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Change starts in the classrooms | Article


I was born in Blanes, a small town seventy kilometres north of Barcelona. My parents are not designers, they don’t have a uni degree, and have never been interested in traveling out of Spain.

My mother was born in a remote village of two hundred people, five kilometres from the Portuguese border. We used to go to Galicia every year and I loved it with all my heart.

At home I spoke Spanish with my parents; at school I spoke Catalan and during my summer holidays, I wanted to speak Galego as I fully understood the language.

In Galicia I was the Catalan kid, and in Catalonia I felt I was the Galician one, as everyone told me that my accent was a weird mix. In a way, things have not changed that much. My Spanish-English accent is strong; my dentist in Barcelona calls me “the Australian”, and my GP in Melbourne calls me “the Spaniard.”



The luxury of education

My father is the second of six siblings, raised in an immigrant family who travelled from the south of Spain to Catalonia looking for work. They were called Xarnegos. For me up to that point, the concept of being an immigrant only referred to someone internally moving from one area to another within Spain. That was my bubble.

My grandparents had very limited resources and decided to offer the elder son the opportunity of going to high school followed by university. My uncle wasn’t interested and declined the offer, so my father put his hands up as he really wanted to study and become a draftsman. My grandparents didn’t let him study as the offer was only given to the oldest son. My father started working at fourteen years old and have recently retired at the age of sixty five. He told us that he had been denied the luxury of education, so he always made sure that my brother and I had access to it.



One fish asks another fish “how is the water?” The other fish replies “what the hell is water?

I went to a public primary and secondary school where pretty much all of us looked relatively the same. In my class, we had a German-born student who spoke fluent Spanish and that was something totally out of the ordinary.

Later in life, I studied a Bachelor of Arts in Graphic Design. Being admitted at a private university exposed me to an environment I had never been in contact with: Students who came from wealthy families, some of them highly educated, some of them highly arrogant and some of them extremely life experienced.

In my first year at uni, I met a girl who totally challenged my perspective. She was only eighteen years old but spoke several languages, had travelled around the world, and was in a long-distance relationship with a guy from New York City. Her life seemed like a movie to me.

We instantly connected and became best friends. I helped her to translate the content of our classes from Catalan to Spanish, and she opened up the entire world to me. Geraldine became my biggest inspiration and for many years, most of my decisions were influenced by trying to get closer to her lifestyle.

Six months before graduating from my Design degree, one of my teachers offered me a junior graphic design position. Having a full-time job gave me the opportunity of saving up money for my first trip out of Spain.

New York was love at first sight. It was everything I had imagined and much more. In my eyes, this city represented the ultimate fusion of glorious diversity, cross influences and human richness all in one place, but I couldn’t speak English and I felt I was not ready for it. By the time I left NYC, Geraldine was starting an internship with Milton Glaser, and I felt the most privileged person in the world for being her friend.

A few months later, my grandfather passed away and my father told me that he had left some money for me but, he would only give me the money if it was going to be invested in education.

I debated myself between learning English overseas or up-skilling my web design knowledge, and in the end, I enrolled for a one-year-intensive Master’s Degree in User Interface Design (UID). I applied to the program a few days after the course had started. I thought I had no chances to get in but the director of the course got in touch and scheduled an interview straight away.



Never underestimate the power of representation, or the lack of it.

I remember talking to her about the course and asking: “How many students are there in class?” and she answered: “eleven plus you” so I said: “ok, so we are twelve then” and she said: “no, eleven plus you”. The next day, I went to class to discover that we were eleven men and myself. I had been instantly admitted to the program based on the fact that there were no women, and they needed it, or they wanted to have at least one.

The majority of the students in my course were from other countries, and some classes were conducted in English and I was totally lost. That was my second time exposed to various nationalities, and the second reminder that learning English was a must.



Fresh of the boat

It took me twenty-nine years to find the courage to pack my bag and book a one-way ticket overseas. On September 28, 2006 I landed in Australia with no friends, no family and very little English. This was my first time permanently out of the water, and as my grandparents did, I was also looking for a better future. I felt very proud of myself. I also felt scared, alone and isolated.

During my first two years in Brisbane I discovered the meaning of being an immigrant in my own skin, which is something I deeply recommend to everyone. Being out of the water is not pleasant, but very necessary to broaden up your perspective, and to better understand who you are, your own privileges or the lack of them. Most importantly, the experience taught me about empathy, and it showed me how many other people are living temporarily or permanently out of the water, being their own country of birth or not.

I am writing these lines understanding my level of privilege, and knowing that no one is judging me by the look of my face, my religious outfit, or the colour of my skin. I am aware that I can cross multiples levels and filters being unnoticed until I open my mouth, or someone reads my full name.



Fitting in versus Belonging

During my first five months in Brisbane, I was a full-time English student, surrounded by many other nationalities who would not pass unnoticed within the white Australian framework.

One day, our English teacher asked to pick an animal which we identified with. My answer was a loud and clear “chameleon, so I could fit in any situation”. Being a chameleon is a form of survival which I have practiced greatly during my high-school years, as well as during my first years in Australia.

Until very recently, if you told me that there is a magic switch which would allow me to turn on and off my Spanish accent, I would answer: “Where can I get it?” no matter the costs.



Advocating for a respectful, educated and inclusive creative community.

Many of us, live in a constant tension between being unique and wanting to belong. In our creative industry, the line between belonging and competing against each other can be very fine. 

In my experience, being surrounded by other creatives that inspire your work, and being able to collaborate with them, is one of the greatest advantages of our industry, so please take it: Be generous, share your knowledge, collaborate and support the shit out of each other.

In 2017 —four visas and ten years later— I became an Australian citizen; I gave my first conference talk, and I found my voice. I understood my responsibility to open up and tell my story, hoping it would help others to see themselves reflected in my journey, and to be proud of who they are.

Some people like to call themselves expats, I have met a few of them from the UK and the US. They think it sounds better as it carries many connotations, preconceptions and assumptions about class, education and privilege. A very small percentage of them are actually expats, but the vast majority are not. I have been an immigrant for ten years, and I am very proud of it.

Nowadays, I live on an island where more than the 28% of us were born overseas in over 200 countries; where a quarter of the population speak 260 languages other than English at home; and where over 50% of Australians follow more than 130 different faiths.

And in this context, I find myself surrounded by young students who will become the next generation of designers and thinkers, and I’m hoping that our design community will truly represent the numbers above.

As a woman and educator, I feel the responsibility of spreading this message across by celebrating cultural diversity, supporting women in the industry, highlighting the importance of gender equality and inclusion, and by making sure we ALL understand that bringing more voices, colours, and under-represented groups up on the stage, can only open up our view of the world and make us better.



Teachers are leaders

The unique and rich environment of every classroom in Australia should be treated as a great responsibility, as well as an opportunity for leading diversity, decolonisation and inclusion by example. The revolution starts in our classrooms.

Insights from a very proud multilingual, multicultural, independent female voice.

This article was originally written in January 2022, as part of a report called “Belonging” curated, designed and produced by We Are Tank.