A few months ago, I happen to find another English-speaking online column that is following the German tradition of using the city and the slogan as the title. While the Flensburg Files has been in existence since October 2010, the Leipzig Glocal was launched in March of last year. Yet unlike the Files (which focuses on German-American topics in general), its primary focus is life and culture in the largest city in Saxony, providing people with many opportunities to engage in activities in one of the fastest growing cities in Germany. I met its founder, Ana Beatriz Ribeiro, online while collaborating over some topics and sharing some information for use in each others’ columns and their facebook pages. Unique about her is the fact that despite having lived in the United States for many years, she originates from Brazil. On the eve of an international blogger conference, taking place in March of this year, I took an opportunity to interview her about her coming to Germany and how she has turned the Glocal into a regional powerhouse. Here are some facts about her, which are interesting and useful:
1. Could you provide a brief background as what your occupation is and how long you’ve been living in Germany so that I can include this in the background information?
I’m a journalist and Global Studies PhD student at the University of Leipzig. I moved to Leipzig in August 2012 for the PhD.
2. According to your online magazine Leipzig Glocal, your heritage is part Brazilian and part American. Can you elaborate further on how you/ your family came to the United States?
I was born in Brazil and lived there – in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo – until I was 13 years old. At that point, my parents got a job at a TV station in Miami and we moved there, and eventually became American citizens. My parents ended up staying in South Florida, and I moved on to Virginia and North Carolina for newspaper jobs, and then came to Europe (Denmark, Poland and now Germany) to go back to university.
3. What got you interested in Germany?
The University of Leipzig’s Centre for Area Studies put out a call for PhD applications, and I felt the topic I was already working on for my Master’s – Brazil-Mozambique relations – might fit in well with what they were looking for, with some adjustments, and I was right because they accepted me. I’d been to Leipzig a couple of times before and was ok with the city (it was “like” at first sight but not “love”) and two of my close friends were moving here anyway, so I didn’t have to give the PhD position offer so much thought. Plus, some of my best friends in Europe had already turned out to be German; our sense of humor just seemed to match. It all just felt natural, and now I’m really glad I made the decision to move here.
4. How did you move to Germany and what kept you there?
Well, I moved here primarily for the PhD and still haven’t finished. Plus I fell in love with Leipzig and with a German guy, and started LeipGlo, so I have plenty of reasons to stay!
5. When was Leipzig Glocal launched and what was the motive behind this?
I started LeipGlo in March 2015, so we just turned one year old! I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have the idea then of LeipGlo becoming a magazine one day, but I surely didn’t think we would be moving this fast and that I’d find such wonderful support from the talented people who are part of our team of writers and editors. It all started out simply as my personal blog, but very open and appreciative of creative contributions from other people. I wanted to give an outlet for non-Germans and Germans to express themselves in English and also provide information in English to those who like to read in this language or don’t have access to this info otherwise. Info in English is still not so easy to come by in Leipzig, and I felt kinda detached from society when I moved here. We want to help make the transition into Leipzig life a little easier for people, and also get more bright international people interested in moving to our great little city!
6. What is so special about Leipzig? Name at least five things from your perspective?
1. Solidarity – There’s a real sense of community and sharing here, to a large extent.
2. Random experiences – I’ve had more of these here than anywhere else, and most of them have been positive and memorable.
3. House concerts – There are people organizing these all the time here and it’s one of my favorite activities, both attending and singing (along or as a performer).
4. Bikes – You can ride them everywhere because the city has a nice size and ok infrastructure for cycling.
5. Lots of green space.
6. Decent bars and restaurants I can walk to.
7. And most importantly, the people I’ve met here.
7. Apart from being the editor of the Leipzig Glocal, what is your other occupation?
I write, edit and do translations for other people.
8. How often do you visit your home country and what aspects there do you miss, if any?
I visit the U.S. (I consider it home) once a year. I miss my parents and brothers, of course, and having no language barrier, and also being able to find everything you need in one pharmacy plus amazing over-the-counter flu meds. I miss the real beach and being able to go to it most months of the year. Sometimes I miss driving but the feeling passes quickly when I remember I’d spend 50% of my waking hours doing that in Florida.
9. What are your future plans regarding career and Leipzig Glocal?
Fame and fortune. Haha. 😀
10. If you know someone who plans to move to Germany or any foreign country, what advice would you give them?
Be open to the unexpected and to learning from others. Learn to laugh at yourself. Respect and appreciate diversity. Don’t be too hard on yourself or the people you come to meet. Have a savings account. Have fun discovering the little things. I highly recommend doing this at least once in your life, because you’ll change for the better, in a lot of ways, and get to know yourself in ways that may have never crossed your mind.
Final thoughts: Be open to the unexpected and learn from others is something that many of us don’t understand but we embrace it anyway. Many of us have our lives planned in front of us, even as children, only to find that life can take some unexpected twists and turns, especially when it comes to living abroad. While I have never met anyone regretting this experience, despite some hardships and some unfortunate events, spending time abroad provides some challenges and tasks that are unexpected but doable. There is no such thing as a planned life when you know that by going straight all the time will result in being blindsided by the unexpected. So look around, take the chance and embrace the unexpected. In the end, the unexpected will be the most memorable. 🙂