A dream inspired by Harry Potter and a love of all things British has brought Mariana to a new life in the UK, one where despite the challenges of finding the perfect home, is making her happy every day.
Connections are very important to Mariana Serapicos, a Brazilian by birth but most definitely British in every other way. Mariana came to the UK in 2012 as a third-level student and fully immersed herself in the English way of life.
“I have wanted to study abroad, and having learned English as a child, I knew it had to be in an English-speaking place. I have always felt a deep connection to the UK – as a child (and even now!), the Harry Potter books were my go-to reading, and watching the movies made me appreciate the beautiful British landscape. The Potter stories awakened a deep love for the UK in me and started me on my goal to study and live in the UK”.
Already an avid writer, Mariana took first prize in the TogetherintheUK (TGIUK) 2021 Story Telling Competition for her excellent and very relatable story of ‘9 Lives’, detailing the highs and lows of living in nine different homes over as many years. Her entry was judged by Professor Jonathan Portes and Sunder Katwala, who remarked that many of us connect to the hassle of packing, unpacking, and repacking our belongings. Both immigrants and Londoners alike know the ups and downs of renting or house sharing in our great capital. The only certainty for renters is the fact that you are constantly on the move! Connections, and the importance of connecting, was at the heart of Mariana writing her story.
“I think it is essential for immigrants to share our stories – it makes us feel seen and a little less lonely. When we share our good and bad times as a community, we can inspire others to keep going, and it gives us a weird sense of comfort that we are not the only ones going through difficulties. My packing and bubble wrapping story of moving from nine different houses over nine years connects to immigrants and fellow renters. I have joked with my friends that eventually, I will write a book on “Ways to Pack your Things”.”
One of the hardest things about leaving home is losing the physical connection with our family and not visiting whenever we feel like it. It’s not that easy to pop in to see your parents when you live thousands of miles away, and with COVID travel restrictions, that connection has been even harder. Mariana recalled that when she first arrived in the UK, she did not have a SIM card to allow her to call home and that it was 48 hours later before she could call her mum and reassure her that she was okay. Today, social media has undoubtedly helped keep connections open from a distance, but for many immigrants, making friends in their new community and establishing a “framily” has been their saving grace.
“I have a solid group of friends, and they have become my family away from family. And I know I can count on them if I need them and vice versa. I love my family in Brazil, and nothing can replace them, but my new family in the UK are the next best thing.”
Keen to settle in quickly, Mariana decided to immerse herself completely into UK society and make friends in her new environment.
“While I love meeting up occasionally with Brazilian friends and speaking Portuguese, I chose to submerge myself into this new diverse, multicultural community that makes up London. I wanted to make the most out of the place that I decided to live in and embrace a Britishness blended with so many other cultures.”
Mariana credits her arrival as a student as a positive contributory factor in helping her embrace her new world.
“Coming here as a student was a benefit for me. I already had a connection as I knew what I would be doing and where I would be doing it. Having an imposed routine and, to some extent, imposed friends helped me quickly adjust in those first few days. By talking with fellow students, I found out how to get my NHS number, set up a bank account and the best shops to use. All the practical advice that a new immigrant needs to know but is unsure where to find the information. Those friends from my student days have stayed with me, and I am delighted and proud to have just become a godmother to my friend’s baby. As I said earlier, friends become family.”
As a self-acclaimed anglophile, Mariana had a preconceived vision of how British people would be – very polite, formal, punctual, and somewhat reserved. Ironically, her friends in Brazil use those exact words to describe Mariana’s character.
“I think my character is more fitted to the stereotypical British person; unlike most Brazilians, I am punctual, reserved and very much enjoy a cup of tea! And while those stereotypes are actual, what amazed me most was how open, and welcoming British people are. I have never felt like an immigrant, rather just part of the great British family. I have settled into the UK so much that I have applied for British citizenship. The UK is my home now and always.”
Listening to Mariana talk enthusiastically about her life in the UK made me think of a quote from Harry Potter, which seems to describe best how Mariana has made here her home.
“Differences of habit and language are nothing at all if our aims are identical and our hearts are open”. Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Chapter 37
We hope that Mariana finds her forever home and can finally throw away her bubble wrap.
To read Mariana’s story, go to (link)