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YouRegion Neighbours! Cecilia Ceballos

In this new series of blog posts, we will meet and discuss with neighbors around YouRegion, how they adapted to their new life, and some tips for the newcomers!

Today, we meet Cecilia Cevallos, a cheerful and chatty Peruvian who arrived in Belgium back in 2010. After so much time here, she certainly has a lot of adventures to tell!

"So I arrived in Belgium back in 2010, for love. I had met and dated a Belgian man for some time and we decided that I would move to Belgium and we would get married. Now we have a little boy, Mateo, who is 8. My friends would define me as a friendly person, very chatty because sometimes I have to take turns to speak and let people speak, but in general a good person"

So Cecilia, complete the sentence: In the Euregion Meuse Rhine I feel myself:

"Happy, I love it. When I first arrived I lived in another province, near Antwerpen more concretely, and I was not feeling comfortable, I was a fish out of the water. But here I am great, I feel integrated, also, I am more independent, I speak the language better and I also found very nice and warm people, "vriendelijk" they call themselves, so I feel great."

Before moving to Limburg you were living in another province, how did you get through the adaptation process from one place to another?

"Well, to be honest, where I used to live I felt very abandoned, I didn't know there was something like an integration course (that is mandatory) until 10 months after I moved, and same with the language courses, so I basically spent nearly the first year after I arrived in Belgium alone, at home, doing nothing.

However, as soon as I arrived at Ham, everything was easier, the workers at the town hall were super friendly and they spoke to me about the Integration office they had and also the group Vriendentaal, in order to improve my Dutch, which was also a great opportunity for me. I had by then already studied Dutch for a year and a half, but I was still scared and wary of practicing it, but once I arrived there and I got in touch with so many people from different cultures and also different levels of Dutch knowledge, I felt more understood and welcome.

To be honest, I had no idea about this region before I arrived, I was pregnant by then so we were looking for a nice house with schools, supermarkets pharmacies and everything we would need nearby. But when I arrived I got surprised by the people, who are really warm and friendly, for example, you go into the bakery or into the pharmacy and they already know you and chat with you. It is a small town, you know, but having above that very nice inhabitants gives it a special charm."

So, through the years, have you met a lot of expats?

"Yes, mainly through the Vriendentaal group, this region is very plural you know, especially living so close to Beringen, but I have met a lot of people from different nationalities: Turkish, Moroccans, Brazilian, Bolivien, Spanish. Of course, whenever there would come someone new which Spanish is their mother tongue, the group would tell me, sp that was also good to have a little Spanish speaking.

That's why I find these kinds of initiatives so important to get together, and even more if they are promoted by the administration because if it weren't for the Vriendentaal group, I would have had a hard time trying to integrate myself. On the one hand, because they help you realized that you are not the only one in that situation, but also because they organize a lot of things (well, not know due to Corona) like visits to see how the public library works, or day trips nearby, quizzes, activities with the kids."

As you know, Limburg is part of the YouRegion project, which gathers 5 provinces of Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands, what do you expect from this kind of project?

"I would love to see people getting together and learning from each other, exchanging ideas and tips about the region, but also teaching each other about their own cultures, it would be a very nice meeting point. I think that would also be very helpful, especially if the information that you need (for administration, for life in general) comes from the expats themselves, from people that have already gone through that and have some experiences and tips to share."

Maybe you, after all these years living in the region, have some tips for the newcomers...

"To not be afraid and to live. In the beginning, and especially with regards to the language, I was scared to death. I knew that I knew the language well enough to get through the day., but I was just scared of going blank or for people not understanding me, but with time and by exposing myself and being constant. The most important you have to take into account is that you are trying to do your best."

Now let's be more personal, what is something that you would like to import from your country and one thing that the Region should export to the world.

"Well, what I miss the most from my country is my family for sure, thankfully whenever they can they come to visit us, but I miss them tremendously, and also somehow the warmth of the people, which is kind of different from here. and I would export... I don't know, for example, one thing I really love from here is going for walks, just for leisure, in Peru, we don't do that very often. Well, maybe because I come from a little town where is always too hot, but here we always try on Sunday to go for a walk around the forest and everything looks so beautiful and green and is well signaled so you don't get lost, or also to differentiate hiking routes to biking routes, etc. That is something I think everyone should try."

I really want to thank you Cecilia Cevallos, for your insights, and also for all your help, since you were also one of my first contacts in the Region...I wouldn't have survived without you!!

And, for you, reader if you want to be interviewed by me and tell me your insights, your ideas, and your story, you can write me at marta.expatlimburg@gmail.com, or find me on Facebook, Instagram or Linkedin

Until next time...groetjes!!

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