INTERVIEW: Sophia Holzer, becoming an entrepreneur and the cultural experience of living abroad
Name: Sophia Holzer Age: 23 Profession: Student & Entrepreneur Location: Vienna, Austria
Sophia, for those who don’t know you, can you please describe yourself in 3 sentences
I am that girl with the loudest and silliest laugh of a group & the one that will randomly smile at you in public! I value time over everything and am a sucker for long conversations and sunsets on the beach. Pasta is my guilty pleasure!
Explain your perfect morning!
My perfect morning during the week get up at 6 AM, workout at the park, journal, and have breakfast on my balcony before 8:30 AM. For a weekend; wake up without an alarm feeling refreshed, staying in bed for another 30 minutes while raindrops hit the window and my warm blanket is covering me up until my nose. The reality 60% of the time looks like this: I snooze about 1 hour until I get up, forget breakfast and squeeze in my workout at 8 pm at night!
Who’s your role model?
I don't have a role model. There are many women I admire and greatly respect for their character and how they show up in the world who inspire me, but I did not specify someone as my role model.
When you have an hour for yourself, what do you prioritize to do?
That depends on my mood, but I like Grey's Anatomy -and I like dance parties! I also love nature and walks by myself. What's also very likely is that I lose myself on Pinterest scrolling through "House Flipping interior design" posts, "DIY remodel" or "Marble Art Paintings"
What is your all-time favorite song?
The killers - Mr. Brightside
Natasha Bedingfield - Unwritten, that song carries lots and lots of memories!
What would you say to your 15-year-old self?’
That's a hard one!! I think I’d smile at myself and say “trust the process, you’re on the right path!” Because at that time I didn’t listen to advice anyway lol!
We both know you personally and you are a big inspiration for both of us. During the last couple of years, you have lived on three different continents due to studies, internship, and work. Tell us about your journey!
Wow - first off; thank you so much, you two are so inspiring to me!
Yes - I’ve been hopping around quite a bit. I started in 2016 when I became an Au Pair in the US, I lived in Missouri and California. When I returned back home to Austria, I knew that I had to go abroad as soon as possible again and chose a university program that enabled me to do so while working towards my degree. So with that being said, I did my exchange semester in Malaysia in 2019 and lived there for 6 months. I spent the summers in the US, worked on my network, and secured my internship there as well, so right after my exchange semester, I went back to the US for work. It's been quite a challenge to organize and time everything in a way that it works out, but I'm so glad I took advantage of all the opportunities I had so far and I’ll continue to do so! Right now I am in Austria, but after the pandemic, I will start my next project in Africa!
Give us a quick into, what are you doing in life at the moment?
Right now, I am about to wrap up my 5th semester, heading into the last semester of my degree. So that’s pretty intense at the moment. I just finished my internship in Real Estate and started my own company before I left. I was doing Real Estate investing and I joint ventured with partners and continued working when I moved back. It even got to the point that I hired an assistant but It was quite challenging considering the time difference and the workload. I realized it added to some chaos, so I paused the business for now but will pick it back up when school gets lighter! I have my own podcast that’s all about traveling, mindset, and success stories. I just love sharing my experience and motivating others to get out of their comfort zone. I usually get friends on the podcast who I met along the journey so they can share their stories as well!
Most of the time we are usually talking about moving and how that is, but we are often forgetting to mention how it is to move back home when you have been abroad. Did you experience reverse culture shock and would you like to tell us more about that?
I definitely did experience that multiple times! The worst one was after the US back in 2018. I literally felt like home was the most boring place on earth. I was so used to the excessive amount of products, free time activities, restaurants, food, and clothing that small Austria was the last place I felt like being. I experienced the people in the US as really open and met so many new individuals every single day. Coming back to a place that’s so familiar and where you know everyone, it was so hard for me to see the beauty in that comfort and to embrace it instead of despising it. However after Asia? Wow. I appreciated the organization of my country so much. Asian countries are known for some chaos and not necessarily being the most structured. And I felt that a lot when I lived there. Malaysia is a Muslim country and experiencing the culture & traditions was new for me but super exciting. By continuing to travel I learned to appreciate what I have in my own country but to be open to what’s differently done elsewhere.
You mention that you did an exchange semester in Malaysia, how come you chose Malaysia as your destination?
One simple answer: Exotic.
My home university had a variety of partner universities and I was looking for a place that was exotic and multi-cultural! Somewhere I haven’t been at all and that I wouldn’t choose as my first travel destination. I basically was looking for a challenge. When I saw Malaysia on the list of options, I didn’t hesitate and put it on top of my priority. My other two choices were Toronto and Singapore but I'm happy it was Malaysia because I traveled to Singapore while I was in South East Asia anyway.
You recently launched your own Podcast “UNBOUND”. What is your thought behind it and where is your inspiration coming from?
The definition of unbound is “free, not attached”. Traveling and exploring, meeting new people, and fully embracing other cultures gave me that feeling. Not being attached to one reality, not being attached to one culture, not being attached to one-sided experiences. Free of pre-made judgments, free of prejudice, free of fear from the unknown. That is where the name unbound comes from. Something that I could resonate on a deeper level with and simply wanted to share. Along my journey, I’ve spoken to many people that have asked whether I’m not scared sometimes or how I can be traveling by myself, especially so far away. But with trusting myself and the right mindset I have always managed to make the best out of every trip. Despite the hard days, it always paid off! And that I want to share, even if it instills some courage and confidence in a single person that’s right at the edge of making such an exciting decision.
You are very ambitious and have a lot of things on-going at the same time. You started a career in Real Estate after an Internship in the States, what led you back to the States, and how does it work to have an Internship in the U.S?
Correct, and first off I want to say something really important. Unfortunately, we have learned to glamourize overworking and many of us define ourselves by how productive we’ve been in a day. I’ve really been going hard for a long time but it is absolutely crucial to slow down sometimes and eliminate some tasks from our pile! That's usually where more of the growth happens, by letting go of things that don’t serve us. When I was working in the US, I wanted to have it all at the same time and I managed to do so, but it wasn’t sustainable long-term.
The reason I secured the internship in the US was my network. I kept visiting my host family in the US and over time I developed some good connections. I stayed in contact with people and kept in touch. I was interested in Real Estate already and when I met Kristina, an absolutely amazing, loving, and brilliant woman, it clicked and we agreed to work with each other. Regarding the documents; for an internship, you will need a J-1 visa, which requires a sponsor as a third party. In my case, that was CIEE - an organization that specializes in internships in the US, therefore I knew I’ll be in good hands. There's a screening process and some steps to adhere to, but it is simple and just takes a little bit of time and effort.
Please tell us more about your Real Estate career!
I worked in Property Management for a couple of months and learned the ins and outs about leasing procedures, how tenants are placed and screened, maintenance management, budgeting for rehab projects, and many more aspects of the business. Together with a team of four, I managed a portfolio of about 150 properties, so quite a bit. I then decided to focus on wholesaling. It does not require a license and enabled me to help distressed homeowners find solutions to their problems. I partnered with Kristina (who was my boss) and we worked on some deals together. I closed on three deals within a very short period of time, which was my ultimate success moment. I restructured everything to a virtual setting in October 2020, when I was back in Austria. It is quite challenging to adapt and sometimes hard to imagine that this kind of business is also feasible in a virtual setting, as the European market isn’t quite open for that yet.
You are finishing up your degree in Austria, did it give what you expected? And, what are your future plans?
I personally really enjoy my program, as compared to others, its very practical, relates to real-life projects, and require you to actually get out in the world and gather some insight! I was able to study abroad, work abroad, and collaborate with entrepreneurs in the field to get some more understanding of how to navigate through business decisions later. I didn’t have many expectations other than going abroad, and that I have to say was absolutely worth it! My future plans are to finish my degree, spend the summer in Austria, and if COVID-restrictions allows it, I will go to Africa and teach English. After that, I will go to Australia, and what happens after? Who knows. Ultimately I see myself in Real Estate, but not full-time.
We all know that life can be a little tricky sometimes and it takes turns we do not expect. What are your best tips to keep going when life is a roller coaster?
Ride it! Ride the roller coaster and trust that after every drop comes to a bump into the air again! When I realized that life will unfold in a perfect way and we all have our individual journey, I felt very content going to sleep at night. We experience curve balls that many times don’t make sense at the moment, but they teach us lessons that prepare us for the next hurdle. So; trust the process, have faith in yourself and your journey, focus on the good instead of the bad, and surround yourself with uplifting and supportive people. As cliche as it sounds, once you truly act on these factors, you’ll make juice out of every lemon that life throws at you!
We want to finish up with a personal question. How are you so powerful and such a boss lady?! We really look up to you and all that you do! Tell us your recipe.
I'm smiling right now. I feel blessed and extremely humbled by that compliment. Honestly, its a day to day process of reminding myself of my capabilities and training my mind! Our mind is a more powerful tool than most know. I underestimated it too. Once I got into the habit of training my mind, I improved my life. Its simple habits like journaling, affirmations, working out, or meditating. But.- I'm human and I mess up every day! Every day in some way - but what’s important about that is: I keep moving with a smile on my face!
Get in touch with Sophia - Instagram: @sophia_holzer