-By Marinagrazia Bisogno-
If I think about two adjectives to describe Maria Linares Carsi, they would be sunny and happy, when you meet her you can feel that she carries the warmth of her native land, Spain. I have known her since I joined S&P, she has been part of our volunteer team for three years as an Event Officer, helping us to organize many events and activities.
She arrived in January 2014 and her story is like that of many other spouses and partners here at MIT. She left her life and her job in Spain to follow her husband who began a post doc here in Cambridge, leaving something sure and stable to start a new and uncertain adventure. We met in a café on Campus and she told me a little bit of her experience here.
The beginning is generally hard for everybody and she said to me that when she arrived she was welcomed by one of the coldest and most snowy winters that New England remembers; “My first thought was: what I am doing here?! It was so hard going around and looking for a place because of the snow”, she told me. She and her husband eventually found a place close to the Campus, and her husband started working and spending most of the time in his office.
One of the beautiful traits that I found in Maria is her positivity which allows her to approach life in the best way, and this mood helped her a lot even in this experience; “I understand that the beginning can be difficult and you can feel depressed but you need to react, I wanted to do as many things as possible, learning English and meeting people”. Her big fear was to not find friends here, so she soon started to attend some courses at a local school where she met Siria (ed. Siria Ledezma, Event Officer) who introduced her to S&P and invited her to join the group. “I was not sure what S&P was, I thought it was a Desperate Housewives kind of group, and I didn’t like the idea, but when I met them it was a beautiful surprise for me. I decided to try and I attended a thank you meeting for the volunteers… I soon noticed that people knew each other and the atmosphere was warm and friendly, they looked like a family, and it was completely different from what I had imagined. So, I started to attend more meetings and events and now here I am!”.
Since 2014, when Maria arrived, the group has grown a lot, and together with the rest of the volunteer team she has organized many events for S&P: from the Orientation to the Ice Skating (which is now in its 3rd edition), but also the Carnival and the first Dessert Competition. I asked her what she thinks of her experience in organizing events, which is totally different from her background as a pharmacist: “I was not sure that I would be able to organize an event but we were three of us and we learnt together how to do, and I enjoyed doing it, it is beautiful to put on an event, see it taking shape and taking care of everything from the location to the small detail ”. She told me that the part she liked most of this experience as Event Officer, despite the pressure that you feel the day of the event when everything must go for the best, is to see people like the event and enjoy it; this is her big satisfaction. “Thanks to volunteering I met many people, some of my best friends actually, and I could keep myself busy in a way that was easy and nice. Furthermore, the feeling of helping other people makes you feel better, it is a pleasure to see that your work has been helpful to give fun and joy”. These thoughts are also part of the suggestions she shared with me and the newcomers: ”Don’t stay at home, you can volunteer joining S&P or doing other activities for the community… meet people and enjoy this experience and everything that it can offer to you; it’s easy to stay at home when you have nothing to do, but volunteering is a very good way to keep you busy”.
We end our meeting feeling a little nostalgic, as we chat about her next departure (she will definitively return to Spain in December), what she will miss and what this life in Cambridge and this overall experience will leave with her, and she was not sure about the answer, maybe she did not think about it, and maybe it is too soon to say: “ To be honest I don’t know what I will miss… probably everything because this was my life for three years, but I can say that I enjoyed everything… I learned to organize events which is not my job, I met people from every part of the world and I learnt to know new cultures. I will certainly keep a positive memory”. In contrast, she is sure about what she will not miss: “I can tell you that one thing that I will surely not miss is the cold and the snow!” and I must say that, as a native of southern Italy, I can guess her feeling!
For our part, we will all miss Maria and her sunny smile very much. Thanks for being our Event Officer and sharing your time with us, we love you! Adios Maria!!!