On the last 28th of December we were pleased to participate in the 7th GraPE – Annual Forum of Portuguese Graduates Abroad, of which PAPS was one of the organizing members, together with our sister organizations across Europe. GraPE is a unique event that takes place in Portugal every year during the holidays and which aims to gather Portuguese graduates living abroad, inviting them to share their professional experiences and interact with others alike. This Forum was born as an effort to promote the establishment of personal and professional networks, strengthen the ties between the members of the diaspora and Portugal, and build bridges between Portugal and the world in the most diverse areas – from science and technology to economics and culture.

GraPE had its beginnings as a joint venture of PAPS and PARSUK in 2012. In the following years AGRAF, ASPPA and more recently APEI Benelux also came together to co-organize this yearly event. For its 7th edition, GraPE had the support of the Business Association of Portugal (AEP) and the AEP Foundation, who kindly hosted us at their headquarters in Leça da Palmeira, Porto. While previous events focused mostly on the present and future of Portugal, and the opportunities it presents, this year we decided to focus on the achievements of the Portuguese diaspora. Importantly, we wanted to discuss how the members of the academic diaspora act as representatives of Portugal abroad, and how we can all respond to a challenge posed by the President of Portugal, of becoming informal ambassadors of the Portuguese enterprise.

Fittingly, the meeting started with a message from President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa himself, followed by the opening intervention by the Portuguese Minister for Science, Technology and Higher Education, Manuel Heitor. Minister Heitor discussed the current situation of the Portuguese scientific environment, including present and future government funding plans. After this distinguished opening, several discussions on the topic at hand ensued. Each session consisted of short introductions by each speaker followed by a round table discussion moderated by members of the organizing committee, where all atendees could participate.

The first session focused on culture and education, and included the participation of Nuno Marques, who shared his experience as a director of the Porto Piano Fest; Joana Moscoso, who talked about the incredible work her non-profit Native Scientists is doing to bring science to children in disadvantaged areas; and Renato Guerra who focused on his work as a freelance videographer and visual storyteller. The afternoon included an important message from the Portuguese remote psychology platform RUMO, about the perils of burnout in the academic diaspora – an underdiscussed issue our community needs to be aware of.

Most of the remainder of the event focused on science, technology and entrepreneurship. A scientific round table organized with the support of GPS – Global Portuguese Scientists – brought together Monica Bettencourt Dias, Zita Martins and Diana Prata, three incredibly successful Portuguese scientists who returned to Portugal after distinguished careers in the United Kingdom. The importance of multiculturalism and multidisciplinarity for the success of the scientific enterprise was discussed, as well as the essential role of science communication. They discussed how the success of Portuguese scientists abroad has gradually changed our image internationally, but how there is still work to be done in terms of translating this success to the Portuguese scientific landscape.

The last session of the day focused on the overarching attributes of the Portuguese diaspora, and how they can contribute to their success and consequently to spread the image of a modernizing country. Hugo Macedo shared his experiences forming his company Smart Solutions, in the UK, and our very own Silvia Curado (NYU), president of PAPS, reflected on her successful scientific career that has taken her to three different countries. “Persistence” and “resourcefulness” were very much the words of the day, as both reflected on the importance of learning from difficulties that they faced in the course of their careers, and how it was a seminal part of their success. The worldliness and empathetic nature of the typical Portuguese diaspora member, and how these qualities tend to get us noticed in the different communities we integrate were also discussed. Participants of GraPE were encouraged and challenged to wear their Portugality on their sleeves, and not to be afraid to act as representatives of our country. Fittingly, the meeting ended with a topical speech by the Portuguese Minister for Foreign Affairs Augusto Santos Silva, who addressed us as the de facto ambassadors of Portugal abroad. Recent areas where Portugal has taken a leadership position were discussed, highlighting the several opportunities of foreign investment in the country.

All in all, it was another successful edition of the Forum, where old friends and new faces were able to meet, network, and discuss matters of the greatest importance for the Portuguese diaspora. On a personal note, as members of the organization, it was an incredibly enriching experience to be able to share ideas and reflect on the Portuguese diaspora experience with members of all of our sister organizations as we put this event together. To have the opportunity to experience first hand the global span of our community, our shared paths and ideas, and work together across timezones to gather our Portuguese colleagues from across the globe and discuss what brings us together. We look forward to meeting again next year, and until then we will continue to strive to follow the recommendations and face the challenges put to us by this year’s speakers, as we embody our roles as representatives of our culture around the world.

Pedro Sampaio and Ana Carvalho

Photo: André Rodrigues