[OFFICE NOISES] I am outside the professor’s office waiting for her to invite me in. We must discuss the topic of my final assignment. The meeting is mandatory. I am freaking out. My hands are shaking. My heart, beating very fast and hard. My face, burning. I’m in hell. I couldn’t sleep the night before.


I sit down and start talking as much as I can, trying to make sense of the sounds that come out of my mouth and hide my nervousness. My inner voice tells me, come on, not again. You can do this. While on the other hand, when I dare to make eye contact with my professor, I think, oh my God. She’s probably asking to herself, what is going on with this person?

I don’t remember what we discussed. But I do remember, I did not ask any question, even though I wanted to. When the meeting finished, feelings of frustration and disappointment invade me once again.


The first time I recall feeling a high level of anxiety was when I had to sit for the TOEFL. An international exam that evaluates the level of English for non-native speakers. It was part of the process of an application to do an internship in Washington, DC. Surprisingly, I met the criteria and got selected.

When I arrived to DC, I noticed that my level of English was one of the poorest. And that made me feel humiliated. Embarrassed. So instead of practicing in order to improve the level, I did the opposite. I hid.

Seven years later, almost the same situation but at a different stage, London. I applied for another scholarship to do a master’s and once again I went through a similar process. Interviews, international exam, anxiety, stress.


It’s a sunny afternoon. I am sitting on the grass drinking my mate when I receive the email with the big news I was waiting for. I am selected for the Humphrey Fellowship Program to do an academic year within the urban planning department at MIT.

I am on my own. So I look up at the sky and thank the universe that gives me another chance to prove to myself that I am capable of facing my fears.


So I am now in this process. I’m still struggling, and it’s a battle I must face on a daily basis. But the good news is that I can see the improvements. I know this is not a straightforward journey. There are ups and downs, but it’s getting better.

And before I knew it, I’m going to be talking in English without getting nervous. Or rehearsing before. Or without writing down words. Or doing this translation in my head constantly.

Yesterday, I had my first day at work as part of my fellowship. When my supervisor asked me if there was anything else she needed to know, I told her to be patient with my English. That there will be times that I’m going to be fluent and other moments in which I will find myself stuck. The mere fact of having been able to say that was a huge relief and a celebration.