Born in London, raised in Brazil and later Switzerland, with a Brazilian mother and a Scottish father, I’ve always struggled to identify with a single nationality: I felt too English for Brazil, too Brazilian for Switzerland, too ‘Continental’ for England. Though I was very excited to receive an offer to study at St Edmund’s (Eddie’s), as coming to study at Cambridge had been my dream for many years, I was worried about feeling estranged and out of place. When I arrived for Freshers’ Week over two years ago, my worries vanished as I was immediately struck by the kindness of the people around me, people from all over the world, from all backgrounds and disciplines, who shared my anxiety and excitement about arriving at this initially strange place and were as keen as I was to make it their new home.
The College’s international ‘hug’ made my transition to university as easy as it possibly could be, by offering friendship, reassurance and support. The ‘Eddie’s Brazilian group’, which was neither confined to Brazilians nor to Eddie’s students, not only echoed the love and warmth of my Brazilian childhood, but constantly reminded me of the importance of laughing and not taking myself too seriously. We would all get together to cook Brazilian food, speak Portuguese and make lots of Brigadeiro – a wonderful, chocolatey, creamy slice of Heaven – during Exam term, motivating us for yet another day of intense revision, knowing we all had each other (and sweets!) to come back to every evening.
I always find meals in Eddie’s Hall offer a fantastic opportunity for exchanges of experience and ideas with people from completely different subject areas and disciplines. Unlike other colleges, Eddie’s has no designated ‘high table’, meaning students, staff and fellows can sit together, allowing a lot more inclusivity, dialogue and interaction.
I enjoyed working as CR International Officer and later as Student Librarian during my first and second years, especially as that offered me another way to connect with and get to know the community as a whole. While facilitating the celebration of national and cultural Festivals in College, from Thanksgiving to Ramadan, it was wonderful to see people come forward to share their customs and traditions with Eddie’s, and in turn to see Eddie’s promoting and embracing every aspect of its diversity. I worked together with our Staff Librarian, Susanne, to make our library as accessible and functional as possible and instated ‘Library Teas’ on Saturdays, a great chance to meet other students and talk (or vent!) about our intense Cambridge days.
After completing my second year studying Law, I decided to change my Tripos subject to English Literature, for which College was extremely supportive. Now embarking on two exciting years of English, the daunting prospect of a new course is mitigated by the encouragement I receive from all sides.
Despite the chilly Cambridge winters, Eddie’s has been a warm, inclusive home, and I will always cherish being part of its tight-knit family. Now more than halfway through my third year at Eddie’s, I can say that my true sense of belonging is no longer linked to any one country or nationality, but to the people and communities that shape my life. In the difficult times the world is facing now in April 2020, it gives me strength to know that our college community remains as supportive and united as ever.