Marta shines - from the outside as well as from the inside. She is one of those people who are immediately sympathetic to you. Dark brown, full hair, dark eyes and a bright smile. Marta sits in front of the computer in Colombia and tells her story via Skype - in Spanish. She is fluent in various languages: Spanish, French, English and of course Italian. But she chose Spanish for this story. Because it is the story of her love for a Colombian and her life in Colombia.
Marta grows up in a medium-sized town in northern Italy. She is the only child of her parents, but still part of a typical, big Italian family. Since her parents both work, Marta is often with her grandparents and her nanny during the week. Also family dinners with the countless uncles, aunts and cousins are a main part of her childhood. During the holidays, everyone travels to the countryside together. She loves to be in company, she is a happy and interested child. From an early age on, she is interested in languages, especially in French. Already during school she thinks about studying French. But really living abroad doesn’t cross her mind back then.
Marta is also very interested in literature and above all - the psyche of human beings. At the age of ten, she already reads one book after another. She likes to see different characters emerging and to learn from the books about the essence of being human.
After graduation, Marta decides to study Psychology. She wants to become a psychologist. Especially the work with children and the bondings to their parents are in big interest to her. She wants to be someone who, through her work, creates a society that is more loving and fairer than the present one.
After graduating from school Marta moves to an Italian student city, she feels free - for the first time she is away from home. She lives in a house with student apartments, she likes her roommates and starts highly motivated with her studies.
Marta specializes in parent-child relationships and reads books and research reports from leading specialists. Most of them are from Switzerland. She is fascinated by the world of psychology, wants to understand the area better and dive deep. She decides to spend an Erasmus year and applies at the University of a large Swiss city. It was not difficult to get a commitment: Switzerland is expensive, rather boring and students need to speak French to get approved - quiet unattractive for many students. For Marta, on the other hand, a dream comes true. She loves French and will study at the Faculty of Psychology, close to her role models.
But the beginning in Switzerland is not easy. Marta arrives a few days before the semester starts. The city is empty and the university is dead. Marta feels lonely and alone like never before. The first two days she cries a lot. But eventually the city begins to fill up. Courses begin, other Erasmus students arrive and suddenly there are daily activities and parties organized especially for the Erasmus students. Marta slowly settles down. She lives on the university campus in a shared flat and quickly finds friends. Many are also exchange students like her. But after a year, time is up. The exchange students leave Switzerland and Marta remains alone. She decided to stay in Switzerland and to do her master's degree. She likes the study very much. But, again, Marta is alone. Although she stays in the same city, it feels like a fresh start.
The Swiss people are different from Marta, serious and pretty closed. It is rare that the volume in university rises. At home in Italy or together with the exchange students, Marta could always laugh, have a drink, smoke a cigarette. There was always something going on somewhere. But this time seems over. Marta is looking for people who are more relaxed - and who have the same attitude. She discovers an ad for a concert and decides to go. There she feels good and meets new friends. Most are musicians or artists, many of them from Latin America. Their life attitude, creativity and cheerfulness pleases Marta. She feels reminded of her childhood, when she spent a lot of time with her Chilean nanny, who was also a musician. There are some close friends from all over the world and some Swiss too, they are all a big family now. They drink, eat, dance and laugh together. She also likes that they are all so contrary to the conservative world of the university. Marta now has a room rented in the apartment of an old Swiss lady. She admires that woman, who is already at an advanced age and yet seems so youthful, strong and revolutionary. The second tenant is an elderly gentleman from Egypt, who often tells the sad story of his escape while they are sitting in the kitchen together. But they love to spend time together and to share delicious food. During the day, Marta studies, and in the evening she meets her international friends and learns Spanish with them. She starts working in different jobs and is trying to start her professional career.
And then, one day, Marta meets Daniel. She is sitting in the cafeteria of the university, when suddenly a friend comes over and introduces her to Daniel. He is doing a PHD in biology in another country, but now and then he is in Switzerland for research projects. Marta is fascinated by Daniel. He's Columbian, twelve years older than her, tall and with brown, accurate hair. His glasses, his backpack, his clothes - everything is somehow elegant without being over the top. Daniel is quiet, almost shy and very different from other men she has met so far. Marta and Daniel talk, they become friends. In the upcoming years, whenever Daniel is in Switzerland, they meet, go for a drink or do something in their free time. Marta finds Daniel attractive, but after two to three weeks, he is always gone anyway, and so it remains just friendship. But two years after her first meeting suddenly something changes. Marta is almost done with her studies. Daniel visits Switzerland one last time before going back to Colombia.
When Marta and Daniel see each other this time, with the certainty that they may never see each other again, the friendship suddenly turns into a passionate love that surprises Marta herself. For one month, the two are inseparable. But both know, that the time doesn’t stop and he has to return at some point. They think about solutions, about how they can be together in the future. Marta is sure that their relationship can’t last when Daniel returns to Colombia. But it’s also not possible for him to stay in Switzerland without a work and a plan. Despite, it will be difficult for Daniel to find work in Europe and above all in Switzerland. Marta's chances in Colombia, on the other hand, don’t seem to be so bad. She is a European and as a migrant in Colombia she will have it easier than Daniel than in Switzerland. In half a year she will have completed her psychology degree. She has already completed internships, built up a good network - and she speaks Spanish. Finally, they decide that Daniel will go to Colombia first and she will follow after finishing her Masters.
The decision for Marta isn’t easy at all. She loves Daniel, she is curious about Latin America's life and work possibilities, also because this life doesn't seem so unknown for her thanks to her friendship. She is fascinated about the idea to discover lot of different kinds of methods and contexts regarding her work. But her fears are big. The relationship with Daniel is fresh and came as suddenly as surprising. Her family and her friends do not understand that she wants to give up her quiet, safe and promising life in Switzerland because of a love affair. Marta's parents were proud of their daughter, who studies and lives successfully in Switzerland. Italy, too, was shaken by the economic crisis, and in Switzerland they saw a future for their daughter's career. Now she wants to give all up to move to a developing country to a man they don’t know. Colombia is so far away and above all it is dangerous - the country of lot of internal conflicts and social inequality. Marta feels the incomprehension, her family and friends paint negative scenarios and talk about their fears again and again. But Marta can understand them too. Many of these fears she has herself too. She wonders, if this can go well, but the lack of support bothers her. Only Daniel is calm and has confidence that it will work out with the two of them in Colombia. When they talk with each other, they dream of their new life together in Colombia and all the opportunities that are laying in front of them.
One year and one visit to Colombia later, the time has come. Marta lands in Bogotá, the capital of Colombia and Daniel takes her in his arms. First, they want to live here until it becomes clear where both will find a job. Already when she was in Colombia for the first time, Marta somehow felt right at home. Of course, everything is different, but that fascinates the young Italian. She is impressed by the nature of Colombia, the plants, fruits and the variety of life here. Everything seems to be much bigger and more colorful than in Europe.
Now Marta and Daniel live together for the first time. It is wonderful and difficult at the same time. Sometimes there are misunderstandings between the two of them, but Marta is also increasingly aware of how strong the cultural differences are. Colombians are generally well educated and Daniel comes from a serious family where conflicts are not openly addressed. The hierarchies are clear, everyone always is always making sure to talk in a very respectful way. Marta, on the other hand, is direct. If she doesn’t like something, she says it. Open and emotional discussions can get a little louder. Daniel often doesn’t feel respected in discussions, he cannot tolerate that Marta sometimes uses bad language or gets upset about injustice things in everyday life. Marta, on the other hand, feels misunderstood. Why can’t she say what she is thinking? The last thing she wants, is to submit to a machismo that is so prevalent in this country.
Marta notices for the first time how differently they both look at life.
In the first few weeks, Marta explores the city, but she can’t really enjoy it. She is no longer a tourist, as in her previous visit, and can’t stop thinking about the future. She often sits at home, she's a lot on Facebook and chats with her friends and family in Europe. Everyday life in Colombia is new and it is often small things that tire or frustrate her. When Daniel comes home from work, they explore the city together. They go to the theater, cinema and concerts. Bogotá has a great cultural diversity - Marta likes that and is sometimes even reminded a bit of Switzerland. But without Daniel it is exhausting, she shouldn’t walk alone on the street, certainly not in the evening. There are a thousand things to consider. Fear is a frequent companion in Colombia.
It quickly becomes clear, that they will not stay in Bogotá. Daniel has job interviews, but the outcome is still uncertain. Marta starts to research about job opportunities for her in different cities. She knows that starting her career in another country and continent will not be easy. But she is confident and with the rent of a little flat in Italy, she has a small income that makes her independent.
Marta finds many interesting projects in her new home country. There are many victims of violence in Colombia and projects with psychologists working with them Violence and crime are deeply involved in Colombian society and Marta fears that her European background does not allow her to understand the full scope and complexity of the victims' problems. The language also presents difficulties. Her Spanish is good, but depending on the region, the inhabitants have strong dialects and very different habits. Also she can’t apply as a psychologist until her university degree is recognized in Colombia. The only option is to apply as a lecturer at the university and this seems absurd without practical experience.
Marta decides to enroll again for a one-year masters in psychology. Only then will she get the necessary degree, but also experience and internships to be able to really work as a psychologist. Daniel and her move to a small town in Colombia and Marta begins to study. At this time, they have been together in Colombia for five month. Daniel has found a job as biologist, besides studying Marta works as a French teacher at the university. Every day she gets up at 5 o'clock, works, studies, only on Sundays she is free. The speed is high, she is happy to be with Daniel, but she doesn’t feel balanced and often without energy. More and more often, she is sad, negative, depressed - that’s the time she realizes, that she has to change something.
When Marta starts therapy, everything changes. A Colombian therapist helps her to understand which frustrations have arisen due to external circumstances and which come from her own. Marta was very critical of many things- Colombia, Daniel, her whole situation. Secretly she has often blamed Daniel for being so dissatisfied, has been blaming Colombia and the other culture for her frustrations. She had to cope with the loss of her european life, good job opportunities, friendships and now, she has to accept and appreciate her new life as it is.
Now she is learning how important it is to take responsibility for her situation. Not to blame herself, but to become more active. Marta wants to get out of the passive posture and actively creating her own life path.
"I believe that migration is something that leads to dealing with the fears and doubts that you already have, but the situation makes them even more obvious and bigger. As a migrant in a new country, everyday life is often a challenge. Everyday, things can be difficult at first, but you also question your own personality and character much more.
I think migration is a unique opportunity to discover yourself, new things in life, interests, happiness. You will find things that make life richer. As a migrant you have to adapt and be very flexible. This is an incredibly valuable feature. Through migration you can discover many positive aspects of yourself, but also the negative sides, like things that test your limits. Migration makes you vulnerable, but also strong. "
The love between Marta and Daniel becomes bigger and bigger. The relationship with Daniel grows and becomes more close, because both learned to understand and manage their cultural differences and points of views. Marta starts to feel more self-confident and competent to master lots of little daily challenges in her new country.
Marta is proud of herself. She works on herself and changes her view of things. She knows that some things in Colombia will always be hard for her, but now she can handle it differently. She now believes more in herself, she is learning to value herself for what she is and to give room to her needs. "It's usually easier to live a good life in the place and surround yourself with people and things where you come from. It takes time to build a new home, a place where you feel comfortable and safe and yet still is at the other end of the world. " New friends also help Marta to feel better. Some Colombian friends and some international women get very important in completing her life and make her feeling at home again.
In the following months, Marta studies, works and volunteers. She is learning to understand the country and its people better - including Daniel. She learns to be proud of the way she goes - even though he it’s different from many of her friends at home, who are already making successful careers, building houses, and having children.
But she has not given up her dream as a psychologist. Even after her master's degree, she still has to do a specialist training in Colombia in order to be able to work as psychotherapist. It is expensive and not recognized in Europe. An internationally recognized degree doesn’t exist.
Again, there are worlds between her old and her new home. Again love and her professional dream seem to not be reconcilable. If she studies in Colombia, she will have to pay a lot of money and will never be able to work in Europe as a psychotherapist. If she does the training in Europe, she can not be with Daniel. Marta and Daniel talk about the situation, again and again. Soon it becomes clear for both of them: In order for Marta to be happy and to realize her dream, she has to do the training in Europe. The decision is difficult for both of them, but when it is made, they are relieved. Daniel supports Marta. After three years together in Colombia, they will now have a long-distance relationship again and only see themselves during the holidays. But Marta knows - only if she pursues her own goals, the relationship with Daniel can go well. In January it will be time to go back to Italy. They both know it's going to be difficult years, but they trust each other and know that their love is strong.
"When I'm old, I would like to look back on the life of a woman who has had many different experiences, a happy woman who is grateful for her life, hopefully with many friends young and old. I want to be someone who appreciates his life. Where that is, I do not know. "
Marta has grown in recent years, due to the circumstances and to herself. She knows she has to dare. And she feels that she is stronger than before. "For me, a strong woman is someone who respects herself, who is honest with herself and others. I don’t have to pretend to be someone that I am not. I find women strong, who stand behind their decisions. No matter what they are." For Marta, her focus is always on the people. Women and men, children and parents, Europeans, Latinos - it doesn’t matter. It is important to treat each other with respect.
First, Marta learned to understand and help others, and then she got to know herself better. She knows there will be always new things in life. She knows, she won’t stop learning - about others and herself. She doesn’t know what the future holds for her.
But she has confidence, is curious and ready - whatever may come.
*In January Marta returned to Italy to accomplish her 4 year- training as a psychotherapist. She and Daniel are having a distance relationship.