Belgium, Brussels / Portugal, Lisbon: Cláudio Graça Fernandes, 25, Schuman Trainee at the European Parliament

To a person like me, that always had to fight for everything I ever wanted, this traineeship represented the tip of the iceberg of achievements in my life. To work for such a prestigious institution as the European Parliament, for a graduate of International Relations and Political Science, was really a dream came true.
The first 2 weeks were one of the best in my life: I bonded quickly with the housemates; with the people from the European Parliament; the room …

I was in was amazing; the feeling of entering the European Union’s infrastructures and being there because I worked there, not as a mere tourist, was indeed part of that dream.

I left everything behind: a safe and stable job in Lisbon, Portugal; my friends; my family, my own house; to pursue this traineeship, and on those 2 weeks, it was all worth it.

But from all of this, I would say that having my name at an office of the European Parliament was the best thing of all this experience. I can’t speak volumes about how much that represents to a person who fought from the slumbers of Portuguese society to where I’m now.

COVID-19 brought an end to all of that: my housemates had to return to their own home countries due to the loss of their jobs; I was sent home to “work”, but work rarely comes through; lost the people from the traineeship, because I’m living a 30min away train trip from Brussels, and I was left stuck in a place that was never meant to keep me trapped.

Did all of this made me suffer? Yes. Do I kind of regret coming here? Also yes. That’s why I called this text “the pandemic of my dream” because my dream became a nightmare and all sorts of negative thoughts spread through my cells like a pandemic.

This experience, as a Portuguese person who is living in Belgium and working for the European Parliament, wasn’t the best. Not only having to worry with the data of COVID-19 cases from my home country, which thankfully wasn’t the worst out of all European Union but also worrying with the data of cases from the place I lived, with was (on the opposite to the Portuguese case) one of the worst in all European Union.

But the damage is done, and there was nothing I could do that could make it alright. The only thing I can do now is to try to enjoy, safely, what’s left of all this experience: trying to secure a better job, travel inside Belgium (and maybe Holland), save money, talk with my friends through online tools, and learn from home (with online courses, etc…).

And I’ve a special thanks to a special person who helped me, even across the ocean, to keep me sane and to write all of this.

Keep safe, all of you, and remember to cherish the little things that you couldn’t enjoy before: the sun, the hugs/kisses to the people you love, the coffee/beer at your favourite spots. Because we’ve to learn something from all of this in order to evolve. And if I could endure all of this, I’m sure there are not many things that can bring me down again: life is never what happens to you, but what you make out of it.