My year in review – 2023

| 8min read


I thought it would be a good idea to end this year by reflecting on the goals I wrote down in my blog post from last year. Let's start by looking at the plans I set for myself for 2023.

Write (and finish) my master's thesis

"I want to get my degrees, aka. finish my double master's."

I started working on my thesis back in March 2023, but I haven't finished it yet. As the first person in my department to pursue a double degree, I've faced a lot of administrative hurdles that have caused some delays. Despite that, I'm pleased with the extensive research I've conducted for my thesis. Specifically, I've been looking into the impact of web accessibility overlays on the user experience and usability of individuals with visual impairments. In addition to a technical analysis, I conducted a user study with 21 participants. I gained a lot of knowledge during the process and look forward to publishing my findings. So, this goal will be carried forward to 2024.

Move to a different country

"Preferably to Portugal or Spain. My mental health and overall well-being need sunny days and warm weather (sorry, Sweden). Together with my partner. No more long-distance relationship."

In late 2022, I relocated from Sweden back to Vienna to live with my partner. Although we initially intended to stay in Vienna for a while, we ultimately decided to move to Spain. We sold almost all of our belongings, took the remaining 15 boxes and shipped them to Barcelona. Now the two of us, along with our 15 boxes, are in a 35-square-meter apartment trying to get settled. Despite being EU citizens, the bureaucratic process has proven to be more complex and time-consuming than anticipated. However, I am confident that we will be fully settled in Barcelona before the summer of 2024.

Me, a young woman with shoulder-length blonde hair, wearing sunglasses, a beige hoodie and jeans. I am standing at the beach and looking into the distance. A wooden jetty going into the sea, surrounded by trees. Typical white Swedish wooden houses.

I don't know how long we are gonna stay here. But for now, it is the right thing for us. Sometimes it is hard. You miss family and friends, can't be at every gathering and making new friends as an adult is challenging. But I enjoy the warm weather, the kind and welcoming people, the food and the overall vibe. Based on my experience, I have noticed that in Spain, work is not as central to people's identity as it is in Austria and Germany. Working overtime and one's salary are not defining factors. In fact, I was once told that it was unusual to ask about someone's job during small talk. People here are more interested in getting to know your personality. I actually like that.

Stepping out of my comfort zone

As if moving to different country isn't enough, I also stepped out of my comfort zone and attended the beyond tellerrand conference (btconf) in Düsseldorf, Germany, on my own, without knowing anyone there. It turned out to be one of the best conference experiences I've ever had! The majority of the talks were fantastic, covering a good mix of design, development, and art. Secondly, many attendees return each year and describe the event as a family gathering. While it may require some initiative to start a conversation, you will be greeted with open arms once you do. I had the pleasure of meeting several wonderful people whom I still keep in touch with. I look forward to attending again in 2024.

Croquettes on a mushroom sauce. Served with a bottle of white wine. Vegan inside-out maki rolls on a plate.

Introducing a "passion day"

"I want to prioritise focusing on my interests. I always have so many university tasks that I don't find the time to, for example, just read some accessibility blog posts. That must change."

Well, that didn't really work out. Now that I am reading it again, it sounds like an excellent idea, but it somehow got lost. When thinking about 2023, I didn't draw strict lines between where (thesis) work starts and where it ends. It is all smushed together. There are no work-free weekends, no evenings; I mean, you could always work, right?

Yeah, but no! This is not healthy and needs to change. I somehow hope the stress and pressure will stop when I finish being a full-time student, but if I am being honest with myself, I think it won't. At least not unless I actively do something about it. I am caught in a cycle of studying and working towards goals, feeling pressured by both external and internal expectations to always do more. This leads to a sense of never achieving enough and failing to recognise my accomplishments.

Sometimes, I wonder how to stop this cycle. I am aware of it, but to stop overworking yourself is still hard. I love my work; it is so interesting, and I learn much daily. But I also need to find hobbies just for pleasure and keep a balance. I am so used to trying to satisfy expectations, pleasing everybody else and neglecting my own needs. This is really something I want to work on in 2024. Although it overwhelms me, I think the awareness of this issue is my first step in prioritising my mental health.

Plans for 2024

"I have many other goals, like getting an accessibility certification, writing more blog posts and trying out conference speaking. But I don't want to put too much pressure on myself, so I will probably save them for 2024 instead."

I managed to write some more blog posts in 2023 (#1, #2, #3), but an accessibility certification and public speaking are still on my vision board. Maybe not for 2024, but definitely for the near future.

So, my plans for 2024 can be summarised as such:

Overall, 2023 was great, but I also can't wait for 2024!