“My children have a chance for a better future here”

Chilean lawyer Constanze Straub moved to Belgium nearly 4 years ago with her children and her Belgian husband. For many who immigrate, it takes a while to find a new country with a new language, as she writes in this blog. She is now an educational ambassador for FMDO, an umbrella organization for associations of people with immigrant origins, and a member of the Mozaïek theater troupe in Bruges.

BAlmost four years ago I moved to Belgium with my husband, daughter and two sons. My husband’s company partnered with a company in Bruges and I wanted my children to see a part of the world; I learned a new culture and language. At first we lived in the center of Bruges, but then we moved to the somewhat quieter area of ​​Saint-Croix.

At first there was a little modification. I have lived in Chile for almost 38 years. Until the age of 24ste In the capital, Santiago, where she studied law. Then in southern Puerto Varas where I finished my master’s degree and after that I worked as a lawyer. I met my husband in Santiago and our three children were also born in Chile.

You may be wondering why my name sounds so German? I inherited this from my ancestors who were from mid 19H Century migrated to Chile. Many Germans left for South America due to political and economic discontent in their country after the failure of the German Revolution of 1848. My grandparents also built a new life in Chile. I think I belong to the fifth generation of German Chileans. Although I am the first generation that has returned to Europe.

“I like disciplined Belgians.”

Initially, when my husband was running the company here in Bruges and my children went to school, I could not immediately start working as a lawyer due to the language barrier. But I was busy. I followed Dutch lessons and through the school where my children went and played sports. I met new people very quickly. I joined Mosaique, the Bruges theater group for non-native speakers who are learning Dutch.

A little later, I got in touch with FMDO through the school and became an ambassador for education. As an Education Ambassador, we know the barriers that non-Dutch speaking parents face in the Flemish education system and we try (after training at FMDO) to impart our knowledge and experience about education in Flanders in our own language.

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I found it very interesting to learn more about Flemish education because my children now also go to school here. What struck me immediately was how well organized everything is here. The schools here are much better organized than in Chile. In Chile, for example, everyone is always late, and there is less experience with education. I love disciplined Belgians.

Our plan was actually to stay here for three years and then go back to Chile. But our relatives, who at first really wanted us to return soon, now advise against this. The political situation in Chile has been very turbulent since 2019, which makes it unsafe. There have been many violent protests by Chileans seeking social reform and tackling inequality.

Many of the Chilean government’s services have been privatized – education, health care, and pensions. So the costs are high, but the quality is not that great. Recently, a new president, Gabriel Borek, wanted to tackle these problems. But the left and the right are still completely opposite each other at the moment, which makes it very uneasy.

“My kids can go to school by bike here, in Chile, unsafe traffic really doesn’t allow it”

The protests have subsided somewhat due to the Corona crisis, but there are still problems and there is little confidence in the government. For example, public transportation leaves a lot to be desired and traffic is often stuck in chaos. So when we got to Bruges we were very surprised when the trains and buses actually arrived at the expected hour. During the pandemic, schools in Chile were closed for a year and children without access to the Internet were out of classrooms for a year. I don’t expect that to happen anytime soon in well-organized Belgium.

It would be good for my children to get Belgian citizenship. I want to live in a country where my children can dream. Where, thanks to good education and good healthcare, they have a chance for a better future. Here they will be able to build an independent life more easily. My kids can go to school by bike here, for example, in Chile, unsafe traffic really doesn’t allow it.

In the meantime, they have been going to school here for three years and are fluent in Dutch. They often correct me and laugh when I make a mistake. They learn much faster than I do and integrate without any issues.

“My dream is to improve education in Chile.”

Of course sometimes I miss the spontaneity and hospitality of the Chileans. There you get a family every day that continues to eat or drink without having to agree beforehand. You see it much less here. Here you sometimes go to a restaurant with friends or family, but the gathering is much less at home. I also miss my brothers and sisters.

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I have a lot of time here to think about the future. I realized that I wanted to help people and start working in the social sector. This is still difficult due to the language barrier. This is why I started a one-year course for a childcare worker through VDAB. This way I hope to get one step closer to a job in social work. I also want to learn French as well as Dutch in the future.

My big dream is to go back to Chile one day and get a better education there. I want to strive for better education and better care for all the children out there. I have already gained a lot of experience and insight about education in Belgium thanks to my role as an education ambassador. Now I want to inform myself more and then come back later with all this information and structural knowledge and make the system better. Although I will continue to live in Belgium with my family for a few more years.

By the way, on May 6 and 7 you can see me in action with the Mosaique Theater Company. We present the piece “Antigone” at the Biekorf in Bruges. Everyone is welcome!

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