Blogs >> Life after Schumacher - the next step by Rafaela Graça Scheiffer

Life after Schumacher - the next step by Rafaela Graça Scheiffer

Alumni gathering in Belgium

After four months of my dissertation journey, part of a bigger walk through a year-long master’s programme at Schumacher, I saw myself as an ex-student of the College. How come that beautiful building, lovely kitchen and playroom would not be my home anymore? So does that mean that I cannot stay the whole afternoon in the Holistic Science room anymore? Or sleep in the couch of the Study room? Or sneak biscuits in my pocket after the morning break?

I felt a great sadness when I finished the course for the simple fact that I didn't want things to change. But I finally allowed this sadness to show me the way.

Having decided not to come back home after the conclusion of my MSc Holistic Science, I was lucky enough to stay two extra months living in Dartington (the estate which nests and nourishes the College) and observing my new status of alumnus. During this time, my friends were really important because I make sense of the world and organise my ideas when I speak, walk, share whatever I am feeling. So I learned that we have to allow the fruits to mature in their own time, that trying to rush is usually an unnecessary waste of energy.

In the meantime, I spent time building friendships with the new students, we went for walks in the forest, shared wine and stories at The Edge of Chaos and also engaged in activities outside of the college, such as a workshop on Theatre of the Oppressed. Every moment I spent with my new friends (and some old, but gold) were a celebration of my love for the College and all the unforgettable moments alive in my heart.  I also had time to fill the College's exchange cupboard with belongings that could be more useful to somebody else, to reflect on my relationship with food, go for winter swims on the river Dart and welcome my mother and show her what I most love at Schumacher.

"I ... still feel afraid, but I am listening to this fear learning each day a little more about myself, thus avoiding fear which might freeze me up."

I went to Belgium for the first Schumacher Alumni Network gathering and saw a whole new universe of possibilities including new projects and ways of working together being revealed to me. I had no idea what people who were at the College 10, 12 or even 17 years ago have been doing, where they live, if they still eat parsnips.

I found out that some are writers, some are poets and lawyers, some started nomadic schools and talk about drinkable rivers. Others work with spiritual leaders, with climate change and leadership, mindfulness and children’s education, with Gross National Happiness and have started their own co-working or have their own podcast to talk about economics in a totally different way.

These and other stories taught me I could feel at home anywhere...And one morning, I woke up ready to go.

So that initial sadness took the form of curiosity for what is to come. I cannot deny that I felt and still feel afraid, but I am listening to this fear, learning each day a little more about myself, thus avoiding fear which might freeze me up.

As usual, I did it with a little help from my friends. Natasha and Mara, who were long term volunteers at the College and are like sisters to me, mirrored my relationship with fear through their own feelings and experience, which connected us and our life stories very deeply. Satish was another friend who took me for walks, listening deeply to me, answering my questions, helping me to see through the fog of my emotions and encouraged me to bring my almost forgotten ideas to life.

And this is how I got nourished and opened up to be taken anywhere; I left for Portugal with my backpack, where I ended up staying for a month travelling with dear friends from Brazil, visiting family and being inspired to take action to addrss the challenges Portugal faces as a result of the forest fires which have decimated forests and the worst drought for 20 years. It gave shape to a project that I developed last week at the Geneva Forum (at the UN headquarters, Geneva), which I see as a seed that might germinate in the future. It was only possible due to the support of the NGO Objectif Sciences International, which facilitated and organised the event and does a great work worldwide with science camps and citizen science.

I also travelled to Germany, where the Murmuration team organised a day with Satish to inspire ourselves, brainstormed ideas and talk about a Schumacher Commons and culminated in a rich co-creation meeting for the Schumacher Network at The Elmhirst Centre, at Dartington. I got very inspired by an initiative of Beatriz, Flávia, Kaline and other students from MSc Economics for Transition, who want to make the transition from student to alumnus softer and easier. 

Finally, I want to express my gratitude for being so lucky that all these collaborative movements are taking place exactly when I most feel the need of connection, care, community. I can smell in the beginnings of even greater stuff.

Rafaela is an alumnus of MSc Holistic Science.