International Humans of Montpellier n°1
To the internationals living or just arriving in Montpellier: you’re not the only one! Montpellier is full of people from all over the world. We’re all different but we also share the experience of being new to the city, being new to France. So what are the stories of these people, how did they end up here, do they manage to feel at home in Montpellier? That is what we’ll discover through International Humans of Montpellier.
My name is Valentina and I’m 27 years old. I’m in France since 2013 when I arrived as a fille au-pair. I wanted to leave Bolivia because… Life is so hard, life is not easy. I used to drink a lot, because I used to work as a bartender, and I had drinks all around me all the time, every day, from Sunday to Sunday… I wanted a change, so I said, ‘I have to change my life’. I just wanted to leave.
After my high school, I started to study aviation, to become a flight attendant. I started to work in one of the biggest companies in Bolivia, but in the end it went bankrupt. I couldn’t find another job, because I was without experience. I decided to learn a second language and I chose French. I started to work part-time as a bartender and studied French at the same time.
France was my escape, the exit door.
I waited one year before I had an answer from my family in France. So, that period I spent travelling, I went to Chile, Peru… I moved to the Amazonian jungle, I was working in a friends’ hostel. She proposed me to work with them and to become a bar manager, so I said ‘why not!’. But I still wanted to leave. France was my escape, the exit door.
It was difficult in the beginning, but in the end I just realised that there is another world outside Bolivia! Life is so easy in Europe, so easy. Now, after 5 years in Europe it’s very different. Working part-time and studying, and to have your family so far from you. It’s difficult to realise that you can see your family just once a year or every two years. I don’t really miss Bolivia, but I really miss my family.
When I help somebody, I help myself. It’s a way to follow myself
What I want to do later is to work in humanitarian and development projects, more specifically concerning the refugee crisis. That touches my heart a lot, you know? I want to do that, because I feel good doing it. It’s like, when I help somebody, I help myself. It’s a way to follow myself, and to discover who I am. When I can’t help somebody, I’m very frustrated, I want to do more, I want to give more, so that’s hard…
I wanted to leave very far from Europe, like in Asia or Africa, and then… I just realised that you don’t need to go so far to do humanitarian projects. So, I went to Calais for 3 months in total. I went with several organsations, like Utopia 56, Help Refugees, and L’auberge des migrants. I met the most amazing people that I have ever met in my life. It changed my life, completely. That’s why I decided to study, to educate myself more about these problems.
I prefer to work with people, face to face, to be on the ground, to meet people. I feel alive, actually, when I’m with these people that had bad moments. I experienced so many new feelings I had never experienced in my life, just in Calais. I feel really connected to humanity.
It was Montpellier that admitted me.
Actually Montpellier chose me. No I’m kidding! I applied just to two masters, one here and one in the Savoie. It was Montpellier that admitted me for a Master in International Cooperation in Faculty of Law and Political Science. I never feel at home, even in my home I don’t feel at home. I think my home is not the place where I am; it’s the road where I go. My first time here in Montpellier was very hard, now this is my second year in Montpellier and I start enjoying.
I really enjoy speaking English. It reminds me of so many amazing people that I’ve met. It’s like a language that just opens my mind infinitely. In English I feel very friendly and very open, it’s the way to speak to the world.
I think that I’m not always myself when I speak French. I can’t express myself a 100%. When I speak French, I’m more… tensed. I don’t know why. I don’t want to say that people are like that, but yeah, actually people are like that! In France there are too many limits, in many ways. In English it’s not like that, I feel more free when I speak English.
I think my home is not the place where I am; it’s the road where I go
I think that it’s good to live in Montpellier, to have a nice life; everybody deserves it! But if you can do something, if you can change the world of somebody, it’s important. I would advice people to help other people. All of us struggle a lot to come to France or to come to another country. One of the ways to do something in Montpellier is with Migrants Bienvenue 34.
Educate yourself. That is the word. It means to be concerned about what is the actual situation in France, in Europe, everywhere. It’s so amazing to meet people from all around the world, to meet people from Guinea, from Syria, from Afghanistan, from Pakistan… There’s so much richness. So many ways to learn about how the world works.