I was born in Brazil. Grew up in Bolivia. Went to school in Canada, and then to college in the US. Now I live and work in the UK and am about to marry an Italian. But 8 years ago I would have never imagined I would ever be saying all of that…
When I was in high school I dreamt about studying abroad. I started a "scholarship hunt" - my parents wouldn't' have been able to pay to send me on an exchange program or to university in another country. I was one of those overachiever students, with 9892392 extracurricular activities that filled my days (and nights). The only empty spot in my schedule was Wednesday from 6:30pm onwards. And there it was. On a Wednesday morning I saw a poster with "Want to study in Italy, Canada or Wales?" written on it. "Presentation - Wednesday [that same day] at 7pm". Coincidence? Destiny? Call it what you want - I was in.
The presentation started on time. A couple of people talked about the opportunity. Photos were shown. It looked too good to be true, but I was enthusiastic. My parents were confused when I got home and started jumping up and down while telling them about what I had just heard. The deadline to apply was a week or so later. There was a lot to prepare but I was determined to do it on time. The selection process wasn't easy. Lots of stages and even traveling to another city involved, but it was totally worth it.
A few months later I was saying bye to my family and friends and heading off to Canada for the best couple of years of my life (or two of them, at least!). Living in the middle of the rain forest, next to the ocean, along with 199 other students from about 90 countries, having the opportunity to do things I would have never done otherwise, meeting amazing people from all over the world, having seals and sea lions as next door neighbours, kayaking every week, printing my own photos in a dark room, having the most amazing conversations at insane hours at night with my roommates from all over the world at the expense of very little sleep (but at that age, who cares!), studying concepts of the theory of relativity with friends by acting out (literally) thought experiments, having classes in a floating building, teaching other students how to dance "saya", recording a CD of random songs about climate change (?!?), jumping on the cold ocean as my graduating "event" (instead of having a prom night)…
If you have children, or nephews/nieces, grandchildren, friends, friends' children, cousins, or know anybody between the ages of 16-18 (or getting there) who would be, like I was, interested in a "mind-opener" experience, tell them to look up "UWC" (United World Colleges). If you don't, but would like the sound of this and would like to contribute somehow, look it up too!
I now live in London, a city a love because of its diversity, its infinite amounts of offerings in terms of arts, concerts and events, its wonderful mix of old and new and, well… its beauty (ignore the weather). I was fortunate enough to go to a number of London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic events and I have to say - what an inspiring period to be in London! I love music, travelling, languages, sciences (physics in particular), movies, and exercising (<3 yoga, squash is fun!, swimming is so relaxing, and running is so much more enjoyable than it was years ago...). I can brag about having grown up in a house with a mango, avocado, coconut and papaya tree in the backyard. I wish the day had 30 more hours so I could get to do all the things I wish I did on a daily basis (play the piano, read, play the guitar, practice French, draw, watch movies - there's too many good ones! - , write a blog, keep up with my online classes - Coursera is awesome!, keep in touch with geographically distant family and friends more frequently…)
Life isn't perfect, but I'm happy. I hope you are too.
Thanks for all the interesting stories. Keep them coming.
London, UK, Europe, The Earth
P.S.: If you speak Portuguese and like reading, check out "A Cidadela Inventada", a novel by Pihba Cavalcanti (my dad) :)