Today, early in the morning when I was leaving my building, I noticed something new on the elevator wall. Just above the buttons, someone posted a small cartoonish sticker of a perplexed woman with a thought balloon saying: oh my god! this city sucks!. At first this made me smile, but then it stroked me how much my opinion about Braga has changed in this last 5 years – a lot.
Until I was 19, I lived in a city called Oliveira de Azeméis which now I only visit sometimes on weekends. Although being an average size Portuguese city, my parents house is in a small village about 3km apart from the core city, meaning, it’s a very very small and quiet place, where everybody knows everybody and any outsider feels observed like an alien. Yes, that small.
Not being much of a traveller before coming to Braga to study, the city amazed me quite a bit. It would be to expect that I would have some problems to adapt to a bigger city, plus all the responsibility and all, but that part was quite smooth for me actually. What amazed me most was the city size and the amount of choices and offers which was way bigger. With it’s 150.000 inhabitants, Braga is the 3rd city in Portugal and one of the youngest in Europe which is kinda strange when one knows about the strong religious legacy the city has – it’s ridiculous the amount of churches in this city. Anyway, being able to live 100m from the university campus and for a relatively low price was a luxury I knew I wouldn’t be able to get in a city like Porto or Lisbon.
Returning to my home town never crossed my mind again since I moved out. I was quite pleased with Braga, until I moved to the Netherlands for 6 months. Cities like Utrecht (where I stayed), Rotterdam and off course Amsterdam, putted a new meaning in the word big for me. When I returned to Braga, I’ve found myself picking on people for saying something was too far away – it’s easy to get used to this, you can trust me on this one.

Returning to the this-city-sucks sticker, I don’t think Braga sucks, at all. I surely don’t see it with the same eyes I saw before, but I still think it’s a neat city and that I made a good option to come here to study. But now, it’s just not enough.
I don’t think it’s (only) about the size of the city, really. I truly believe that, like most exchange students, I got addicted to travel. Not travel per se, but to live and really getting a grip on other cultures, places, people, ideas and ideals. I think Sarah describes this very well:

“To be constantly so completely outside of your comfort zone, to be forced to make a life for yourself from nothing, knowing no one and to be surrounded in constant unfamiliarity is tiring but sublimely exhilarating. It sounds both cheesy and obvious to say that it changed my life forever.

The downside is that I am now addicted to that feeling that you can only get from being immersed in an environment where every mundane daily chore of life (mailing a letter, getting $20 out of the ATM machine, buying a pair of shoes, finding the equivalent of Mr. Clean to mop the floor) is a challenge, and every completed chore feels like a great accomplishment.”

That’s what spices (my) life and that’s what really gets me going. Like plugging into a different voltage – the extra motivation I lack most of the time.

Now a bit of reality check – it seems that I’m stuck on Braga for the next 6 months (on a row) to do my internship. I had took an offer to do it at Philips in Eindhoven, but somehow, after waiting two months to start it, I ended up with nothing more than a deception, turning things harder for me. Nonetheless, my current plan is to do my internship here (I’ll start next monday) meaning in November I’ll finally graduate. Meanwhile, I’ll be looking for a job abroad to work for a year or two, after finishing my internship. If not, I’ll move to Lisbon or Porto hoping I’ll satisfy my addiction there, for a while anyway.

Note: by the end of the afternoon, the sticker was gone…

4 strings to ““oh my god! this city sucks!””

  1. ana says

    you really like the word “quite”, don’t you? :P

  2. Anonymous says

    Just pass by to say hI, And to see how you were going?! Well, I’m sorry about the interniship, but don’t worry, you’ll have another chance!TRY TO STAY IN TOUCH! I’ll try too!


  3. Sarah says

    Hey Paulo…re-reading these thoughts of mine come at an appropriate time. We’ve decided that if Antonio doesn’t have a job in the US by July 1st, we’re moving back to Lisbon…scary, but exciting.

  4. Paulo says

    I hope everything turns out for the best, Sarah, whatever that will be.