Daniela is a 37-year-old Bolivian, living in Paris. Today, she introduces the readers of CultureXchange to her inspiring traveling abroad experiences and shares with us the lessons she learnt from them.
CultureXchange: Could you tell us about your first traveling abroad experience?
The first time I traveled overseas was to Colombia. In my constant search to actively participate in international institutions which positively contribute in improving people’s conditions around the world, I had the chance to discover AIESEC. It is an organization of young university students that promotes international labor exchange. Thanks to AIESEC, I went to Bogotá to work on a project called “Abriendo Caminos” (Opening Roads) which was addressed to improve the life conditions of people displaced by guerrillas and drug trafficking. I was brought to learn about people’s stories of violence, fear, sadness and resignation. I’ll let you imagine the emotional burden I carried during several months. I may have left Colombia completely worn out, but infinitely grateful to this country for sharing one of its most difficult problems with me.
CultureXchange: Did your experience in Colombia, somehow, influenced your willingness to travel again?
It was quite the opposite indeed. After nearly one year of going back home, I decided to venture again, but this time, for my studies. In 2012, I benefited from the wonderful academic scholorship that Latin America offered and went to do a master’s degree at Leipzig university in Germany. There, I encountered a completely distinct challenge. A different culture, language and climate. Unlike the first time, I was very pleased with the academic side and the study kept me busy. Yet, due to different factors, I came to feel very lonely. No matter what I did, I couldn’t integrate. I left Germany with a Master Degree in Business in my pocket, but with a bit of disappointment too.
CultureXchange: How did Daniela finally landed in Paris?
I came to France following my heart. The super Cliché of migration for love on which I could write a book. I met my husband back in 2018 through Facebook, another Cliché! He is a Bolivian too. At the time when I left for Germany, he also went to France for his studies and eventually settled there. After several months of talking to each other, we finally met when he went back to Bolivia to see his parents. It didn’t take me so much time to understand that he is the one. The love of my life. We got married in the same year and moved to Paris. We did consider the choice of living in Bolivia, but why not another adventure.
CultureXchange: Besides the fact that this time you traveled for love, what are the other factors that made your experience in France different from the previous ones?
Thanks to my previous experiences, I became more mature, open-minded and patient. Before coming to Paris, I sat down and thought of all the reasons which made my past experiences taste slightly bitter, beyond all the good they brought to my life. I understood that the problem was never the country but rather me. I realized that I never gave any country the opportunity to become my home. I remembered all the times I went ballistic when things didn’t work the way I wanted them to and forgot that I should be the one adapting to the country and not the opposite. I thought of all the times when I took everything so personally, and the damage it did to me. I thought of all of that and promised myself to never repeat the same mistakes. And it worked like magic. I am experiencing everything differently now. I decided to not take for granted, neither today nor tomorrow, the opportunity to live in a city as unique as Paris. I live with the blessings of my family and my beautiful Bolivia that I will always be carrying in my heart. They gave me beautiful roots of which I am proud, but they also gave me wings to fly as high as I can and discover new opportunities and adventures.
CultureXchange: What important advices would you give to people in order to make their experiences abroad significant?
Do your research ahead of time; gathering as much information as possible about visa, cost of living, housing, education and so on. It will make everything much less stressful. However, I would humbly insist that the most important thing is to travel with a completely open mind and soul. Open yourself to the changes. Remember that you didn’t travel all this way to find the exact same things you’re used to. Make yourself friends and get involved in the community. Your acculturation will be aided enormously by engaging with your surrounding and by accepting the choice you have made.
Interview conducted by Imane Adouay
CultureXChange expresses its massive gratitude to Daniela and wishes her the best of luck in her future adventures and projects.