João Camacho and his journey from Portugal to the heart of Europe.
I have to be honest. I never thought of coming to Slovakia but so far this has been the best decision I have ever made! Keep reading if you want to know more about my story and be sure you can have the same opportunity as I did.
Hey everyone! My name is João and I finished my degree in management at University of Madeira, Portugal, in 2016. Despite I was working at that time, I knew that I needed a remarkable experience in a foreign country. Taking into consideration that the decision of leaving your country is not easy, I would like to share with you my experience as a trainee in Slovakia.
Living in Madeira island is great. You have that relaxing atmosphere everywhere you go and you don’t really have to wait for weekends to have fun because there is always something happening around. We have amazing landscapes, a very diverse gastronomy and a great traditional drink – Poncha! Ah! We also have Cristiano Ronaldo. Yes, he was born there.
I was working at the time I finished my graduation but I had that feeling that I was missing many opportunities. When you are studying, you hear a lot about Erasmus programmes, internships abroad and volunteering programmes, and I just felt that I needed to experience it myself as well. Studying or working abroad within Erasmus allows you to travel and discover new places. You will also learn new languages and get practical experience in different sectors that will help you to boost your CV. And I wanted that.
Travelling is very important for me because I can challenge myself. Stepping a different country with different culture for the first time, you need to adapt yourself to these conditions. It is not always easy but that’s the challenge.
I didn’t have many opportunities to travel in the past because living in an island means the flights are more expensive and wherever you want to go, you always have to spend a bit more. Actually, I did my first, let’s say, relevant trip in November 2016, when I went to London, Qatar and Belgium. I spent 18 days traveling and during these trips I realized, that I really should consider leaving my country for a while and look for some experiences abroad.
A friend of mine came to Slovakia two weeks earlier and he was having such a good time here that he texted me telling about this opportunity. He showed me Placement Slovakia webpage and I checked all the offers available and I had the opportunity of being accepted to work directly in the organization itself.
Of course, it is easier to make this decision when you have someone that you know in the destination country but I also met many people that came by themselves. This Erasmus community is very active and you easily find new events and meet new people and suddenly you start building your, … let’s call it circle.
I am currently doing an internship in Bratislava, Slovakia. This was a very quick move. I heard about this Erasmus+ internship programme and I checked the offers they had on Placement Slovakia webpage and I applied for one position. I would say that it went really fast and two weeks later I was already here. After two skype interviews, the company called me saying that I was selected and I just quit my previous job and then I had like, 5 days to prepare everything and come to Bratislava.
It was a bit scary at the beginning because you never realise how big this change will be and the obstacles that you may have. I took the plane and after five hours I was in Bratislava, ready for a new adventure.
I remember that all the questions and the fears disappeared when I got to the office in the first day. I had this huge breakfast waiting for me and the team was very welcoming. On the same day, my coordinator showed me my apartment and by the end of the day I had already everything settled. I started my training within the same week and it didn’t take much longer to start communicating with all the companies and students.
My job is to work with fresh Slovak graduates and try to match their profiles with requirements of potential foreign host companies. That allows me to get some knowledge about Human Resources, once I take care of the pre-selection process. You are always thinking that you know how to use Microsoft Office tools in a very advanced level, but when you work with databases on daily basis and you need to manage them, you try to find new solutions and you discover many things that prove that you always have more and more to learn.
For those people who love travelling, Slovakia allows you to get anywhere in a few hours by bus or train, for a very reasonable price. You can even take an airplane and fly with a low-cost company.
Only a week after I arrived, I went to Hungary, and then it never stopped. In one month I visited Vienna, Brno, Prague, Berlin and of course Budapest. It is addicting. It would be impossible to get easily to those places living in Madeira island. This is the centre of Europe!
I wasn’t doing this by myself. I joined Placement Slovakia group on Facebook and that allowed me to meet many people, and some of them were and still are my travel partners. My colleagues became my friends. There are always interesting new events and new people coming to Slovakia.
I am sharing an apartment with three more people – one Portuguese, a Pakistani and one Russian. It is very interesting because all of us have different life style and because you are constantly in contact you end up adopting some of their habits. Of course, there is always someone who stands out for his qualities in the kitchen, and you learn with them. I can finally cook properly!
It has been few months since my arrival to Slovakia and the feedback is very positive. When I arrived, I had no high expectations and now I can say that every week I am impressed by something new I would say that I am empowering myself professionally and personally. I wasn’t so confident about my language skills before the internship and now, because I am always communicating in English with foreign companies and within Workspace Europe, I am improving my communication skills.
On the other hand, you grow as a person. Your mom won’t cook for you again and you will need to manage all your house chores. You are on your own and that is the challenge. And it tastes good!
I truly believe that Erasmus is a lifetime experience! If you have the chance to study or work abroad, just choose a good opportunity, pack your stuff and go. You will find many opportunities in foreign companies. You will be far from home for a short period and when you are back, you will be back with practical experience and most important, you will become independent. You may also have an opportunity of getting a permanent job in the company. So, as you can see, you have nothing to lose.