What brings a Brazilian to small-town Iowa?
Maria Lopes, a sophomore with a double major in business and political science. She was raised several different places over her childhood and teenage years within the country of Brazil. She grew up with her older brother, who now has his own company selling internet. One of her favorite pastimes growing up was playing soccer, which she continues here at Northwestern. Another was karate. She is now a black belt.
Lopes was born in Fortaleza in the State of Ceara, but she spent most of her life in Altamira in the State of Para. She later moved south to the city of Porto Alegre in the State of Rio Grande do Sul and attended college there for two years before coming to the United States. There, she studied architecture and engineering, as well as English.
However, Lopes wanted to be able to play soccer again. In Brazil, it is not normal to participate in sports alongside getting an education. Sports are completely outside of schools, and it is encouraged to pick one or the other to pursue fully. So, when she went to her parents saying she wanted to come to the U.S. to play soccer, she was surprised and grateful when they supported her wish.
From day one, people have told her, “we want you here.”
Lopes also appreciates how the professors at Northwestern are always prepared and have many different viewpoints. Her original fear of coming to a small Dutch town and everyone being the same form of conservative was quickly defeated, and she admires how she is challenged.
Brazil is a huge mix of ethnicities from all over the world. Colonizers came from Europe, Asia and Africa to settle in the country. One could start in the northern end and go to a different city in the northeast region and find a completely different group of people residing there, and likewise, if you were to travel to the east, and so on.
Because of all of the different people that reside in Brazil, it is said that the Brazilian passport costs the most money.
“Anyone could be a Brazilian,” Lopes said.
Whenever Lopes would move to a different city in Brazil, it was hard for her to adapt because it always ended up being drastically different from the last place she lived.
Those who live in Brazil are pressured to find a career that gives you money and status. This is much like the outlook that is had here in the U.S. However, a key difference between schooling here and in Brazil is that in Brazil, college freshmen still have to take a test like the ACT but specific to the major they chose for college. So, in Brazil, if you want to change your major, you have to take the test for that specific major.
one of the events Lopes misses the most about her home country is Carnival, a dance competition that takes place once a year for a whole week. Usually, it takes place in February or March, but it depends on the year. The event revolves around telling a story through samba choreography, costumes and a short song repeated throughout.
The dance groups are made up of one large group divided into smaller sub-groups for the performance. The performances can take on any topic: social issues, politics, history, etc. The smaller groups then take on different parts of a story they tell; the first group does a sort of overture for the whole thing, and then the next sub-groups will come in and focus on specific parts.
The music and lyrics are the same over and over, but the dancing and costumes differ depending on what part of the story is being told. The entire event is a competition, and all components of a performance are open for judging.
Orange City may not have Carnival, but one of the things Lopes loves the most about coming to school here is how everyone is much nicer than anywhere else she’s been. The professors, fellow students and the surrounding community value everyone here.
She has been challenged to go beyond her limit. She admits it’s tiring, but she said, “I feel that I’m growing for the first time in my life, because of how I can see things differently in my own life.”