Dr Antonella Berry-Brincat left her home town of Marsa at the turn of the millennium to pursue a career abroad. After 20 years working as an ophthalmologist in the UK, she attests to the importance of maintaining a link to Maltese communities abroad, and the home country they left years ago.
At first, she seems uneasy in front of the camera, perhaps reluctant to be in the public eye. Nevertheless, when the topic of her home country is brought into the conversation, her eyes immediately light up and her disquietude soon turns to passion, the type only visible when someone talks about love never-ending: a deep, heartfelt relationship that transcends time and distance.
“There is nothing like the warm and spontaneous attitude that’s part and parcel of the Maltese people,” Dr Antonella Berry-Brincat says.
“The ability for a Maltese person to stop whatever they’re doing, meet someone outside, and have a coffee at a moment’s notice, is something nearly unheard of here in the UK, where the community and the people I interact with on a daily basis are perhaps more emotionally distant. There are obviously pros and cons to this, but it’s true when they say that absence makes the heart grow fonder,” she continues.
In Dr Antonella Berry-Brincat’s case, it’s her upbringing in Marsa, and her nostalgia about her home country, that still runs profound. When asked what she misses the most about her home country, the ophthalmologist is quick to answer: her husband would definitely go for the traditional “pastizzi”.
But how does she compare the Malta she left all those years ago, with the country of today?
“Malta has indubitably changed in these past twenty years. Back when I graduated in 1997, and eventually left for the UK at the turn of the millennium, the number of opportunities available for students here in Malta, both from an academic perspective as well as the opportunity to make a career, was somewhat limited,” she says.
“Today, there is a large number of opportunities available for students here in Malta, where they are actively encouraged to advance in their respective field, study abroad, garner new skills and competences, and then import them back to Malta. Not just in the medical or ophthalmologic field, but also in other sectors as well,” she continues.
Berry-Brincat was in Malta as one of the delegates for the tenth annual meeting of the Council for the Maltese Living Abroad, under the chairmanship of the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Promotion Carmelo Abela.
“We discussed several ways on how the Maltese community can remain in close contact with their country of origin. It is perhaps easier for me, who resides in the UK, then other expats and communities who loved in countries like Australia, Canada and the United States, which are not only geographically further away than the United Kingdom, but also have larger populations,” she points out.
The advent of social media, according to Berry-Brincat, has also introduced a new element on how expats can remain in contact with Malta.
“In light of the advent of social media and other innovative tools of communication, such opportunities can be further exploited in order to reach these people. Specifically, those Maltese expats who are left out, and do not form part of their local Maltese community abroad,” she says.
“We need to make sure that these people remain part of the Maltese diaspora, and remain in contact with their country of origin. We need to do what we can to make their lives better and to make sure that Maltese expats integrate as much as possible with the local community of the country where they reside.”
“Nevertheless, we must never forget where we come from: our traditions and our roots make us who we are.”
As a way to preserve such an outlook, Berry-Brincat suggests the use of social media to promote the use of the Maltese language, as well as other cultural aspects. “It’s imperative that whenever a Maltese person goes abroad, they do not forget what being Maltese actually entails. It is perhaps our obligation to teach what defines us as Maltese to our descendants, and to all of our future generations.”
“The link never goes away, but we still need to strengthen it.”
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