With a personality that spills out on paper making it burst with life, it's no wonder Veronica has thrived as an international student. Curiosity and the desire to learn English brought her to the U.S. all the way from Brazil. She studied English at the Intensive English Center at University of Nevada, Reno and is now attending the University as an undergraduate student. Learn more about her experience and her second home in the interview below:
Jen: Why did you decide to come to the United States to study?
Veronica: When I finished High School in Brazil, I applied to MANY different colleges and majors, and very randomly (from cooking school to international business). My father suggested that I go to the U.S. to take English classes and I was thinking, “Yeaaaah, I finally going to go meet some movie stars. ”
Jen: What was your perception of the U.S. before you came here?
Veronica: My perception was that the whole U.S. was just like Las Vegas, Hollywood and New York: huge, crowded, high-tech, “flashy” cities. And of course there would be orange trees in the fall.
Jen: Why did you decide to attend the UNR (University of Nevada, Reno)?
Veronica: I have family in Reno. I also went to a “study abroad” agency (in Brazil). I looked over the UNR booklet and I really liked it.
Jen: What did you think when you first arrived to the U.S.A?
Veronica: I was at the Dallas International airport—that place is HUUUGE—and I thought, “Wooow, they have a train inside the airport and they sell iPods in vending machines.” When I first came to UNR, I thought the same thing...big and beautiful. However, the universities there [in Brazil] are usually one tall building in the middle of the city. UNR has different classical buildings, trees and students are walking around.
Jen: What were the first few days like?
Veronica: "It snowed my first week here and that was the first time I saw snow in my life." Also, I was always getting lost, but people were always VERY helpful and tried their best to help me because my English wasn’t good at all.
Jen: How good was your English before you came here?
Veronica: I could write and read English well, but when it came to speaking in English and understanding Americans, wow, it was really hard for me. I was so shy to speak English, that just asking for a coffee at Starbucks would make me shake like nothing else.
Jen: What do you enjoy most about studying at UNR?
Veronica: All the different types of activities and clubs that UNR offers: sports, travel, books, yoga, art, volunteering, science, etc. The people here are awesome. I made so many international and American friends that I can’t even count all of them—love that.
Jen: What are the educational differences between Brazil and the U.S.?
Veronica: Here in the U.S., the students can choose between several classes they want to take. In Brazil you can’t really choose which classes you want to take. When you choose a program, all the classes you have to take are already set up for you. Another big difference is that in Brazil changing your major is not easy. For example, if you want to change from Business to Engineering, you would have to start all over again. Here in the U.S., it is not a huge deal to change majors because many credits are transferable.
Jen: Can you tell me about a unique experience you’ve had since while here?
Veronica: The first time driving here was quite an experience. In Brazil, there’s no such thing as turning right on a red light, so whenever I would stop on red light, I NEVER remembered that I could turn right. People would flash their headlights at me, honk nonstop and I would think, “Why are they doing this?” Traffic laws get very challenging for foreigners sometimes.
Jen: How have you handled finances?
Veronica: My family helps me pay for the expenses. I also received a scholarship from the International Students Office, which was a lot of help.
Jen: What do you miss the most from home?
Veronica: My father, my mother, my brother, all my friends, the sun and beaches in Brazil. I also miss eating rice and beans every day.
Jen: Can you tell me about your experience making friends?
Veronica: I made friends at the IELC that I will be in touch with for the rest of my life. Everybody is so much fun! In the beginning, it was a little tough because I wasn’t confident in my English skills. I was also missing my Brazilians friends a lot, but it didn’t take long for me to start meeting new people. I had the best time making friends here!
Jen: What is your advice to other international students?
Veronica: Don’t be scared to ask for a coffee at Starbucks! I used to think that people here would judge me every time I spoke in English and I would be really ashamed when they couldn’t understand me. And this is not the case. Most of the people will try their best to understand you and they don’t mind your accent. So don’t be too hard on yourself!
Jen: How has your time here changed your perspective?
Veronica: I really feel that Reno is like my second home. Before arriving here, I didn’t think that I would connect with so many people and adapt with so many new things. I thought, “Oh, I’m sure it will be a nice experience, but I would probably just go there, learn English, and that’s it.” But I learned so MUCH MORE than just English. It’s about people, culture, differences, friendships, etc. I made the best decision ever when I chose to come to study in the United States.
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