Outline: What makes a girl who studied sciences in high school (Palmela, PT), to take a Bachelor’s degree in Languages and Business (University of Aveiro, PT), then go to Bologna for Erasmus and after that becoming a chef at a gastropub in England after studying Culinary Arts at one of the best cookery schools in the world!? This is probably the most interesting student experience you will ever have the opportunity to read, so check out this amazing life story!
I would like to first understand a little bit about your academic path. In which area did you study during high school? Why did you choose that particular area?
I decided to study sciences during high school mainly because it is the broadest area. I wanted to be a nutritionist at that time but still wanted to be able to have other options, in case I changed my mind.
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Why did you decide to change to pursue such a different degree?
My Bachelor is in Languages and Business, which isn’t too far away from some of the things I studied at school. At the end of 12th grade I was very confused about what I wanted to be, but was sure that Uni was the next step for me. I ended up going to Universidade de Aveiro to learn not only English, German and Arabic but also Management, Economics and other bits and bobs related to the business area.
What led you to choose that college?
One thing I was always sure of was that I wanted to go North and study away from home. Porto and Aveiro were my first choices, not only because they are cities that I love but also because it is where some of the best Universities in the country are.
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How was your experience back then? What made you decide to change courses? (Talk about the academic experience in Aveiro and then the decision to go study gastronomy abroad)
My experience at Universidade de Aveiro was great. It is a very well organized institution, good teachers and, in general, good facilities. I did learn a lot, got exposed to different visions and ideas. I also had the opportunity to spend one semester in Bologna, Italy, through Erasmus, which allowed me to know a whole new lot of people and open my mind even more.
Why gastronomy and why London?
In my family we cook a lot of things from scratch, from bread to cheese, even wine, so I always had a big interest on food. I wanted to go abroad and the UK was the place that made more sense to me. I went to a beautiful small village in Devon, Southwest England, and studied Culinary Arts at the Ashburton Cookery School.
What were your first impressions when you got there?
I loved it. It was small, peaceful and green, with cows grazing on the hills.
How was your academic experience there?
The school is really well equipped and the chef tutors are brilliant. We learned from basic cooking skills to different world cuisines, we had field trips and ate some delicious food. My class had sixteen people, we were in the kitchen from around 9am to 5pm and worked mostly in pairs, with a different person every week, which allowed us to get used to cooperate with all types of people. I was very lucky, because we all became friends very quickly and working together ended up being very easy.
Did you ever regret doing that major shift in courses and country? Why or why not?
Not at all. Having a nine to five job, sitting in an office is not for me. Working in a kitchen is more dynamic and exciting. And it gives me the opportunity to have a completely different lifestyle.
What were the most positive experiences while studying in England?
I had a pretty decent level of English, but it has improved massively. Because it is a country with people from all over the world, I learned a lot about other cultures. And there is Amazon delivering stuff for free, which is brilliant.
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And the most negative ones?
Fruit and veg are terrible here.
How was your social life there? Did you fit in easily? What were your favorite leisure activities?
There was sixteen of us, living in a tiny place with not much going on, so we became very close, having drinks at the pub, cooking at each others places, going for trips during weekends. My favorite was our road trip to Scotland: we went from south of England to the north of Scotland. It was amazing!
What are you doing now and what are your plans to the future?
I got a job at a gastropub in Marlow, a small town by the Thames river, right after the end of the course. Because it is a high end place, we work about 80 hours per week with very high levels of pressure and stress, but it gives me the opportunity to learn and improve a lot.
I’m planning on getting some seasonal jobs in the future. I would like to spend the winter season as a chalet chef somewhere in the Alps and then get a job as a yacht chef for the summer season in the Mediterranean.
Any advice you want to give for new college students who are unsure about what should they do in the future?
I think we have to remind ourselves that just because we study one particular field, it doesn’t mean that we have to stick with it for the rest of our lives. If you think you might like something, give it a try. If you feel that that area is not for you, simply look for another one.
The author of this article asked to remain anonymous.