Exchange student adapts quickly to U. City


Eliot Fuller, Staff Writer

Not many kids can say they’ve left their family and friends for an entire year to go visit a country they had never been to before. However, Izabella De Paula Braga, sophomore, came here in August with the AFS Intercultural Program, which gives young people the opportunity to live in a different country for an entire year, and stay with a host family.

Braga lives in Goias, Brazil, but is currently staying here in University City with a host family. She attends the high school alongside her host brother and host sister.

“I always wanted to learn about the culture here, like the traditions and everything,” Braga said.

Braga was selected out of many other students in her town to receive a scholarship with the AFS program, allowing her to come to America and stay for one year.

“They were doing this scholarship for the students, so they needed to see your grades and see how much English you knew,” Braga said.

One of the biggest changes between Brazil and the United States were the schools, Braga explained.

“We don’t have electives in Brazil, so we can’t choose what classes we want to take or anything,” Braga said. “We also don’t have sports in the schools.”

Here in U. City, Braga lives with the Holahan family, and has two host siblings at the high school, one of whom is Nicole Holahan, junior. Braga and Holahan have lived together for almost six months now, and have slowly developed a sister-like bond.

“At first she and I were not close, like we didn’t talk at all,” Holahan said. “We started going on more family trips and outings, and we were forced to share a room. Then we just started talking a lot.”

Holahan has two brothers, but does not have a sister. Living with Braga makes her feel like she has a sister now.

“I’ve never had a sister before, so it’s been nice to have her here,” Holahan said.

One of Braga’s closest friends, Rebecca Rico, junior, also says she has formed a strong bond with her.

“It’s like having a little sister sometimes,” Rico said. Rico and Braga met at the beginning of the school year, and quickly began friends.

“We met at lunch,” Rico said. “Nicole brought her down to lunch. And when I found out we had Biomedical Science together, I sat with her.”

From there, Braga and Rico’s relationship continued to grow. They both played on the tennis team together in the fall, and became even closer.

“Her attitude is really positive,” Rico said. “She’s just someone who you can always vibe with.”

Braga has gotten used to her new life here. When it comes time to return home to Brazil, Braga said she will not be happy.

“I’m not anxious to go back,” she said. “A lot of people think I want to come back, but I actually don’t.”

Even though Braga misses the people she left behind in Brazil, she admits that she likes her current life here in U. City.

“Of course I miss my family, but I kind of prefer the life I have here, like the school and the family and everything.”