Feeling Disconnected

submitted by Ema Reis

Spending over half my life outside of my own country has caused me to feel a sort of disconnect that’s hard to explain. I feel like I will never fully be able to understand my culture and feel like I belong. I haven’t enjoyed any of the experiences I’ve had living in Portugal after I left the first time, when I was 5 years old because of this. It was never a place that really felt like home to me.

I’ll give you a brief timeline of my life moving around up until today.

Portugal 1998-2003

Nigeria 2003-2007

Congo 2007-2010

Portugal 2010-2011

U.K. 2011

The Netherlands 2011-2015

Portugal 2015-2017

I move on average every 2,7 years, my dad’s job being the main reason. It’s something that I’ve become used to, and expect to happen. It wasn’t easy accepting the fact that I’d never have friends that I could grow up with, only people I would know temporarily and would probably never speak to again. I was always jealous of the people who had a childhood home and friends they’ve known since pre-school. It seemed like a more stable life than mine. I got to a point where I didn’t even want to try to adjust anymore, because it would make it easier to leave if I didn’t.

Everything changed when I moved to The Netherlands, where I met my 2 best friends, Siobhan and Celia. We got to grow up together in a short amount of time and we really just clicked as a trio. I’d never met people I had more in common with. They’re the only friends I’ve ever made an effort to keep in contact with after I left. When you move a lot it’s easy to forget to talk to people and maintain your friendship. That was the place that hurt me most to leave, because I left so much more behind.

After leaving, coming back to Portugal was really hard, especially in my last 2 years of high school. This would be my third time having to immerse myself in my country after being away for 6 years. I wasn’t ready to start over like I did everywhere else. I felt pressured to have to fit in. No one at school understood what it was like to move around so much, because they’d all been at that same school since they were in diapers. Then, my parents started talking about the possibility of me staying in Portugal for university and I just gave up.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Portugal, I really do, but after moving around so much I felt like I needed to be somewhere more international. It’s hard to settle when you know there’s so much more somewhere else. I could never be happy trying to fit in somewhere I don’t belong. So, I suggested London to my parents.

To me London is the European New York. When I was deciding where I would study it’s the only place that made sense. So luckily, I get to go there this year in September to study Illustration. I’ve already met some pretty cool people there, and I know I’m going to love it.




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