Moving to a new city or country can be challenging! Not speaking the local language further increases this challenge.
Marco, from Italy, came to Lisbon to do his Master’s in Psychology. For almost two years, he has been taking part in the language exchange meetups that I organize. Meanwhile, we have become good friends! After defending his Master’s dissertation, he wrote this text to let other people know how taking part in the language exchange meetups has helped him make new friends, and feel integrated in a new country. Besides, I have always seen him actively practicing Portuguese, English and Spanish at these events.
I challenged Marco to write a testimonial in a foreign language about his experience… Marco chose to write in English (I guess Portuguese is now too easy for him!) and here it is:
“First of all, I want to write down these lines in order to thank Inês for her initiative and her willingness to provide this opportunity to every expat living in Lisbon, and her enthusiasm every day we met. I say this, because I have met here most of my friends in Lisbon, who have been sharing their days with me.
It was so nice to be surrounded by people from all over the world, every two weekends, with a special “carinho” [let’s translate is as “affection”] for all the Brazilians that made my days so beautiful. I used to be, since the first Language Exchange in Intendente (I CANNOT forget it !!), wondering every day to live again this event and merge into it.
This event has a special power. It makes you feel connected to everybody, and it lets you feel the others as a mirror of the parts of your Self that you have yet to discover.
Opportunities like this should be provided by schools and by society for children and teenagers, in order to make us appreciate the beauty of human diversity from a young age, as a kind of pleasant vaccination against hate and racist speeches promoted by dominant classes, in order to manipulate the class conflict from the bottom and not from the top.