Name: Joana Goncalves
Degree and University: Bachelor’s degree in environmental engineering and an MSc in hydrological resources from Lisbon Technical University
Work title: Project Marine Engineer at Mouchel, the consulting and business services group.
What do you actually do?
Earlier this year I worked on a project involving the preliminary studies for the expansion of a port in the Dominican Republic. Together with my team, I looked into several options to identify the most environmentally friendly and economical design concept for the port’s development, of which the client chose one. I am currently again in the Dominican Republic on a six-month secondment working on further development of this project.
As part of the Mouchel’s employees’ development programme, I was also seconded to Dubai for three months and worked on one of the most exciting sites for engineers – Dubai Waterfront, a world-class development for residents, visitors and businesses in the world’s fastest growing city.
Were you always interested in working in a foreign country?
I always thought it would be a positive experience to get to know a different country in a way you don’t know when you are travelling on holidays. And I always thought it would be a great challenge to learn a new language and adapt to a new culture.
How did you find out about this particular job?
I applied for a job in Mouchel through an agency in London, but wasn’t successful for that particular position. But two weeks later I got a job offer from Mouchel for another position.
What difficulties have you encountered in working abroad?
The only difficulty I can think of is being away from my family. All the other difficulties, resulting from working away from home, are quite easy to overcome.
What do you like most about what you do and are there any downsides?
What I enjoy most is that the projects are very multidisciplinary, which gives me the chance to learn about different fields. I also travel a lot! I’ve worked in the Dominican Republic and Dubai, which is a completely unique experience.
I also get a very wide experience, which allows me to progress my career in order to get chartered by the Institution of Civil Engineers.
I don’t see any particular downside to what I do…which doesn’t mean it’s a perfect job, just a real job.
Are you considering returning home in the future?
At the moment I am making the most of my experience in the UK and am very happy to be here. I definitely think about coming back home at some point, but rather not in the near future.
What skils do you need to work in a foreign country?
The most important skill to work and live abroad is to be able to adapt to a different culture, understand what is good about it and use it, and understand what is bad about it and learn how to live with it. You go out of your comfort zone, so you have to be determined about what you do. It will be very easy to give up and go back home, but definitely not the best choice.
What advice would you give other graduates wishing to work abroad?
My best advice is GO! You get an experience you will never get in your own country. You learn how to deal with new situations, how to overcome different problems and learn about a different culture that will definitely open your mind. And if possible go somewhere you have to learn a new language.
Other advices might be “be persistent”, “be positive”, and make the most of it!