– a story of Mariana
In that precious moment I opened my well-travelled umbrella, it was lost. Aveiro, do we really need to have rain and wind at the same time?! Apparently, yes. It was my first day here. I even took a picture to capture my full-of-first-day-excitement-happy face with this blessed rainy-windy reception! However, the street art just outside the train station dazzled me enough to make it better.
My husband and I were seeking a new place to live ever since we got back from California. Planning it in advance, you know? We were actually considering Australia, New Zealand or some other English-speaking country.
It was while we were travelling through Europe that we got to know Lisbon. In some way, it felt a bit like Bahia, our home. Some squares and streets had the same name, and you could also find similarities in the urban aesthetic, because of the connection between Portugal and Brasil. It was starting to feel right. Then, I found a call for a PhD position at the University of Aveiro, precisely in the field of study of my interest. Plus, Aveiro also has my long-term companion, the sea, extremely close. My husband and I love to surf, so we really had to choose a city with amazing waves.
A lot of people advised us not to take such a risk, “Oh why are you leaving your country when you are so well established here?”, “Don’t go, you already have your friends, your job, your roots here!”. We wanted to step out of our comfort zone, we wanted personal growth and new professional challenges.
Without question, the hardest part? Leaving my family. I came alone, my husband had to go back to Brasil to finalize some bureaucracies, to a place where I knew no one. Of course, I spoke and interacted with people all the time, but at the end of the day, I would come home alone. Eventually, I found a church group that welcomed me. They treated me like family, which helped me feel like part of the community.
When you start living in a new country, you have to rebuild and reorganize your life again. From the most basic needs, such as where do I find the cheapest groceries or what do I wear to face this cold, to employment and financial requirements. You need to learn how the health and the educational systems work.
I miss the smell of the sea. I like to go to Costa Nova and Barra, but it’s not the same. In Bahia, you can stay at the beach until the end of the day, laying on your beach towel or swimming in warm waters. I miss that. Here, you have a 5-minute sea-freeze moment and wind and sand flying everywhere. But, if you leave your country carrying your memories as a burden, if you live them as a reminder of the things you left behind, you’ll never be able to embrace your new life to its full extent.
Step-by-step, you build a new you in a new country. Your habits shift. I used to have tapioca all the time, but it's harder to find now, so I save it for special occasions. I used to wear long dresses, now I gravitate towards the clothes that keep me warm. Many aspects of your life have to change. You adapt. For me, the most important thing is to come with an open mind. I'm still discovering the cultural nuances, but I already adore Aveiro.