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Photo credit: IOM/Tiago Figueiredo

2,099 kmfrom home
"I'm even more aware of my privileges, especially the privilege of being able to migrate freely."
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"My name is Guillaume – it's a bit tricky to pronounce in Portuguese! I come from Liège in Belgium and I have been a migrant in Portugal for some months. I came to Lisbon to work for the Portuguese Council for Refugees (CPR) in Bobadela, to assess their implementation of the UNHCR policy regarding age, gender and diversity.

I previously studied Political Science in Belgium and my thesis focused on the Asylum Procedures for LGBTQI Asylum Seekers in Belgium. Before graduating, I started looking for opportunities to work abroad and I was especially interested in Lisbon. I came here for the first time in 2016 and I was able to make friends quickly. I immediately felt that I could live here, but I knew at that time that I did not want to have an Erasmus type of experience in Portugal; I wanted to feel integrated. While preparing my immigration plan, I began learning Portuguese and contacted several organizations in Lisbon until I found CPR. This job opportunity is the perfect match for me and a chance to put my academic interests into practice. Working with CPR has been extremely interesting from a political science perspective to understand asylum procedures in Portugal, a country which has a recent history of more emigration than immigration. When I began working, I had the chance to attend the same Portuguese class that asylum seekers and refugees have access to when they arrive in Lisbon. Being so close to the people staying at the center, I became even more aware of my privileges, especially the privilege to have been able to migrate freely.

I love Lisbon, its history and its high quality of life. I just miss my family, friends, Liège waffles… Oh and wearing warm clothes! I love how safe I feel here as a gay man – I am free to be who I am. I love the Portuguese language too, but I would say that the language can sometimes also be a barrier. For instance, sometimes I want to hang out with Portuguese colleagues or friends and be part of their conversations, but when they speak too fast I can’t understand and it can feel isolating. Sometimes it leads to funny situations too: during my first memorable trip to the hairdresser in Lisbon, in which I asked the hairdresser in Portuguese to cut 1cm of my long hair at the time, but ended up having my head shaved with 1cm of hair left!

It definitely helps to know people before moving here, as it can be difficult to make new friends, especially when you work full-time. You really have to create opportunities to meet people. I have also noticed that people assume immediately that I am a foreigner because of my physical appearance, but I wish they could speak Portuguese directly with me, be patient with my learning process and help me feel like I belong. Nevertheless, I understand that all of this is part of the process of my integration here!"

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