By MIA ARANDA
While many students spend the summer heading into their sophomore year completing homework for their first Advanced Placement class or simply relaxing after surviving their freshman year, Redlands East Valley High School junior Beatriz Braga was adjusting to California after moving from Campinas, Brazil in 2019.
Beatriz Braga and her dog Alvin in Riverside, California in 2020. Alvin is currently 13 years old and has moved with Braga and her family to California. (Courtesy of Beatriz Braga)
With relatives in four different states in the United States, Braga’s family decided to make a life-changing decision and immigrate.
Braga explains that Campinas wasn’t the safest city in Brazil in which violence and robbery were frequent occurrences for residents. She recalls multiple experiences where she and her family had to call the police over incidents, even while living in a safer region of Campinas.
When she was five years old, someone attempted to break into her house, prompting her parents and her to lock themselves in a room and call the police. Fortunately, the suspect was identified.
At six years old, after she and her mom heard noises coming from their garage at 3 a.m., they saw two men fighting each other while almost breaking Braga’s gate in front of her house. The police were called and everything turned out okay.
Braga said, “When I was 13, me and my family went to see the fireworks in the city. When we came back, everything was gone. That was in my aunt’s house, so me, my parents and my aunt, lost everything valuable you can imagine.”
“I used to hear gunshots at night, and I was constantly thinking that me and my parents were in danger,” said Braga. “This thought of ‘I’m in danger’ is not healthy at all.”
In Brazil, ancestral origins vary between regions. According to Braga, North Brazil consists mostly of indigenous people while South Brazil has many ancestors from Germany and Italy. In addition, some may come from nearby countries, such as Paraguay, Uruguay, Bolivia, Peru and Argentina, resulting in Spanish being more commonly spoken on the border. Despite the mix in races and nationalities, the majority of Brazilians speak Portuguese, which is the official language in Brazil.
“You will be very welcome there. Brazilians are really funny and respectful people,” said Braga. “It is so easy to bond and create a friendship with someone there. Literally, we can tell our entire lives in one conversation, so you might ask yourself ‘Why is she telling me this?’ Don’t worry because it is a very Brazilian thing.”
Restarting her life when she was 15 years old was certainly not a simple experience. Braga had to leave some of her family and all of her friends behind in Brazil in order to move to Southern California.
“I will not lie, it was not easy to make friends here either,” said Braga. “Most people at 15/16 already had a group of friends settled down.”
Beatriz Braga, her friends and her Portuguese teacher at their middle school graduation in Campinas, Brazil in 2018. Braga’s school system involved graduating middle school at the end of their freshman year. (Courtesy of Beatriz Braga)
Like many immigrants, the language barrier can be one of the most challenging aspects of adapting to an environment in a new country.
“Some people underestimate your intelligence based on your accent or proficiency in English. It is very uncomfortable not being able to express yourself, and some people do not even try to help or understand a beginner,” said Braga.
However, not only does being bilingual open up more job opportunities, it also allows oneself to have a greater view of the world around them and to better appreciate other cultures.
“I would say, being bilingual and constantly switching languages, made my perception so much more ‘open,’ as well as my mind,” said Braga. “It seems like I’m able to understand the world around me more calmly and reasonably.”
REV Spanish teacher Susan Johnston said, “I was always impressed with her ability to switch languages quickly and correctly.”
Johnston continues, “Whenever I have a student in my class that speaks another language, I have an even higher expectation since I know they will be able to process a third language even more quickly. It has always been the case that exchange students or any other student speaking a language, other than Spanish, adapt more quickly and learn faster than some monolingual students.”
She and her family currently reside in Loma Linda. Braga has some family in Loma Linda that moved there about 12 years ago. She is a Seventh Day Adventist church member, as the majority of those in Loma Linda are. In Brazil, Braga had attended a Seventh Day Adventist school.
Braga completed one semester of high school in Brazil before moving to California. At REV, Braga most enjoys being able to choose her own classes in her schedule. In Brazil, students didn’t have the opportunity to organize their own schedule. They also had 15 classes per week, compared to the six classes students have in the Redlands Unified School District. She notes that Spanish and English classes were required since the kindergarten level at her schools.
She said of her REV teachers, “I would say I was very lucky to get to know all of my teachers. They are all very hardworking and friendly.”
Although Braga still has some family residing in Brazil, she is thankful for the opportunity to move and the new opportunities California has brought her.
Braga said, “Restart[ing] your life can be very difficult sometimes, and fun too. Besides all that, I am very grateful for who I have met, and where I live now.”