I am Catarina Stichini, I am Portuguese, living in Sweden and I have been teaching since I was 21.
I thought it would be fun to move abroad
I started working for Camões, an institute which is part of the Portuguese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in 2006. They had a vacancy for a teaching position in Australia and I thought it would be fun to go there for a year or so. I prepared for the exam and I got in, but instead of Australia, I was offered a place in Santiago de Chile.
I was so happy I had got the job, I decided to go anyway.
I taught at the university and worked as a cultural counsellor at the Embassy. Going to Chile felt like going back in time. I found the Chileans to be extremely conservative when it came to women’s role and relationships, so although on a personal level it wasn’t very exciting, the job itself was good. I loved my students, I got to develop quite a few interesting activities and I learned a lot.
But eventually I wanted to be closer to home and as the pollution level in Santiago was so high, the doctors advised me to leave the country.
Camões sent me to Stockholm, to run the Portuguese Language Centre and teach at the Stockholm University, which I did between September 2007 and September 2014.
I loved the work, but not the long hours…
The work was great, but it implied too much overtime and too much work in the evenings. So eventually I felt like it was time for a change and I wanted to have a regular family life, so I quit.
I had lots of ideas for projects that I never had the time to try out before, one of which was a website with teaching material, which turned into audio material once I realised that the students really wanted it and that there weren’t many good options available in the market.
I had had my own business before, in Lisbon, so I thought I would do it again.
- a free version with a slow (extremely slow) audio and the written text
- a paid version with a more natural paced speech, glossary, exercises and key, for those who want to take their learning a step further.
Since it is a website, we get to publish PortCasts on what is happening now, on current events.
We focus not only on language structures and vocabulary, but also very much on codes and behavior, so that is becomes clear how we do certain things (like greeting, thanking, complaining, complementing, and so forth) and why.
PortCasts is meant to be a useful tool to complement language learning. It’s an easy way to learn everyday Portuguese, everyday.
It’s much harder to do it abroad
It is, of course, much harder to do it abroad. The biggest challenge so far has been the language, because it affects everything: what you understand, the questions you ask, the information you gather, how you communicate your ideas… everything.
The best thing about it is being able to do what I love and what I believe in!
I decide what to do, where to invest and what to postpone.
It’s so great to be in charge like that.
I also love the fact that I get to choose what to tell people about Portugal and Brazil: I decide who to interview, who to write about, who to recommend – it’s a privilege and great fun!
If I had to go back, I would have tried to talk some more to other entrepreneurial expats in Sweden, like myself, to know what they had gone through and to get some tips.
One of the things I have enjoyed the most with PortCast has been people telling me that they enjoy listening to my voice – that was quite a surprise! I suppose it adds a personal touch to the project, which in the end is very much about telling stories, and that should be personal.
My top 3 tips
- Talk to other entrepreneurial expats in the country and get to know about their experiences;
- Master the language;
- Study the market and plan! There will be a lot of surprises along the way – prepare as much as you can.