In this last article, I will be focusing on what it brought me and which are the pros and cons of leaving your home country so young.
Here is the third and last part of what I wanted to share with you about my experience living abroad (more than 23 years in total). It took me actually more time to write this one since I had to think a bit more about what to share.
It’s important to contextualize that my mother left Portugal with me when I was 6 due to a rare disease I have. But this is not the place to talk about it, but instead about the other side of the medal, what we can learn living abroad. And believe me, you receive way much more than you give.
As mentioned before, I left Lisbon at the age of 6, just the right age to get into primary school in Paris. It’s well known that kids at this age are like sponges, so I got to be bilingual in three months. France, as I wrote in the first part of my article, gave me so much. Not only I studied 17 years there, but also I became a young man with French culture. I learned all the good principles of what it is to live in a democracy and what respect between human beings means. In the country of Civil Rights, later in high school, I learned to defend my own rights but most important for rights of others. I participated in a strike for the right of other students to wear whatever they wanted at school (in this case, a girl to wear the islamic veil).
This education in France was of course incredibly important for my growth and helped me become a more open-minded and tolerant person. Already at that time for me, despite being a bit lazy at school with my homework, learning was the key. At a very young age, I was already thirst to learn and experiment new things, mostly in the artistic and literacy areas, and this due to the education I was getting in France. These have been very stimulating years.
Getting back to Portugal already grown up (I was 23) and with a different education, I think it got me an outsider approach of my home country. It was way far from the end of the dictatorship and I had a different perspective than when I left at 6. However, I still didn’t understand why we couldn’t learn some things at school or why news didn’t talk about some more delicate matters.
Anyway, I’ve been there for 13 years which allowed me, once again, to learn so much, to finally know my country and my culture and where I came from. But most of all, what I think Portugal brought me, was the beginning of my professional life. I worked for almost 10 years as a freelancer on film and live broadcast TV. I learned to become a professional who has an incredible skill to deal with stressful situations, to solve last-minute problems. These are two huge strengths you need when working on live TV shows and later I knew how to adapt them to other business areas. In Portugal, I also created an international film festival (PUFF – Portugal Underground Film Festival), which later I was able to bring abroad to places such as New York or Sheffield.
Later on, during the European financial and social crisis, I left for Ireland. After a year of doing some project basis jobs in localization and translation, I finally found the role that changed my life at that time and for which I’m still thankful: Facebook. Not necessarily because of the job itself, but what it’s to work for a big company. In some way, it remembered me of my time in France, on the importance of thinking about the team and not just yourself. You live in a community and for the community. All your actions will have an impact on others. These 3 years of experience at Facebook and Instagram had a huge impact on me and on the way, I approach my professional, but also personal life. The words “respect” and “tolerance” made even more sense to me.
In 2017, one of the worst years in my life, I went to Switzerland where I lived for two years. I will not elaborate much on this period, because it showed me exactly the opposite of what I had been learning. I’ve probably not been lucky but here I knew racism, intolerance, and everything that in my opinion, a human being shouldn’t be.
Now in the Netherlands, I will not dwell since I’ve been here for way to short time. I’m pretty enthusiastic with this new adventure and from the very few I know about it, I’m sure I will like it. I think I could say that the spirit of this country fits me.
To conclude, and you might have understood by the previous lines, going abroad in search of a better life is quite an adventure and can be risky, mostly when you have some medical requirements. But what you get back in return from all the people you meet, good and bad, makes it really worthwhile. It increases your knowledge about other cultures and makes you become a better person. At least that’s my hope. It is obviously very tough to be far from your family, but nothing that a plane can’t solve. I know at a certain point I will feel the absolute need to go back home. But this not that time yet.