Looking for an Erasmus couple that would magically renew everyone’s belief in true love somehow led me to Lorena. The story that I’m about to tell you is indeed a story about two people of different nationalities, who had the luck to see the personification of their love turn into the form of a little girl, their daughter. They first met in Paris, 2 years before Lorena's Masters, but later on, they were also part of an Erasmus Mundus family (from 2016 to 2018) in two European countries: France and Italy.
This story is in fact a story about a baby born during the mobility, and more importantly, on Valentine’s day. About a baby who, other than her Brazilian and French origins, got another family, not by blood, but by heart. A family made out of people from all over the world, the Erasmus Mundus Master CLE family. They all fell in love with the baby the second she was born, without any obligation to do so and without expecting anything in return. They loved and they offered whatever they could, but most importantly they offered themselves fully. You should take this story as proof and testimony that love exists and persists in spite of everything, that there is no colour, race, sex or religion for it. It can take different forms; it can grow and go beyond the romantic love between two people.
The name of Lorena and Adrien’s love is Valentina, and today (February 14th 2019), she celebrates her second birthday. The following interview moved me to tears; initially, I had no idea whom I was approaching or how it would change my outlook on the concept of an Erasmus couple. I invite you to see for yourselves!
What were you two like before your mobility?
Before this adventure, I was a professor of Portuguese at Univesidad del Norte in Colombia and Adrien was working in Paris. Actually, Adrien and I met before the mobility, in 2014.
How did you first meet?
We met each other in November 2014. At the time, I was working as a Portuguese language teaching assistant at the Academy of Versailles. My contract ended in April 2015, which is why I was forced to go back to Brazil. I returned home and left Adrien, who had become the love of my life, in France. Two months later, Adrien came to Brazil and then he came with me to Colombia for a month. However, he couldn’t stay there with a tourist visa, and I had a 6-month contract and couldn’t go with him to France without a visa. During those 6 months, we were desperately trying to find a way to be together. I was already planning to continue my studies in France when I found out about the Erasmus Mundus master that offered one scholarship for the entire country of Brazil. This was my chance!
What I didn’t know was that he was also looking for ways for us to be together. He wanted to ask me to marry him! In December 2016, when I came out of the airport, there was a surprise for me, he was there, waiting for me. I said yes with all my heart.
A few months before the wedding, I got the results from the selection for the Master CLE. I had won the only Brazilian scholarship. Then, a couple of months before classes would have started in France, I discovered that I was pregnant.
What challenges did you face?
Well, you can imagine how challenging it was for me, considering that during the first year of my Masters I was pregnant. Adrien left everything in Paris (his family, his friends, job and apartment) so that he would come with me on this adventure. In Mulhouse, he had to find a new job and a flat for the two (later three) of us. Obviously, a pregnant student and her husband couldn’t stay in a student residence. The main challenges during my first year were basically having difficulties concentrating and being tired a lot during the courses. In spite of all of that, I managed to attend all of my courses until I went into labour. The real challenge came after my little girl’s birth.
I was getting ready to go to the university when my water broke. We went to the hospital on February 13th 2017 around 8.30 in the morning. After having waited for 30 hours, the doctors took me to the delivery room. Valentina was born on February 14th 2017 at 2 pm with a C-section. This was the happiest day of my life, the day when I got to know infinite, unconditional love. I had the pleasure to have my friends by my side, my new friends from my Masters, who were helping me during my studies.
The month after giving birth was very hard, as I had next to no time between my classes at university and my baby. In the beginning, I had help from my mother, who came from Brazil, and also my mother-in-law. When they left, Adrien and I went through some really difficult moments; we were inexperienced and tired all the time. Moreover, it was the end of the year, I had to write a lot of papers, and also my TER (travaux d’etude et de recherche – the draft and one part of the master thesis) in order to pass the first year of my masters in France. I only had about a week to write a 15 page paper in a language that was not my mother tongue. With no time to sleep, read or write, I was ready to leave everything behind… But then, the love of my Erasmus friends for my little girl and me helped me pull myself together! They became her nannies. Every day of that week, each of them took care of my three month old baby so that I would have time to work and finish my TER. Without them, I never would have succeeded!
My friends have made all these difficulties less challenging. I could often count on them to look after my little girl, but also to take care of her, play with her, change her diapers or feed her. They stood by me like brothers and sisters, they have truly participated in all the important moments of her first year of life. They have been with us, like a real family, during the most difficult and the most beautiful times indiscriminately.
What is having an international family like?
To have an international family means having to speak two languages every day- my husband speaks French with Valentina and I speak Portuguese. We eat meals from two different cuisines, French and Brazilian, or even a mix of both. On my side, it also means living in a country that is not mine; we made a choice, this choice that necessarily leads to missing certain people. My parents, my brother, my sister, my friends … I miss them. Fortunately, thanks to technology, they can participate, even from afar, in many moments of our lives.
What was the funniest moment of your relationship so far?
We travelled to Italy to participate in a week-long seminar and brought Valentina along. At the hotel reception and at the conference room entrances it said: Master CLE - Mulhouse - 7 students, plus a baby; the other students and professors were surprised to have a four-month-old baby among them. That week was very intense. My colleagues looked after my daughter with love and care, changed her diapers, gave her formula, and put her to sleep. For most of them it was the first time they took care of such a small child.
I also received my my diploma with Valentina by my side (she was 1 year and 5 months old at the time) on the day of the ceremony.
If you had the chance to go back in time, would you do it all over again?
This is something that I always ask myself. I think that if I hadn’t chosen to be a mum during my studies, everything would have been easier for Adrien and I. On the other hand, I'm convinced that it wouldn’t have been as such an intense or special experience as it was. Valentina represents a very strong bond between the two of us (Adrien and I) and she was also a bond between my classmates and I, not to mention for my friends among themselves. We were recognised throughout the consortium as The group with a baby. It made us stronger and it made us a family. I have no regrets. The arrival of Valentina, just as it was, represents the most beautiful moment of my life.
After the emotional rollercoaster that Lorena’s story proved to be, I can say for certain that I believe in love’s stubborn, moving endurance. I believe in the power of people’s altruism. I now know that it takes a global village to raise a child… and that the rewards are infinite. I’d like to thank her for allowing me to come along as she revisited these memories. Our lives are definitely richer after getting to know her daughter, Valentina.