A big fan of adventure and Irish nature, Brazilian Student Ambassador Heloisa Lemmertz shares her struggle with missing home and overcoming the challenges of living in a new country. She found peace by means of mountaineering and has tackled 13 peaks in Ireland on her path to happiness.

Nostalgic Sundays 

Sundays are always the day that I miss my family the most; the barbeques in my parents’ house or with my friends… the music, the food and the whole atmosphere of Sundays in Brazil. In Ireland, Sundays would be the day to cook and get organised for the week, or to relax after a night out with friends. I have a technique that I use to deal with the usual feelings of “saudade” or nostalgia, which often arise for me on Sundays; it consists of keeping myself busy with all sorts of house chores, having calls with family or visiting friends. 

Sunday scenes (photo: Heloisa)

Societies tradition 

Unlike Ireland, it is uncommon to find a variety of societies and student clubs available to students attending Brazilian universities. Although some universities have limited options, it is typically not something one would consider as a cultural aspect of academic life in Brazil. Once I started my PhD in UCC, I delighted in the opportunities to engage with other students as part of a social club and to connect with those who shared similar interests and passions. The society that personally stood out to me was the Mountaineering Club. It offered the opportunity to connect with people, explore the scenic sights of Ireland and make good friends in the process, not to mention it was a great way to keep fit. 

Mountaineering: exercise and great craic! 

The Mountaineering Society organised a hiking trip every Sunday to a different mountain in Ireland. We would regularly visit mountains in nearby counties with a trip to the mountains being a full Sunday event… The feeling of Sunday nostalgia was quickly replaced by feelings of excitement, connection and fun – a sense of adventure! So much adventure that within a short few months, I completed the 13 peaks of Ireland!!! 

A typical day out hiking required some planning; food and gear on Saturday and making sure to go to bed early. No Saturday night partying for me. It was worth it to see the sunrise on Sunday mornings as me and my friends headed off together with excitement for another day of adventure and craic with new and familiar faces. It was worth it to reach the peak of the mountain to fully enjoy the breathtaking green landscapes of Ireland while having our long-awaited picnic!  

The beauty of Ireland (photo: Heloisa)

Having the motivation and guidance of the hiking leaders was always incredible, they always knew how to deal with all the students and they were very patient to support those who were not very used to hiking, especially those not used to rain and cold. After many miles of hiking trails and selfies, I would arrive back home at nightfall, exhausted (and covered in muck) but delighted to have overcome the challenges and to have shared some magical moments with friends. 

Come rain or shine (photo: Heloisa)

Mental Health 

Sundays with the Mountaineering Club transformed a sense of melancholy into a sense of adventure. The combination of fresh air, exercise, new sights and, most importantly, connection were crucial for integrating into academic life and feel part of a community. It was wonderful to share stories, engage with different cultures and learn about the lives of others who were also integrating into academic life.  

It is definitely important to understand your feelings and listen to yourself more than ever when you move abroad. It is a new world with different dynamics and new people, connecting with those can sometimes be a challenge. However, it also offers you an opportunity – an opportunity to learn. This can only be done by consciously connecting with others through all the various outlets the university has to offer.

For me, being in nature is very rewarding. The experience of exploring new sights with others makes this a truly rich experience and one for which I have many fond memories.  Rather than feeling sad or spending my time missing loved ones, I have been fortunate to truly embrace a new life path where adventure and connection are always available to me.  

For these reasons, I strongly recommend that everyone in academia immerse themselves into as many clubs and societies, which are freely available to you. It is a ticket to adventure, connection and meaningful life experiences. 

Heloisa Lemmertz is a PhD Student in the Department of Sociology at University College Cork.