Rafa and Alice
Photo credit: IOM/Tiago Figueiredo
Rafa is from Malaga, Spain and Alice is an Italian of Spanish descent. They met in Lisbon in 2014 while studying under the Erasmus European Program. Destiny brought them back to Lisbon one year later, where they have continued to be friends. They described their experiences for i am a migrant.
Alice: I discovered Fado when I was 15 years old and I immediately fell in love with the sound of the Portuguese language. That is why I chose to study Portuguese and English at school and to explore Lisbon. When I finished my Erasmus year, I went to work in Dublin as a waitress and came back to Portugal afterwards.
Rafa: I had planned to go study abroad and Lisbon was not my first choice, but it turned out to be one of the best surprises of my life! Alice and I enjoyed Lisbon so much during that exchange year that we did everything we could to come back to Portugal as soon as we finished our Bachelor degrees in our countries of origin; now we are both doing our Masters degrees here. We also teach Spanish and Italian, and nowadays we even teach Portuguese to other Italians and Spaniards here! I learned a lot in Lisbon and I found the freedom to be myself. I love the diversity, the way different religions and nationalities coexist and the adaptability of the Portuguese population. I made friends for life and I received lots of love here. If I had to describe Lisbon to someone else, I would say that it is a marvelous city!
Alice: I would describe the light! It is magical. Lisbon enters the heart and doesn't come out. I have found a unique atmosphere here. All that I have experienced here has changed me as a person; I got to know myself better and the city rejuvenates me. Through our time here we have gone beyond Lisbon; we already travelled across Braga, Porto, Coimbra, Covilhã, Alentejo, Algarve, Açores and Madeira. We met many people who are still in our lives. Every time that we introduce ourselves we say that we are Spanish and Italian-Spanish but with a hint of Portuguese; we are migrants, but we feel a bit Portuguese too. We miss our families and saying goodbye is always difficult, but we also feel torn; when we go back to our countries we feel at home, but we miss Lisbon too!
Rafa: This experience has shown me that all of us have something to gain from migration. Diversity is enriching. In the future I want to work in the migration sector, and fight for the rights of the LGBTQ community, in a European Union Institution. I believe that we can change mentalities, behaviors and the system with small gestures and actions.
Alice: Even though I love Portugal, I still do not know whether I will stay here or not. I want to specialize in North-American literature, do research and teach. Maybe I will migrate to the United States of America next.