it has both good and bad sides to it, and I don’t think there is one right answer.
At least academically, I personally found this way of thinking very helpful. My professors encouraged me to “reach for the stars.” Here I think about many of mentors in the international studies department, especially the director of my department, Dr. Stivachtis. I also think about my experience in the Virginia Tech Honors College, where our special curriculum enabled us to take extra classes, talk to professors outside class, and connect with alumni. This type of experience stands in stark contrast to what many of my peers experience in Europe, who tell me that it is not as common to find someone who will go out of their way to help guide you on your path, whether it’s academic, professional, or personal.
When you think about what did you think about life in DC before you moved there – did you have expectations that turned out to be wrong?
When you think of Washington D.C, you probably think of Capitol Hill and museums. I was very excited to move here and be in the center of policy-making, but I never thought that I would fall in love with this city. But I did, and there is just so much I’m discovering every day, whether it’s a small bistros in Georgetown, or a hiking path – there are so many hidden treasures!
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..
It’s still too early to say. I have so much left to accomplish (I hope)! I’m very happy with the path that I chose, and while there are certainly small things that I would change, I would gladly do it all over again.
What should everyone know and understand about your country and its culture? Or the USA/your city or life here…
A lot of people I have met here know little about Belgium (I’m excluding many of my friends who know quite a bit about the country!). Guys, french fries are Belgian, our chocolate is better than the chocolate from Switzerland (I lived in Zurich so I hope I’m allowed to say this :), Belgian beer is the best (even though I only drink “Kriek”, a cherry flavored beer), and there is SO much culture in that small country – just check out the painters, tin-tin, and the Smurfs! The same thing goes for Serbia and the former Yugoslavia – where my parents are from. It’s such a wonderful area, and I wish more people would visit and see it for themselves.
What cafes or restaurants do you recommend to tourists to go to in DC and why? Or to do something else.
There are quite a few places in D.C to visit. Of course, you have to see the monuments and the Mall. The W hotel has a wonderful rooftop view of the Washington monument. Georgetown is also amazing, and in the summer, I love strolling by the Waterfront, or shopping on M street. For restaurants and bars, I often go to 14th street. My favorite wine bar is “Barcelona”, I like to get tappas at “Estadio”, or French food at “Le Diplomate”. There is a lovely Belgian place called “B Too”. You’ll often find me “brunching” (another ah-mazing “culture shock” when I moved here) at “Policy” or “The Fainting Goat”. There is really not enough space here to name all my favorite places…As you can see I like to eat a lot – but I work out too, I promise!
I wouldn’t be a Washingtonian in-the-making if I didn’t mention the museums. I haven’t even seen all of them, but it’s on my list! Go see the National Museum of Natural History, National Air and Space Museum, the Newseum, or the Phillips Collection. And I personally really like the Botanical Gardens and the Renwick Gallery.
What would be your ideal life – with no monetary issues to make it happen!
One word: traveling. When I was younger I used to have a world map on my wall, with red pins for all the places I’d like to visit. You could barely even see the countries on the map because they were all covered with pins! I could, I would travel to every country in the world.
Would you move back to your country Beligium fulltime – yes or no?
I’ve always said that I will move anywhere for the right job. I really don’t even try to plan out the rest of my life; I take it one step at a time and I’ll see where that takes me!
What has been the worst social/cultural issue to deal with in DC for you?
I’ve been in the United States for about seven years now, so moving to Washington D.C. wasn’t that much of a “shock”. But when I moved here back in 2010, there were many little things I found shocking. I was very surprised to experience how friendly everyone was, and perhaps that is due to the small town of Blacksburg in mountainous Virginia where I lived at the time, but that was so wonderful. Also, having 24-hour news on TV – how amazing is that!? I didn’t own a TV in my college dorm, but as soon as I moved “off-campus” I had CNN on in the background while I was studying or cooking. Things like that were kind of a culture shock – but in a good way. And yes, I do have to mention it: the food. There is so much of it, and it’s everywhere! It’s certainly an adjustment, especially when you don’t live in a big city and there aren’t that many gourmet restaurants. But on the bright side, I had never seen such large supermarkets – I could walk around Wegmans (or Whole Foods) for hours. My mom is going to be so proud to hear this!
Anything else you would like sharing with us?
I want to applaud you for establishing EuroCircle, it is such a great initiative! I hope that Europeans will connect more, and help each other out while they are abroad. You see so many nationalities who come together when they are separated from their hometowns. I know that we Europeans have very different backgrounds and cultures, but in the end, we are all very similar – and I hope that our shared interests will connect us wherever we go!
[THANK YOU TEA]
How to connect with you:
Follow Tea: http://www.oslobodjenje.ba/vijesti/daily-news