An Interview with a Brazilian Immigrant: Part I

By Maxine Adams

I interviewed my mom through WhatsApp while she was cooking lemon-chicken in our kitchen from back home. Flavia is currently working to become a certified health coach. She is taking classes at the Institute for Integrated Nutrition. In preparing for her certification, she watches videos on health and nutrition and studies vigorously with reading assignments and homework. In her free time, Flavia likes to exercise and enjoys going outside for walks. Moreover, she enjoys reading books, searching for healthy food recipes online, and watching movies. Her favorite activities include spending time with the family and relaxing at a Brazilian beach resort. The following interview explores Flavia’s experience growing up in Brazil, the history of her family and their involvement in politics, and the differences and similarities shared between Brazil and the United States.  

Maxine: Thank you for taking time to meet with me for a Panoramas interview! What was your experiencing growing up and attending schools in Brazil? How did that pan out?  

Flavia: I always went to private schools in Brazil, because usually when you are middle class in Brazil you and have the means to pay for school that’s what you do. It’s not in the U.S. where you live in the suburbs and go to the nearest school there, in Brazil its different . . . The people who have some more money to pay for school they go to private schools because also there is more quality in the private schools than in the public schools. At least when I was a kid, nowadays maybe there is some improvement in the public system but when I was a kid that was not the case, so I went to private schools when I was little up until high school.  

Maxine: What was your favorite subject in school?  

Flavia: My favorite subject in school believe it or not was math, because I just liked it and I’m good at math. So. I was a good student I did well in the grades of every single subject. I used to study a lot as you’re supposed to, but math was the subject I liked the most.  

Maxine: What did you like about growing in Brazil? 

Flavia: As I told you I was in a very nice private school I had a great time... I used to travel a lot with my group of friends. I think the school life was normal I guess, nothing major. I had a good experience. I was not engaged in any sort of particular group, but I used to do things outside of school. I did ballet one time, I did dance, and those things were not in school. I took English classes. There was always something extra I was doing outside, but I was not in sports, and I liked a lot of theatre. I did a lot of theater.  

Maxine: What was the political and economic state of Brazil when you were growing up? Were you involved at all politically?  

Flavia: I was always aware of everything that was happening all over the world. Because in Brazil, if you watch the news if you read the paper, you’re going to know what’s going on everywhere. And I feel like in Brazil sometimes you know more than you know here (United States), because in Brazil there is more of a notion, a global notion of everywhere because people are interested in everything interested in what’s going on everywhere. So, I always grew up knowing what was going on in all the wars... what was happening in the U.S and whatever was happening like... watching TV and discussing with the family. Plus, my family was very politically engaged anyway so I always knew what was going on politically in Brazil and outside and Brazil. We passed through so many governments and so many things that happened... it is impossible not to know. I was always aware and even my father was involved in politics helping some people when I probably... in high school, so I watched him, you know, doing politics with people and helping people and making meetings and this and that. I was active in that I used to help too. I used to be engaged in that, I had a pretty active political life back then... I would say in my teenage years.  

Maxine: What political issue were you passionate about growing up that you are still passionate about now?  

Flavia: I care a lot about Brazil, I want Brazil to be a country that has social justice. Because Brazil is a really rich country that has so many rich sources and tons of things in other places. Brazil has everything to be a very amazing and prosperous country. Why is it not? Because until today we have corrupted people who are in power and they... do not let that happen. So... that is what I always wanted growing up. Because I saw Brazil like how many times have I seen the currency in Brazil change. Like here you have the dollar, you always have the dollar. In Brazil I’ve seen at least four different currencies... so it was always an unstable place to be. You think you make money, and you work and be safe, and no, you are wrong because some day some guy is going to come into power and do something and you are going to lose everything. So, it was always an unstable place and what I want to see is poverty to be completely gone, people having food on the table and dignity to live and also have a good economy. We have good workers. Brazilians are hardworking people, so we have what it takes to do that we just need better leaders. 

Maxine: What was your perspective of the U.S when you were living in Brazil?  

Flavia: My perspective was always... a desire to come here. Because Brazilians we used to be very influenced by the American culture... American movies, American tv series, American musicians. I loved Michael Jackson and I was crazy about Madonna growing up... so we were very influenced by the music, 80s music, by the movies, the arts, everything. We lived on those things here. For me it was like oh god I want to go there... and the parks everyone dreamed of going to Disney land. And I did come here when I was 15 years old to Disney World. So we were very, very influenced growing up... by the American culture and that was my dream to come here. When I graduated college and did not have a job my mother said why don’t you practice your English there and get better in English and that’s what I did. I came here and I had the best time of my life in San Diego. I always wanted to come here it was like a dream for me.  

Maxine: What made you immigrate to the U.S?  

Flavia:  So, I came to the U.S. as a student on a student visa because I was going to do English in the University of California extension program. They have an extension program for foreigners. So, I came, and you usually get a person who contacts you in Brazil, and the person has connections here and organize they organize the trip for you. You pay of course, it is an expensive program. It is not cheap, but when I graduated, I did not have a job. My mother and father decided I can get practice with English and that is why I got here, and after three months I extended for three more months, and I did another course. After six months, my student visa expired, so as long as you are a student, you can renew it, so I asked to renew it again and that’s when I did a course in American business practice, so I did that course it was my certificate.  


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