Darleen

Cinematography Student

Lives in Leeds // From Bremen, Germany // Grew up in Alvorninha, Portugal

I was supposed to study in Portugal where I grew up, even though I'm German. But, unfortunately, I didn't get into university there. I knew a few people up here in England and I thought, “this seems like a nice place”, and I felt a little bit more part of the culture because I felt Portugal was a bit more close minded. I just didn't really feel part of it. I didn’t really feel like I can connect with people very easily. I came over here and I thought, “this seems more like my wavelength”. So, I kind of decided to come over here after convincing my parents which was the hardest part because I was 18. 

They said “you're not going”, and then I kind of figured my way out. I found a place in Sheffield that told me that I could do an apprenticeship. I came over here hoping that I could do that, didn't quite work out because apprenticeships are a lot harder to get than I thought. In March 2015 I moved to Sheffield and at some point I just started working, so I was really lucky to get to study a little bit just to do my Maths and English in case I wanted to study in University. I didn't know whether what I wanted to.

It was very easy to get into the country. I literally just came as if I was on a holiday with my passport and just rented places. Everyone just asked me for my passport. And no one's really questioned it. It’s not like I have a document saying I am living here now. And, luckily I didn't need the English exam because of that. I did get asked for it for one of the universities I applied for. I said “if you question my English, why don't you just call me for an interview?” And, then they just accepted me. Or, meet me because I can speak fluent English and if you're worried about that I can prove it.

I've moved… I think this is my sixth move now that I’ve made within the UK, and I will say there was a time especially in a town called Bradford that I hated living there. That place was the lowest, I hated it. I had to sign a one year contract and live there for a year. It really has an effect on you where you live and who you surround yourself with. That town was really not nice. I lived in share houses previously, I didn't like that. I only really liked it when I moved to a place where I am now. It's a cosy place but you kind of have to work yourself towards that as well to make sure that you have your own space and that you feel comfortable. And to get to that point it's hard because sometimes you think you just need a place and sleep. No, it's not just about that, you have to feel comfortable as well. That’s anywhere you go. It's a hard, hard thing, especially when you come here for the first time and you see the prices and you think it needs to be cheap because you’re starting out and then you book a place, and see that it’s a shit hole. 

I am an EU migrant worker. I went to University thinking it is three years before I can apply for residency, at least that’s how I remember it. I thought, “great, I’ll apply for University. For the first year I won’t really get that much help with finance but in my second and third year I’ll be fine, I’ll get more help because I can apply for residency”. Referendum came along and suddenly they upped it to five years, and I had just handed in all my applications for University, I just picked out where I want to go. Now, for these three years what I had to do was to be a student migrant worker, which meant working my ass off to pay the bills also while studying, and getting not even enough money to pay my rent. Whilst other people out there are living at home and getting £9000 a year. Fair enough, spend the money you have but my parents aren’t even in the same country, I’m having to work my ass off. I have to work to pay for my life, for which I’d need a full time job, whilst also doing my course and handling all these things. I felt like that was quite unfair. 

I felt like it’s fair enough because I am from the EU, I haven’t grown up here but at the same time if they just took the time to look at my personal situation. Like, look at this girl, she doesn’t live with her parents, she’s abroad by herself, she’s got a part time job but so that she doesn’t have to stress herself working for six days a week while studying, let’s just give her a bit more money so she can pay her rent. My parents have helped me whenever I needed and asked them - without them I really wouldn’t be here with a roof over my head. A friend of mine had an issue where her parents’ income changed one year, and Student Finance refused to give her more money because they base it off the previous year, so she was working two jobs while studying as well. Some systems here…I’m like, “how?!”

I'll be honest, I'm not too sure how much German culture there is in me because I grew up with German parents and I grew up in Portugal. I was very different, my parents don’t think like me. I've always believed that you should be able to say what you want to say. As long as it's not harmful, obviously. I am proud to say that I am German because even though I haven’t lived in Germany for all my life, I feel like the background that parents have given me, and just the country itself and Europe in general has given me a lot to grow with. The fact that I can speak the languages is something I am so grateful for to be able to do that .

I do agree with a lot of British values. Although the more I live here, the more I see how corrupt some of these systems are, and how ineffective they can be as well. There's a lot of things that I think that could be done better, but that's just me because I'm coming to a point now where I think, “how do people not see these things happening in the world?”, and just seeing the bigger picture, and realising that we're pretty much just numbers to whoever's up there. 

For example, what's going on now? It's so ridiculous. It's like a fight between children, it's just ego against ego, and no one is looking at what do the people actually want. They're just fighting in their big mansion, and not looking at each other or talking to each other, and forgetting about anyone else in the house. It's just blowing my mind because all it takes is to just calm down and say “let's just do what the actual country wants to do, not just what we want to do”.

Voting - it is not really my decision. I am not a citizen of here, whether I am welcome here or not, either way I have plenty of other countries to go to, Europe is pretty big. I was not really too fussed about it, the only thing that worried me was if I am able to see my family. That was all I cared about. I remember the morning after where I didn’t expect the result that happened, I just cried, and cried in college. My tutor made a joke and he hit a note, so I just started crying. I was just worried how are my parents going to see me at my graduation, how am I going to be able to see them, will I need a visa to go see them every time? It was all these worries more about how I can see people rather than how can I live here. It wasn’t about me not being accepted, it was simply about seeing my family and if this is going to cost me a lot of money. That was pretty much the only thing that went through my head at that point but I wouldn’t have voted. It’s not my decision. If it was for Germany, I would probably vote because I live there and I am a part of their culture, and also because I don’t want to settle down here for the time being. I didn’t feel like it was my place to say because I am not from here. I am contributing daily to this country I suppose but I wasn’t born here.

I think Europe is quite big, it has got different countries, different ways of thinking, a lot of different cultures, which is really nice. Just coming from the north to the south is such a big difference. For me to have had the best of both – I am really grateful for that because it makes you more open minded to so many other things. 

I think it’s really wonderful that everyone can just meet people from anywhere in Europe. I always found that really interesting because you meet so many people with so many different backgrounds and cultures. I don’t really identify as one thing anymore, I am a mixture of everything. I have never felt excluded for being European. I have felt more connected to here, as in the UK culture, than I have done in Portugal because it was different when I was there. I think people are waking up a little bit now. Back then, I didn’t particularly fancy staying. 

First when I came here, I thought it’s going to be permanent. To be honest, the whole Brexit thing has made me feel very uncomfortable. It just doesn’t feel like I am very welcome here anymore. At the moment I wouldn’t see myself living here for the rest of my life at all. I feel like I will end up somewhere very different like New Zealand, who knows. I am only 23 and I want to still see a lot, I want to move somewhere else. I thought Britain was a little bit different when I came here, and the more I lived here and the more adult stuff I had to deal with, the more I didn’t like it here that much anymore.

I am very privileged to be working and studying filmmaking in the UK because I know, when I carry that out to Europe or somewhere else, and say that I did this in the UK, it will be looked upon very differently to if I said I did it in Portugal, so I am very thankful that I get to do that. There are just little things that I am not too sure about, for example, if I was to raise a family here. I wouldn’t see this to be the perfect place to do that. I see this as a temporary stop to have some fun and do some real work, meet some really good people but I don’t see myself living here for the rest of my life. 

It is a wonderful country with so many wonderful people, there are so many wonderful things. It has been a pleasure to live here for 4 years, and it has been so nice to grow here as a person, which I know I couldn’t have done in Portugal because a lot of people there are very close minded and you can only do so much. It is very different from where I grew up and it does make you grow so much more when you have got three different cultures following you around and you just thrown into cold water, and have to grow up in such a big country like the UK, because it is very expensive and scary when you come over here.

The people here have been so lovely since I first came here. That was one of the biggest reasons why I wanted to move here actually. In Portugal I never felt like I can go up to someone and ask them about where I am going because people don’t really care about each other but over here everyone is so polite. Even if you go up to someone who looks grumpy, they will lighten immediately because you are trying to talk to them.

I miss having coffee at midnight with my friends. In Portugal it’s quite a thing, it has been since I had a car. Catch-ups would always happen after dinner and all the cafes are open till like 3am. You just grab your friends and go to the café, and you just talk. I miss that so much. Over here everything seems to revolve around alcohol and I am not the biggest fan of it. I had my fair share of going out but I am not a big drinker at all. It’s so different when you have a coffee with someone and you have an actual, honest conversation rather than when it happens drunk. I miss that part of Portugal culture because I thought it was always very nice, it’s more honest and you actually remember it. It’s more personal when someone isn’t intoxicated when telling you deep things and thoughts. We’d usually have coffee by the beach, it was the best thing. That, and my family… that’s the main thing[I miss. I just wish I could have them here constantly. I do sometimes envy people who drive back home for the weekend.

I definitely try my hardest in everything. There is no way I want to go back, I don’t want this to fail at all and this needs to work out because I am not the kind of person to go back. I am not the kind of person to just stop for no reason and I would regret if I did. It definitely keeps you moving when you don’t want to go back to the place you came from. I would have kicked myself so badly if I had gone back home. I don’t know what’s next but we’ll see. 

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