Timea Potys is originally from Hungary and currently lives in the USA . She has been dancing since she was four and is a professional ballroom dancer registered by the World Dance Council and NDCA (National Dance Council of America) and a performer, choreographer and instructor. She is currently a Professional Latin Rising Star Finalist and an Open Professional Latin finalist. She placed 2nd in the Professional Rising star Latin competition in the Asian Tour, one of the two world’s biggest Latin ballroom competitions, and also recently won 1st place in Puerto Rico. She also founded the dance entertainment firm, Sizzling Latin a couple of years after she moved to the US. She coaches the UC Berkeley Ballroom and UC Santa Cruz Ballroom Dance teams and prepares them for competitions. She is also an Environmental Science Adjunct Professor at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and a co-partner at BoundaryCross where she is the Director of Change Management and Training.
1. What made you move to the USA? Was the move to the USA hard for you?
My husband accepted a job here at the Haas School of Business, University of California, Berkeley and I followed him. Moving to the US was not hard at all. It happened so quickly. One day I found myself on a plane and the next day I was in the US. Of course, there were difficult moments especially saying goodbye to my family at home and at the airport, even though I knew that I could always go back. Technology, such as Skype helps a lot and I talk to my family daily. In my opinion, if somebody would like to change or move on with life, the biggest obstacle is always a good thing. Let me explain this; I had a fine life in Hungary, so I didn’t really need to change my life and move to a new country. If I had had a bad life, then the moving would have been easier. For me it doesn’t really matter where I am, my inner happiness is always with me if I can communicate with my loved ones.
2. What do you wish someone had told you when you first moved to the USA?
I don’t like to wonder about what would happen if somebody had told me this or that in advance. I like experiencing new things and I have enjoyed every part of my journey in this country.
3. You wear many hats. Can you tell us about each of them and how you balance them and your home life?
Actually all these professions are similar; it requires interaction with the people. I like to have fun with people in any setting; dance floor, classroom, corporate office. I have been dancing since I was little. Our home was filled with music all the time, even our car didn’t start without some great music. We did all kinds of activities to the music. My parents saw that I was dancing all the time, so my mother took me to a rhythm sports gymnastics class when I was four years old. That is how I started my dance career. Now, that I am older, my love for music and dancing are still the same. I am the most passionate about spreading this love to our future generations.
Family and education are the most important in our family. Besides dancing I had to earn a master’s degree. My Dad drew my attention to the Environmental engineering field. I found it very interesting and applied for a degree. In this field I can help to open the students’ eyes to those natural and artificial processes that are surrounding us, so they can create a better planet for their grandchildren.
My students and academic director gave me such good reviews that immediately after the first year I received an “outstanding professor” rating. That is how my Google Apps business partner from BoundaryCross found me. He needed a good trainer, who was tech-savvy. I found him very kind and after a successful interview, I started to work and later on I became the Director of Change Management and Training at the company. I help clients manage and make a smooth transition to Google Apps.
4. Best moment of your career so far?
When my students win awards, gold medals in dancesport and call me to say thank you, or whenever I get thank you notes. Or when the students from my environmental science class thanked me and told me how much they enjoyed the class, how I have opened their eyes; when senior students tell me that my class is the best and most interesting in the whole program.
5. What is a typical day like for you?
No typical day, but every day I train with my dance partner, teach dance or environmental science or have meetings with my business partners. I start the day early and finish it late. Doing multiple things and being active actually give me more energy.
6. What are three things you like best about the USA?
I love that people here smile a lot. I like the size of the products and I like that the cars and gas prices are cheaper compared to Hungary.
7. What is your favorite American food?
You mean fast food? My taste is continually changing, but right now I would say the Casper cheese dog.
8. Favorite city in the USA? Favorite store and restaurant?
Before we moved to the San Francisco Bay Area, we had visited many cities, but we liked this place the most, because of the climate and the people. I like shopping at TJ. Max, Marshall and Ross, since I can buy beautiful designer dresses for less than half the price. I don’t have a favorite restaurant in the U.S. yet.
9. What advice would you give to other expat women who are artists(dancers, musicians) and have recently moved here or are planning to move here?
I would encourage them to network and persevere.
10. Was it hard finding a job in your professional field in the USA? Please share how you got the job in your field and the story behind how you landed the interview?
It was hard especially since I arrived in the U.S. at the beginning of the economic crisis. I had to wait a year and a half for my green card. During that time I worked on improving my English and audited classes at UC Berkeley. When I started to apply for corporate jobs there were thousands of candidates for one position, and I believe they threw my resume away when they saw that my degree and work experience were from another country, despite my resume and cover letter being tailored for each job.
I also got support from the organization, Upwardly Global and they taught me about the American job search and the business culture, prepared me for interviews, how to market myself. But most importantly they organized many networking events, where I met people who helped me to find both my environmental science and dance teaching jobs.
I had a harder time advertising my dance classes and show business. I am still working on getting more publicity but I now have my students who can spread the word, which I believe is the most effective marketing tool.
11. What are three things you found about the USA that were different from Hungary or you found hard to adjust to?
It was hard to get used to filling out so many forms every time I wanted to do something. I have never filled out and signed as many papers in my whole life in Hungary as I had to in the five years I have lived here.
I always had to carry an ID card with me, and will not be allowed into certain places without it.
In the Hungarian language we have different words for different types of love. We use different words to refer to love for our husbands, boyfriends, friends or our pets, and we use this word less often, but really mean it. I wish we would have more words for the word “love” here in the US. For me, it is strange that even a bus driver will call a passenger “my love”.
12. Which countries have you participated in your International dance competitions?
All over the USA, Puerto Rico, Hungary, Austria, Slovakia, Germany, France, Croatia, Belgium, England China, Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan.
13. What is your favorite quote?
“Anything is possible!”
4 thoughts on “Expat from Hungary and Professional Ballroom Dancer, Engineer and Instructor”
What a terrific example of an international person: a person who can cross international boundaries, be successful and happy in various countries, enthusiastic in several fields — and maintain a sense of humor. Go Timea!
Dear Timea, although I belong to the other sex I read this interview with great pleasure. I also moved from Hun (3 yrs ago) to this amazing city with an environmental science (Debrecen) degree and photography background with my wife (she is not Hun). I work mostly on the visual field but I found a lot of similarities what you have mentioned here. After all we came from the same culture to this amazing Bay Area. Your story is truly motivating and what a talent you are ! I would love to meet up with you when you have a free hour in San Francisco ! All the best, Marcell
Thank you Susan for the encouragement and the kind words.
Thank you Marcell for contacting me. I am very happy that you liked my story and would love to meet up. Let’s set up the time off line.