“In Dublin, I feel like I’m part of a living history”
When Ketlyn Mara Rosa was eight, she first heard the music of The Beatles. She didn’t understand the lyrics on the vinyl records her older sister was playing but still memorized the words. “I immediately loved the sound of English and I think that’s what attracted me to this language. It sounded so poetic and pleasant. Rosa would continue to study English at university and take a language trip that would eventually bring her to Ireland in the midst of a pandemic.
Rosa talks to me via Zoom from her small apartment next to Blessington Street Basin in North Dublin city center. She opens the conversation by describing how lucky she feels to live next to this quaint downtown garden. The Brazilian academic particularly appreciates her beauty after going through winter confinement alone and in a smaller studio.
“I spent January, February and half of March without meeting anyone else,” she says. “I wanted to follow the sanitary instructions so as not to meet people inside. I know most people have done the same, but a lot of them live in a house with others. I was completely alone.
Rosa moved to Ireland in October 2020 after obtaining a Postdoctoral Fellowship in the Film Studies Department at Trinity College. Before coming to Europe, she had spent most of her life in her home state of Santa Catarina, near the city of Florianópolis in southeastern Brazil.
“Growing up there was like growing up in Heaven. You have access to beautiful beaches and my best childhood memories are going to the beach with my family and being outside in this natural environment. ”
After school, Rosa studied for a degree in English Language and Literature at the Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina (UFSC Brazil) and spent a semester abroad in the city of Detroit, an experience she says was “a dream come true”.
“I have always been very linked to American culture and it was my first time studying cinema which is my area of expertise now. Being immersed in this environment where everyone spoke English all the time was very overwhelming. I stayed in this dorm and it was like straight out of a college movie. But Detroit is such a welcoming city and the people were really nice.
After completing her undergraduate studies and teaching for a while, Rosa and her older sister, who had majored in Shakespeare’s writings in college, together applied for an MA in English Linguistics and Literary Studies. “The whole program was conducted in English, which is unusual for Brazil. Normally you can work with American, British and Irish literature and cinema, but this is done in Portuguese.
Rosa specialized in war films and pursued a doctorate focusing on this genre. In 2017, she was awarded a four-month fellowship to work on her PhD at the University of St Andrews in Scotland. “I felt really welcome and the only problem was the weather. Even spring and summer were ridiculously cold. But it was an incredible opportunity to go to such a prestigious university.
After completing her PhD in 2019, Rosa worked for a year as a professor at a private university before securing funding for a two-year postdoctoral research position at Trinity. She arrived in Ireland in October 2020, just as the country began to impose Covid-19 Level 5 restrictions.
I was completely focused, I had no distractions, it was like a training camp for writing a thesis or a book
“When I arrived I had to self-quarantine for 15 days in an Airbnb. The window in my apartment in Drumcondra was my window to Ireland, it was the only thing I could see. It was frustrating to be in Europe and stuck inside but at the same time I was in a comfortable position in a warm apartment, I had food, I had internet. to be patient.
Rosa began venturing to Trinity College for work in the months leading up to Christmas. However, like everyone in Ireland, she had to lock herself up from mid-December. “Christmas is always a big thing in my house, so my family was sad that I was here alone. But we zoomed in a lot, watched movies together, and found a new way to celebrate. Self-pity wasn’t going to help, we just had to adjust. But the worst came later when the restrictions really kicked in. “
Watching from afar the escalation of the Covid-19 emergency in Brazil was also “very scary,” she adds. “I wanted all of my family to be safe and free from harm and would call them constantly to ask if you were wearing a mask, did you use hand sanitizer? I always checked to make sure everyone was safe.
Rosa embarked on her research during the long winter confinement and focused on writing chapters for a book she is working on. “I was fully focused, I had no distractions, it was like a thesis or book writing training camp. It was always difficult but I actually think now something positive has come of it. I really focused on what I needed to do and am ahead of my job now.
“I missed interacting with people, but I exercised a lot so I wasn’t locked in. And you see people on the streets, it’s not like you’re in this zombie apocalypse world. People would say to me ‘you don’t really know Dublin from this experience’, but I don’t agree. I think I lived my Dublin. Everyone has a different version of Dublin and in my version it wasn’t crowded but it was something that I cherished because I worked really hard to get here and be in Trinity. I don’t think it’s wasted time.
Rosa feels her priorities have changed during the pandemic. “When I first applied for the scholarship, I felt like it was the only thing there was on Earth. But then everything changed and my concern was to get here safely and maintain my health and sanity. All of a sudden it was just about living and being alive.
Since moving to Blessington Street, Rosa has searched the 1911 census records for the apartment building where she lives. “I could see the names, ages and occupations of the people who lived here and felt like I was in the middle of the story. This is how I feel in Dublin, that I am part of a living history. I love that the people of Dublin recognize this story and the importance of looking back and remembering what happened before and learning from it. History is really alive here.