My name is Ana Elisa. I grew up in a small town in Southeast Brazil and, like many small town girls, I wanted to leave. I knew there was more. I knew I could do more.
Brazilian teacher and writer living in Belgium, Ana Elisa “thinks too much”. Her curiosity led her from an early age to learn languages, and working as Au pair in the United States and Belgium bring her, besides that, discover a new world of stories. “I became a teacher and I’m proud of the lives I touched”, she says.
Could you tell us about your life in Brazil, your motivations and if you still keep your friendships and traditions of your country?
I’m from a very small town in Southeast Brazil where very few people dare doing what I did. Since I started learning English I felt like exploring the world, but I never imagined how long I would live abroad and I certainly didn’t think I would be living in Belgium.
I think it’s normal that you grow apart when living abroad. It’s been more than six years since I really lived there and a lot of things changed. However, I do keep in touch with my oldest and closest friends.
Do you think the language is the most important barrier before embarking on a trip? Is it difficult to learn a new one?
I have always adored learning English! It opened up the world to me. I could talk to so many people, learn different ways of thinking, go places, find work, write to a much bigger audience and so much more. English is a crucial tool wherever you go.
I am also learning Dutch and French and these pose a bit of a challenge to me. But when I see I can communicate basic things on the streets, I feel more at home in Belgium.
Could you tell us about your Au pair experiences and the differences between the United States and Belgium?
Being an Au pair was one of the best decisions of my life. I had the time to explore the place, learn with the people, share my own culture and grow a lot. I’m very adaptable, so I didn’t experience a culture shock. I did notice and reflect on how different we are – how we eat, dress, work, celebrate, raise our children.
What I can tell about the differences between the USA and Belgium is purely based on the places I lived and the moment I was in. I lived in New Jersey, very close to NYC, so there was a faster pace of life. I was 23 and out of my country for the first time, so I tried to enjoy every minute of it.
Here in Belgium I came to live in a small village with lots of space and green, but not many people around. I was also in a quieter, more reflective moment. It was great to get closer to nature and to myself.
Could you tell us a bit about your writing experiences, what do you think provide us the artistic expressions?
I’ve been writing since college. I wrote short stories and essays and moved to blogging when I started traveling. It has been a way to organize my thoughts, share what I learn with other people and connect. We’re not alone in our experiences, good or bad. I am so glad to have inspired and informed so many people about going abroad. Many of the friends I have today were made through a blog post!
After going through a hard first year as a migrant, and after sharing thoughts and feelings with many other women in the same situation, I wrote a book about being the “stay at home expat” and the identity crisis that may come along.
Often what provides us inspiration is our own life, what we experience or what we see others going through.
How is your life in Ghent ? Do you already feel established in Belgium or perhaps you would like to change, returning to Brazil or travelling abroad?
Tough question. After two and a half years back in Belgium, I do feel at home. After all the paperwork, the language classes, the job searches and meeting new people, it somehow got better. I can see myself living here.
I don’t see us moving to Brazil at the moment but I do feel the itch to explore other corners of the world. As tourists or expats, who knows!
If you want to know how the adventure of Ana Elisa continues: Ana Elisa Miranda !
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