From Portugal to Concord, NH
After finishing my Master’s program, I was accepted into the Portuguese INOV Contacto Program. This is an annual competition that selects around 250 young graduates to place in companies and organizations all around the world.
The big surprise is: you don’t know where you’re going.
It was only two months after being accepted, signing my contract and participating in a two day event to learn about cultural integration that I got to know my destination: Concord, NH, USA.
First impression: I had never heard of this place.
Second impression: If it’s a state capital, and states in the US are almost as big as Portugal, it’s probably a big city.
Guess what? It is a big city.
When I first came, it was cold and snowing. I made an effort to go out and explore since I was anxious to know my new home, and I got the feeling I’ve done it in a morning walk.
The weather became a problem, the lack of big attractions, young people in the streets and late night matinees and eventually the food also became a problem. I felt jet lagged not only from the airplane but also from my diet, my time zone, my breakfast habits.
But then it actually began. I’ve settled in, I was introduced to the people around me and I actually had the chance to get to know them better, beyond the public social occasions. I’ve made friends and learned from them, and I finally started my true Concord exploration.
I learned about local policies and all the non- profits in town, I’ve attended CYPN (Concord Young Professionals) events, heard how great Market Days is, I’ve worked with the Endowment for Health and I’ve learned how the city works to promote public art.
I discovered bagels at The Works and I unplugged my hidden love for Mexican food at Dos Amigos. I got my Farmers Market coins for fresh and locally made goods, I’ve got my own library card at the Concord Public Library and I have become a frequent visitor to Red River Theatres.
I had never tried climbing before and now I’ve done it at EVO for the first time. I’ve also volunteered at the Friendly Kitchen and have come to see how the community works together to address common issues: I eventually realized that everyone plays a role beyond their daily jobs.
They volunteer on Boards, they volunteer for causes, they donate, they care and they work proactively to help people.
This is what makes Concord so big: ideas are on the move and things are in motion. There’s always something going on, something you can do, you can learn or you can taste. It’s just a matter of looking further and trying more.