Study Melbourne partnered with Melbourne Writers Festival 2017 to host a storytelling competition for international students. ‘Everything was different at the second time’ by Suellen Smolinksi from Brazil was shortlisted in the University category.

Everything was different at the second time

It is a strange feeling. You are back home from home. I kept thinking on the airplane how satisfied I was to be able to live and study in another country. But, at the same time, the thought that I will always feel that something is missing, no matter how happy I am, also terrified me. Lucky and incomplete is the person who belongs to two places.

First time I arrived in Melbourne I did not know what the best and cheapest way to leave the airport was, what my house would be like, or what to expect from everything and everyone. My first morning here, I picked up the wrong clothes (it was sunny, but all of sudden I met the cold Melbourne wind). I chose a random cafe and ordered an espresso that I could not finish because it was too strong and bitter. But I loved everything in that first morning, even though I was scared.

Twenty-three months later, I was leaving my country for the second time. I had spent 35 amazing days in Brazil, with my family and friends. This time was even harder to say goodbye at the airport, because our time together was so intense and I already knew how much I was going to miss my parents, my sister, my little and sweet godson, my relatives, my friends, my favourite food, my books… This time, I cried. I was trying so hard to hold it in, trying to be the strong and independent woman that I always say I am, but I could not hold back and I cried. I managed not to cry much with my parents, to make it easier for them. Instead, I cried alone in the Federal Police queue. I was feeling pathetic, sad and excited all at the same time.

After 30 long hours, I arrived in the Melbourne Airport for the second time and I felt I was at home again. I knew where I could buy my Skybus ticket and how long it will take to arrive at Southern Cross Station. From there, it was just; top up my Miki card, catch the South Morang line and soon I would be at home. My second home. Or first. I don’t know anymore.

This time I had someone waiting for me. Someone who helped me with my luggage and listened to my holiday stories. This time I had someone to give authentic Brazilian gifts. This time, as soon as I arrived home I took a shower and went straight away to one of my favourite pubs, almost at the corner of my house, and I knew exactly where I would drink my cappuccino the next morning.

In almost two years, Melbourne had become a familiar place to me. I have my crazy routine here, and I was ready to start it again. Now, with more responsibilities, with a Master Degree to study. Two years ago, I have never imagined that I would do a postgraduate course in Australia or even in English. My first visa was only for seven months and I did not know what would happen after. I can say that Melbourne helped me to decide. I wanted to study more, I wanted to learn more and I wanted to live in this city more. Every person here that smiled at me in the streets helped me to lose my fear. They helped me to feel welcome and try harder something that I always wanted to do: continue my education from the point where I stopped.

Cultural experience

For me, one of the best things about living in Melbourne is that you are always learning something, you are always in touch with cultural experiences. When I go to the Abbotsford Convent, to eat at Lentils as Anything, I can learn about architecture or about who used to live there in the past. When I walk from home to Collingwood or Fitzroy I am always amazed by the incredible street art on the way. Now, I even recognise the styles, the hidden signatures, the pattern of local and international artists. Another thing that I love to do is go to vinyl stores and talk with the staff. They know so much about music and most of the times they are so passionate about it that we can have enjoyable chats. What makes me really happy is to realise that when they find out that I am from Brazil they always have good things to say about our music and our culture. Once, I was short of money but could not resist to buy a new Brazilian singer record when the guy honestly said that I should be proud of her and be proud of my culture.

Here is another thing that Melbourne does so well, it reminds me that I have many reasons to be proud of being Brazilian. Even though we have lots of political, social and security problems, when I say “I am from Brazil” people always smile and show enthusiasm. They always have some good stories to tell about our music, our food, our places, but most of the times about our people. I am grateful to be part of those people and to have my culture embraced by the place where I chose to live.

For how long I will stay here, I sincerely do not know. When people ask me this question I always say “I have my visa until March 2019, after that I do not know what is going to happen”. But, one thing I know, since I came here for the first time, Melbourne became my place, a place that accepted me so well. This will never change, no matter where I am.