Maria Ribas Tur – Global Perspectives migrants’ experiences

At WCIA, we understand that global issues impact people differently in Wales and around the world. During COVID, we collected global perspectives, in people’s own words, about how the pandemic was affecting them. We are starting a new series of global perspectives on the topic of migration.

Throughout time, people have always migrated in and between countries. In the UK, issues like Brexit and the approach to inward migration impact migrants in Wales. In this series, we explore these issues by asking people who have migrated to share their perspectives, in their own words.

In the first of our series, read Maria’s story about her experience living in Cardiff.

Maria moved to Cardiff last September 2021. She works at Cardiff University as a lecturer for Catalan language and culture, and Spanish. 

Here’s her story:

Why come here to the UK? And why Wales? 

I studied English back at university. As part of the project Ramon Llull*, among all the options that I was offered, I thought that the UK would be the best as I wanted to go to an English-speaking area. Regarding why Wales [sic], well, basically because of the type of job that the University of Cardiff was asking from me. Though to be fair, there was no specific reason aside from that the requirements that they ask for were compatible with my professional goals and aspirations.  

How has been your experience so far in this country? 

I feel really lucky. Even before I arrived in Wales, I found many people who helped me. For instance, the university staff aided me a lot to process my visa and solve all sorts of technical issues to prepare for my arrival here in the UK. Compared with experiences that my colleagues had in other cities across Europe and the UK, well, just to say that they weren’t receiving all this help, so, I am thankful for it. And also, in my personal life, when I first arrived here, [Wales] I had to find a place to stay and just by chance, I think, I managed to meet very nice and welcoming people living in Wales and who helped me to find a place and get used to the ways of this country. 

Maria in front of Cardiff University

During the first months though, I must say that I was mainly hanging out with foreigners rather than locals. Over time, now, for instance, I managed to meet other people, locals from Cardiff and other parts of Wales… I guess that’s normal when you come to a new place, you look for people who would understand your situation, how you feel being in a foreign country and so on…

After some months I decided that if I wanted to stay more time here in Wales, I should put some effort to meet locals, as other migrant people like me might be leaving at some point. So now that I’ve met many different people, I reckon that the Welsh are very welcoming and sensitive, especially to cultural minorities. For instance, when I explain that I teach Catalan, some people in the UK question its use, while here in Wales, I feel like my job is taken more seriously. I guess that is because, well, Welsh people have this same sensitivity to the Welsh language… 

Do you see yourself staying here permanently? 

At least I would like to stay here for a year or more… At the moment I have a two-year contract, and in the hypothetical case that I wanted to stay here for more years, I should re-apply for a visa again, and there is a lot of bureaucracy to be dealt with for which I am not looking forward. [sic] So, we will see. 

Now that you have lived away for a while, do you see any difference between how a migrant person is portrayed here and in your country? Has your stay in Wales as a migrant person altered the way you see things? 

This is my first time abroad, so, of course, I experienced things that made me think a lot about how migrants in my homeland may face things and also about experiences that they might have had… But of course, I think that here I’m in a privileged position. Yeah, I’m a migrant but, normally, I’m not seen as part of a specific minority. Like I’m not racialised, [sic] or anything. So, even if I have had difficulties because I’m a migrant person, I cannot imagine if, on top of that, you have had to also deal with racism and other discriminatory behaviours.

How migration is seen in Europe and the UK, I believe is rather similar. It depends on your race, economic status, gender, etc. You can be seen as a different type of migrant person depending on the language that you speak, all bureaucracy that it entails to be in another country… Or in a bad connotation, you become a migrant when your skin colour, religion, etc. Is not the same as the white middle/rich class collectives of your current country of residence. I’m from Ibiza, and even there I can say that there is a difference in how is treated a rich white German comes to live there, than a middle-class Moroccan family. [sic] So yes, I think that “I’m lucky”, and although I am still part of a migrant collective, I feel that we cannot be put in the same group, as the difficulties that I have faced aren’t the same as people of colour, lower economic status, or from a non-Christian background. 

Do you feel that Brexit has had an impact on your life and/or changed how migration is perceived? 

Brexit emphasised my migratory status, like being part of that group. I think it’s bad and an inconvenience that now we have to go through an application process to get a visa and of course, for all that Brexit implies. But on a positive note, it has also made us, Europeans, see things as they are. Migration is no longer generally understood as something foreign, but instead, it is now a term that can also define us. Overall, because of Brexit, I see now as an opportunity for us, Europeans, to reflect on how we treat migrant people of all nationalities, religions and ethnicities in our own countries and foster change.  

Written by Clara Morer Andrades, 2021/22 ESC volunteer with WCIA

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