Saturday, August 20, 2022

Portugal, from ten years ago...

My journey to Lisboa
Ten years ago, on a day like this, I left home for Colombo airport to head towards Lisboa for my grad school. I thought I was going to grad school. To do coursework and do research. Maybe for a couple of years? I did not know I was on for a life of adventures of diving into cultures and making friends. A journey that changed me completely.
The journey was not direct. I first had to go to New Delhi to get my Portuguese student visa. Getting the visa was a story on its own.  Then three days later, with the visa stamped on my passport, I headed towards Lisboa via Dubai. Two days of August 2012 are of high importance to me. One is the Monday 20th for leaving home to live abroad for the first time, and the other is the Thursday 23rd to arrive in Lisboa finally.
View from my apartment in Lisboa, August 2012

During those early days in Portugal, I would think about where I would be in 10 years. Here, I am writing this blog post from Atlanta. Arrival in Lisboa was smooth. Emirates upgraded me to business class. The border control was friendly to me. The landlord was waiting for me with my name typed on his tablet. On his drive, he mentioned, "Portugal is having economic hardship now. But we are always happy." I also asked him why it was cold in the summer, coming from Colombo. He replied it was the end of the summer and almost autumn. The following days, I walked the streets alone. Everyone was helpful, despite me not knowing the language. Most people there can and will speak English, unlike, for example, in France. In some ways, it was like the opposite of Emily in Paris. Lisboa was nicer to me. (Oh yes, I have made a blog series about my life in Lisboa,  Pradeeban in Portugal!) But I did not know that I would end up doing my Ph.D., primarily based in Lisboa, eventually spending seven years of my life centered around Portugal until I completed my Ph.D. in 2019.

The Pacific Ocean, Santa Monica. June 2022

Moving to Lisboa started season 2 of my life. Due to Erasmus Mundus mobility requirements, I moved back and forth from Lisboa to cities in other countries - Sweden, Belgium, Croatia, Saudi Arabia, and the USA. Then in June 2018, I moved to Atlanta after submitting my thesis. I finally defended my Ph.D. thesis in July 2019 in Lisboa and August 2019 in Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium. Erasmus Mundus joint degree requirements! 

I moved out from Lisboa in June 2018, did not visit Portugal after July 2019, and my last connection to Portugal was completed with my final Ph.D. defense in August 2019. But I feel I am still in season 2, which Lisboa started in my life. The last three years of the pandemic have significantly changed many aspects of our life and even how we interact with people. Things have slowed down significantly. My travels since February 2020 are entirely restricted to local trips within the USA. My life in Lisboa and my seven years of Erasmus Mundus are like pleasant dreams. I believe I will have an equally exciting season 3 somewhere sometime later. Until then.