Second-year psychology student Anne Friesacher (21) is Austrian, but she has never lived there. For every country she has lived in, she has a symbol on her sleeve: a tattoo that covers her entire left arm.
“My father works for Shell, and our family moved all over the world. I’ve always gone to international schools. Constantly changing schools and friends is one of the harder aspects of expat life, but I’m glad that at the age of 21 I’ve already seen so many countries and cultures.
Between the ages of 6 and 10 I lived in Oman, which is probably my favourite country. It’s a great place to grow up in. I love the heat. It can be fifty degrees there in summer; then I wouldn’t be allowed outside. It’s strictly Islamic and women are seen as subordinate, but as a kid you don’t notice that. We wore normal shirts and shorts. My mother was less of a fan. We often went snorkelling with our boat. The water there is very clear and warm, and I saw sting rays a metre and a half long. At home my parents have a row of bottles of sand from all the different deserts and beaches we went to there. I’m allergic to almost all animals, except reptiles. In Oman I’d catch geckos and keep up to twenty of them in my room, much to my mother’s annoyance. So for Oman I got a gecko tattooed on my forearm.
The Viking boat stands for Norway, we lived in Stavanger from when I was 15 to 18. It’s a small, cute village, with beautiful nature. You can go on a fantastic trip to the top of a cliff, called the Preikestolen. From there you look out over the fjords, beautiful! In Norway I started working on my fitness, my biggest hobby. When I was 15 I was underweight, and thanks to sport I started taking diet and exercise more seriously. Now I’m at a good weight.
Two parts of my sleeve represent places I went to alone. The Aboriginal dot work is for Australia and the lotus is for Thailand. I’ve been to Thailand twice to do volunteer work. It’s beautiful. The rainforests made a big impression on me, the people are super friendly and I love tropical fruit, but the most special thing was my work in an orphanage. The first year I was there I was paired with a little girl. When I went back a year later she recognised me. She had saved a photo of the two of us. It was so sweet, it made me cry. It’s a bit cliché, but volunteering really gives you a lot of satisfaction.
I have a snowflake on my wrist because I was born in Austria. Soon after that we moved to Nigeria for a year and a half, so for that I have this hummingbird tattoo. The Celtic tree of life represents the five and a half years I spent in Scotland. I also have a tulip for the Netherlands. I previously lived here for four years, but now I’m back to study. Finally, I have a shell on my arm because I love the ocean and nature, and a compass on my shoulder to guide me through all the countries. To me a sleeve and a ‘bare’ arm looks the best, but if I keep on moving, a second sleeve will be unavoidable. Maybe I’ll start on my leg instead. I don’t know yet.”