Since I arrived in Germany, a lot of people have asked me what I came here for and why I chose Germany. When I decided to move here, I told a very limited number of people. At first, not even my parents knew and some of my closest friends only got word about it two weeks before I left. I will explain now why I pulled this new “craziness” of leaving my country of Brazil and moving to Berlin.
I always loved living abroad. This is something that deeply delights my soul and, after the act of eating, traveling is what brings me the most joy in this world. A Master or a postgraduate degree in a foreign country has always been part of my plans, but as things in Brazil were “working out well” (which means they weren’t going catastrophically south), I postponed the idea several times, but never lost hold of it.
I speak fluent English, and have dabbled in some Spanish and French, so I was always aiming to move to those countries where I could speak the language. I never, under any circumstance, looked to move to Germany. In 2014, I even decided to go to San Diego for a Technician degree in Political Science, but I was approved for a selection process to work at the UN, and once again, the plan was set aside.
The Need to Spread My Wings
Around July last year, the will to leave overwhelmed me again. At the time, I was working at the United Nations in Brazil and I was in touch with people from all over the world, all of which contributed to waking the sleeping giant inside me. I pushed aside the idea of studying in the USA, because of cost and the lack of scholarships for Brazilians. I went back to research courses in Spain, France, and Portugal, but nothing that I saw excited me.
Instead of looking by country, I started looking into journalism. This incredible fellowship program for a research project fell in my lap. If accepted, I would receive up to 2,700 euros per month to conduct research. It seemed like a perfect dream, until…. I saw it was in Germany. I knew absolutely NOTHING about Germany. I had visited the country briefly back in 2009, I remember the cold weather and company. The language seemed like an alien language to me, so I tried to forget about the opportunity.
Two days later, I still couldn’t get the German fellowship out of my head. I went back and re-read all the details about it, to see if it was worth the daunting task of moving to Germany. It was going to be a difficult process. I needed two things: a project and someone in Germany to host me for the entire year as I conducted my research.
I had previously been working for the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). I decided to create a project about the environment and started to study Germany’s work in the area of climate change. It actually worked! I found that Germany is a country that is very concerned about environmental issues, full of amazing projects, and very advanced in the area of the mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions (GHG), so I began to design a project based on my work at UNEP and on what I had found.
Within two days I had created a project outline and began the hunt for a German who would agree to be my host. I am very focused person, all you have to give me is food and a computer, I can figure out how to get to the moon. The host could be anyone or any institution, either public or private, so I started to research environmental journalists, NGOs and companies, and universities that offered studies in this field. Within a few hours, I found some options, sent some e-mails and waited.
Two days later, I got my first “YES” and I was so happy—I couldn’t even believe how well my hard work had actually paid off. I finally had a HOST to call “mine.” My project was only two pages but it needed to be seven. With her help, I was able to develop it more and more, and successfully sent everything just before the deadline. The results of the semifinalists, however, would only come by the end of March and I couldn’t stop everything to wait, so I carried on with my life.
Time to Get Going
Then fate happened, and showed me once again that I had to start moving around and organizing things. On October 2nd, my boss in Brazil told me she would only extend my contract until December 31st and, when the date came, she would decide if she kept me or not. In other words, there was a high chance that I would begin 2016 unemployed. As Brazil was facing one of the biggest political and economic crises ever (and still is, to be honest) and the journalism profession is so underrated and unappreciated—with the lowest salaries—I decided not to wait. I started to organize myself, even without a scholarship or any concrete plans ahead.
I still had some time to work, so I saved as much as I could and started to look for language courses in France, Spain, and Germany (because of the fellowship). In this process, I started to read a lot about Germany and specifically Berlin. Everything about Berlin sounded positive—the people, the culture, the cost of living, beer (the most important), liberty. I was falling in love with Berlin even before arriving here. I read a lot of blogs, watched a lot of YouTube videos from Brazilians who lived in Berlin, I talked to a lot of contacts on Facebook and my opinion completely changed.
I decided to come to Berlin for some simple reasons:
1) COST: It would be a lot cheaper to study in Berlin.
2) Start my contact with the GERMAN LANGUAGE, seeing that I was so confident that I would get that fellowship.
3) Experiencing a NEW CULTURE, since I had already lived in Salamanca and in Paris.
4) Here, you can DRINK ON THE STREETS! No further.
I found a language school for a very good price, got a place to stay for the first month through the Facebook group “Brasileiros em Berlin,” did some research about the visa issues, did some math, and, only then, told my parents what I was up to. The reaction was as expected:
“OMG, you are doing that again? For the love of God, you can’t stay still—don’t you see this is not going to work? Blah blah blah.”
In the end, they accepted the decision to go to Berlin (that’s all they could do, right?). I asked my mom for help with the flights, my father for the health insurance, and figured all the rest out. I took all my savings, sold my car, and sold the furniture in my home.
Moving to Berlin
On 29 January 2016, I boarded a plane towards São Paulo, to move to Germany. My expectations were as confusing as they could get. For the first time, I left full of doubts, not knowing if I was making the right choice—thinking about the bloodcurdling cold, a totally new language, a lot of strangers, leaving my beloved apartment that I worked so hard to get, my treasured car, and my “good life” in Brasília.
That is how I ended up in Berlin. What has happened since is another story. Fortunately, you reap what you sow, and my harvest is coming along as well as I expected. There is a lot of news and lot of change coming into my life. Whoever keeps following my blog, will learn exactly everything.
PS: To whoever this might be interesting for, the name of this program is German Chancellor Fellowship, from the German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and it takes place every year. The opportunities are for 50 fellows: 10 Brazilians, 10 Americans, 10 Russians, 10 Chinese, and 10 Indians each year. The applications are open, so if you think you fit the profile and have a good shot, go here to learn more: Humboldt Foundation.
It goes without saying that you are required to know at least a good level of English or German, right? In case you don’t know any German, the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation gives you 3 months of language studies before the beginning of the fellowship, which is clearly not enough. I must say this, since I have been here for 8 months and still don’t know more than the basics.
Global Gal Author Bio:
My name is Priscilla Castro, I’m 29, and a journalist. I was born in Brasilia (Brazil), but lived for 17 years in the city of Natal, in the northeast of the country, where I grew up and learned to be who I am today. I’ve always been passionate about travel, the unexpected, the different, and all that could get me out of the routine.
I like to be a tourist, but what really delights me is to know the culture and the people of each new place. I like to live outside, to live every experience, to sit on the park bench and watch the natives, looking at the differences and comparing with Brazil. What I really like is to live and believe it: travelers are happier. You can follow Priscilla’s blog at The Walking Girl.