My name is Claudia, 26 yo. I'm currently attending the MSc in Public Health at the University of Southern Denmark (SDU). I graduated in Psychology at the University of Padua in 2021. As a fun fact, I'm writing this report on the flight from Pisa (ITA), my hometown, to Esbjerg (DK), where I live.
I would like to address this report directly to the future students willing to do this experience, since reading the past students' reports really helped me a lot before, during and after this experience.
I took part of Progetto BEA for three months in 2022, as choice for my academic internship. I arrived in Petrolina (PE) two weeks before the coordinator and almost a month before the team. Even if it looked like the end of the world, and in some moments I believed it was, the situation gave me several insights about myself and the new condition I was about to experience.
Like a lot of students, I was feeling kind of lost regarding my choices, academically and personally. When my Brazilian flatmate opened the door, the first thing he told me was Fica a vontade. Do what you want, take everything, do like it's your home, are some of the possible translations. These words feel so kind and lovely now. However, back in time they sounded so overwhelming in my head… I'm here. Everything is possible. Everything could me mine. Not waste your time. Not waste your energy but use all of it. Do something worthy. Use this chance. Fica a vontade.
Trying to not waste my time was like a mantra for me at first. But that came with consequences. The question I found myself worried about those first days in Juazeiro was "What am I doing here?", followed by "If you are not sure, why are you here?". I guess it's pretty normal and healthy questioning yourself. However, sometimes I confused "questioning" with "self-doubting". That could happen when you are far away from home, while learning a new language, with the head full of past students' stories of life-changing experiences...
When I was in my room afraid of going outside, rationality wasn't really helpful. Yeah, clearly in more than 10 years of Progetto BEA other students felt bad, but everything worked out for them. But was I the worst of all? What if I am not able to grab those opportunities? What if I am not enough to have a life-changing experience? My friend who did the same experience last year was a lifesaver during this period.
That's also why I'm talking about that. You are not the last one is going to be part of the project, but you're also not the first. So, a survival trick I've learned in Brazil it is that I need to respect my time.
Terapias Naturais Gianni Bande – “Desacelere. Tudo está bem”, “Slow down. Everything is all right”.
Yeah, it's cool going outside, meeting people, drinking, doing capoeira, dancing, singing, camping... And there will always be time for that. The comfort zone exists for a reason.
Centro de Terapias Naturais Gianni Bande – “Desacelere. Tudo está bem”, “Slow down. Everything is all right”.
To me, the reason is allowing myself to take challenges when I feel ready to enjoy what I'm doing. Used as I was to run in Europe, dribbling between school, work, social life, I tried to do the same in Brazil, for fighting the feeling of missing out. That really didn't work out for me. All the stuff I did running were so full of un-joyful feelings. Closely related to this, the second thing I've learned thanks to this experience is that stop-and-breath is something that requires exercise.
The sunset on the Rio Saõ Francisco made it easier to do. Doing that was really helpful even when the team arrived, finally. Or when I got a papaya on my nose (twice). Or when I burnt my feet stepping on a fire. Breath, and hope your amazing people (or the SUS) will save you... And they will.
Unknown island. First aid of a second
grade burnt with tapioca flour, before an amazing experience at the UPA
(Brazilian emergency ward). October 2022.
One the activities of my internship was working within the university (UNEB), joining the organisation of the I Semana de Imersão Total em Aprendizagem Solidária GloCal, part of the XI Workshop Nacional de Educação para convivência com o Semiárido Brasileiro (WECSAB).
Unknown island. First aid of a second grade burnt with tapioca flour, before an amazing experience at the UPA (Brazilian emergency ward). October 2022.
This opportunity gave me an insight of what means organising an academic international event, thanks to Nicola. Meeting professors from around the world, engaging meaningful conversation with them with the feeling of being treated as a peer, it's something I didn't experienced a lot before.
I went through a similar feeling while working in the CAPS II of Petrolina (PE). I was treated as a professional. Clearly, as an intern, I received training, and my responsibilities were limited. Furthermore, I had to create my own duties most of the time. But for them, I was treated as accountable for my actions. In that context, fica a vontade took the meaning of not being afraid of challenge yourself and propose activities, workshops, or simply to go talking with someone who could need your help. Breath, one, two times, then go. When you feel ready and comfortable.
What I am trying to say here is not that you should not doing stuff and keep it quiet. Just that allowing myself to listen what I was feeling before doing things helped me a lot. It gave me more motivation and joy while doing everything I wanted to.
I think all those tricks I have learnt can be summarized in just few words: hold the judgement. To wait and listen before talking. Ask "Why" with the honest feeling of don't know the answer. Always, for everything. Towards yourself most of the times. Forgive yourself. I know it sounds so clique and rhetoric, like a bad movie. But it helped me so much enjoy everything around me, I really hope it can help someone else.
Everyone is going to tell you the same for approaching a new culture. Holding judgments that you didn’t know you had, because back home that is so normal, so true, that you have never needed to question them. It’s real. It is also true that sometime is your own team that feels like is made by persons living in other planets.
Give it time I'm pretty sure you're going to love their planets, or at least being happy to be in the same galaxy.
|Morro do Pai Inácio, Chapada Diamantina – Equipe 2022|
To conclude, three months were too less in my opinion. Going through so much in such a short period of time can be overwhelming, and when I started to feel I got a routine, it was the moment to leave. However, as I wrote above that was also a chance to experience my own time and my own rhythm – a rhythm I am bringing with me.