From flying high to hitting reality hard

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Bruno Lopes, an ambitious 26 year old multilingual speaker, reveals his experience of what it is like to move countries independently at the age of 16 and the responsibilities he took on.

WHEN I was six years old I moved to Britain knowing nothing about the country or the language. In six months I was speaking English fluently and had adapted to life here. However, when I was 16 I decided to return to Portugal because I felt my life had no real sense of excitement or meaning – it seemed as if I did not belong here. But once again, life was repeating itself. I knew nothing of the language or the culture and I had to meet challenges I had never envisaged.

Moving abroad meant leaving everything I had ever worked for behind me and start a new life.  It was the most extreme decision that I had made.

On August 10 2011 I had received a letter congratulating me on winning a grant to study business administration and finance at Cambridge Regional College. At the time, I managed to achieve my dream in becoming a model for London Model Days where I had a professional portfolio and was on the path to be launched into a career in that field. On the other hand I had the opportunity to go and explore my country and live an adventurous life. What I did not know was the responsibilities and challenges that lay ahead.

On August 13 that year I moved to Portugal. Although, initially it is my native speaking language, I did not understand it much. I was really eager to learn it and discover what life was really like in Portugal. I had this idea that starting afresh was something that I really needed to do. I was convinced that I would receive all the support I would need once I was there. I can honestly say, I was deeply wrong. The country was in poverty which made life hard for everyone. Finding a job was not always easy due to high demand and I really did have to prove that I had what it took to be a success in the world of work.

My mother was heart-broken that her only son was leaving. She warned me that life was not always what it seemed and questioned me if this was really something that I wanted to do. At 16 years of age I thought I had it all figured out – that I was ready for anything in life.

Though, before I knew it, the challenges surfaced within the first month of living there.  From learning a complete new language to not knowing anyone made it seem, at times, impossible to overcome difficulties. I could barely understand what people were saying to me. When I first applied to study, I chose economics thinking it would be the same as business finance and admin. The principal of the school had a translator to tell me that I would be accepted to enrol if I could learn the language, both written and spoken, within one year. If I were to fail, I would not be allowed to proceed even if I were to pass all my other subjects. So, learning the language was absolutely crucial. I got picked on for being the new kid there, and for coming from abroad. PorI did make friends and they found me intriguing due to my height. I am just 4ft 7inches tall. They had never met anyone of my stature and they were curious about England as many of them had never travelled outside Portugal.

I had a separate tutor called, Ana Bella who taught Portuguese as a subject, to help me become more proficient in the language. My friends who spoke American English, also helped me understand it by showing me pictures that would illustrate what the phrase or word meant. I can now say my native language is one of the hardest and most difficult languages to learn due to the way the words are pronounced. One key factor that helped me get through the language barrier was the fact I spoke French, which I studied at Birchwood High School, Bishops Stortford. This helped me to become more fluent and enabled me to pronounce Portuguese words correctly.

I admit that going to a country for a holiday is very different to living there. Reality hits you hard and you have to learn to grow up pretty fast or you are left behind in many situations such as in work, in school and even in socialising.

I do not regret having left my old life behind because I learned to become more adventurous, independent, an open minded. I discovered how to use my own voice to make a difference. I have learnt my lesson to never rush things, to be sensible before making decisions and to go far and beyond what people expect of me.

While in tugal I managed to take part in a few folklore and theatre dancing shows in Caldas da Rainha (District of Leiria), Aveiro (Porto) and Lisbon. I met a lot of people from the TV channel Sic including Gonçalo Pinela, a distinguished ballet dancer and Rita Pereira, the actress. I also worked for some interesting companies in marketing; an airline where I did bookings and also in customer service.

Looking back, I can say I have learnt never to rush big decisions; to follow my passions; to speak my mind and to be myself. My motto is:  never be afraid, be loud, be proud of what you accomplish and enjoy life.


Photo: Bruno with his mum, Ana having his first Costa Coffee having returned to Enlgand

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