Bruna Gorresio

One of my favorite jokes with my friends is that you can probably make a trilogy of books or even movies about my life story and it might still not be enough to tell you everything I’ve been through these past 20 years. It’s hard to pinpoint when exactly my life changed because it happened many times and in completely different ways. What I can pinpoint for sure is when I decided to turn my life around to achieve my dream.

I would say that 17/18 is the hardest age for any person, because it’s when we have to make the “most important” choice in our life: what and where am I going to go to university? Geez, an annoying little question that comes a little too soon in our lives. Well, for me it was almost impossible to answer this question, but maybe for a different reason than what you are thinking. Since I was 12, I’ve known what I want to do in life: open my own home-baked goods (cakes, pies etc.). It would be easy to choose what to study, but I couldn’t find a single university in Brazil that offered the right course. The ideal course just didn’t exist in Brazil and I didn’t know what to do, other than go for something that resembled it the most.

I don’t know if you know how it works to get into a university back where I’m from, but here you have to pass an exam covering everything you’ve learned in high school and if you don’t, you normally do something called “cursinho” (college prep course) where you  brush up on all the knowledge you learned in 3 years, in 10 months. I started doing that after I graduated, and I had already settled for something I would study the next year. I’ll tell you now that I was absolutely hating it and I wasn’t even looking forward to going to university, which is not what you want. Lucky for me, the perfect opportunity appeared for me one day. Both my parents are teachers and one of my mom’s students offered me to move to Portugal with her, as she was supposed to move there for an exchange period with her university and her family has a house there and there would be extra room available for me.

Ever since the first time I came to Europe at age 12, I’ve always dreamed of moving here one day, but for some reason I always figured I would do that after I had already finished my bachelor’s degree. I then stopped to think about it after my mom told me that news and said, “Why not go now and get my diploma there rather than wait I don’t know how long?”, so I agreed immediately. Long story short, I researched a lot of universities, and unfortunately my mom’s student chose not to move to Europe, but the idea had been planted in my brain and I refused to stay in Brazil by that point. It just so happened that a fair for international universities was happening that same weekend in my hometown, and I went to it to see to which country I could move. I’ll skip the boring details lol, but I found out that as I have a European passport, the best places for me to move to were either the Netherlands or Ireland, and I chose the Netherlands.

That decision caused the next 2 months to be incredibly chaotic. I had to schedule and take the TOEFL, to write a CV, go after all the paperwork the universities needed, get them translated, go back to my old high school and request my school records, diploma, recommendation letters etc., apply to all the universities that had a program that I liked, etc. That took about one month, because then I got that incredible email telling one of the universities had accepted me and I was one step closer to achieving my dream. Less than a month after that, my mom and I were on a plane with most of my belongings officially starting my move to the Netherlands. Did I mention I had NEVER been to the Netherlands before that? Well, that’s the truth. I left everything behind and risked it to move to a completely new place, 9 thousand kilometers away from my family, to start a new life completely on my own in Amsterdam.

In the end, that was actually not the right bachelor’s for me, and a year later I moved to the perfect course that fits what I’ve always wanted to the T, and I moved to Rotterdam to study it. The program is absolutely perfect: it’s a mixture of international business and languages. Not only do I have business classes, I have language classes, AND business classes in the languages that we study. The best part of the program so far has been the part in which we had to start our own import company and bring a new product into the Dutch market to sell here. It was the best experience and it taught me far more about the business world than I could have learned in an actual classroom.

This move was how I turned my life around in a physical way. I’ve also turned my life around many times from the psychological side by doing therapy to deal with the many things I’ve been through during the 2 decades I’ve been alive. I’m actually doing a new treatment to deal with traumas, which has really changed the way I see not only the present, but also the past, and it has helped me get back to my true self.

Cris Gontow

It is interesting to look at life itself as if it were a movie in retrospect; we see everything we’ve been through, the right and wrong choices we’ve made, but can (sometimes) distance yourself emotionally and even tell the whole story without having to resort to a whole box of tissues 😢.

Since I’m over 50, telling my whole life would amount to an encyclopedia, the reading of which I would not subject my worst enemy 😃. So here are some highs and lows that brought me here and motivated me to help other women try to turn their lives around.

I was born into a relatively adjusted family – mother, father, little brother – of middle-class family from São Paulo. My father was an industrialist in the toy business, which gave me access to things most children dreamed of: playing inside a stuffed animal factory. The dream, however, ended when, at 47, my father died of cancer, and left a bankrupt factory and a family with a dirty name on the market. My mother had to turn her life around to support her 10-year-old daughter and 6-year-old son, and I had to, kind of overnight, turn into an adult.

It wasn’t easy. I cried at night while my mother couldn’t see it, and I learned to cook and take care of the house and my brother to help my mother, who came home exhausted from work and could barely pay attention to what we were trying to tell her about our day at school.

But anyway, I grew up, and luckily, I always enjoyed studying. Unfortunately, however, the career I chose in Brazil is not the best paid – I studied English Language and Literature at PUC São Paulo and became an English teacher. Despite this, I have always been very accomplished professionally, and I am fortunate to have among my students wonderful people, including Andressa Lora, my co-author in this blog💗.

In my career as a teacher I met the person I was going to marry, which was another big change in my life. I’ve always had great personal aspirations – traveling, meeting various places and people, developing myself personally and professionally – but getting married and having kids had never been a big dream for me. With my marriage, my focus shifted from me to my new family, and that, honestly, wasn’t always good.

I don’t think many women admit how marriage causes them to annul one part of themselves to satisfy the other, or to maintain such harmony of the home. Like many, I have been annulled daily to avoid fights, to compromise, to maintain my home.

And, of course, the other and biggest change. I had kids. This is a step without a return in a person’s life, and the best consequence of my marriage, but it’s a step that changes your way of thinking. I don’t want to belittle men, but motherhood is something only the mother understands – and you don’t even have to be a birth mother to get it. It’s an almost genetic change – you change in the soul, in the values, in what is important to you. You really give up your food to feed your child. I never dreamed of being a mother, nor did I imagine the strength of this connection. It’s crazy and it’s forever. Honestly.

Then I went through another crazy change. After the birth of my children, my sex life was reduced to zero, and I entered a process of destruction of my self-esteem, which culminated in a picture of depression and panic syndrome. When I treated myself and strengthened myself, I was able to face the reason for my problem – my ex-husband is gay. I talked to him, who did not accept this revelation at the time. Yes, because the conversation was this crazy: I want to separate because I need a man and I think you do too! It took us both some time to come to terms with it, but this hard process strengthened my ties with my children and taught me the importance of being true to myself.

Ana Laura Velloso

Growing with two very different parents and 3 older brothers I’ve always had a lot of things to look up to, and they’ve all had a different influence on me.

In my dad’s first marriage he had my 3 brothers, and then he married my mom, and they had me. My parents are very different from each other, so I got some traits from each personality. My dad is all about the brain and logic and has a lot of musical talent, my mom is more athletic, and she has an incredible emotional expertise and knows how to deal with people.

I couldn’t have been raised by more amazing parents. They’ve shown me how I can be amazing at many things, that I am strong enough to pursue whatever my dream is and whatever it is I want to accomplish, and they helped me build the skills I needed for that.

In the world that we live in, society establishes that we need to choose something and pursue only that, that women should be a certain way and act a certain way but I’m here to disagree. I have a passion for economics, music, self-care, fashion and sports. Even nowadays women are not that welcomed in the financial market but that can be changed, and it will, and I’ll make sure that I am part of that change.

I want to encourage you to also be the change in whatever it is you’d like. Pursue your dreams, take care of yourself and don’t ever let anybody tell you that you can’t, that you are not capable because let me tell you: I’m pretty sure you are strong enough to do anything if you want it enough, and you will fly in life!