From beyond the borders: Vanessa Amaral brings Brazil to Geneseo

At first glance, life as a four-year international student from Brazil might not appear to be an easy task, but sophomore Vanessa Amaral has made this daunting endeavor seemingly effortless.

Originally from Belo Horizonte, the capital of the state of Minas Gerais, Amaral decided to come to Geneseo after being an exchange student in New York for her senior year in high school. "I heard about Geneseo and how good of a college it is and [how] affordable [it is]," Amaral said. "I went back home for a year and I decided I wanted to come to Geneseo."

As an international relations major, Amaral is using her time here to her advantage. "It's a good experience for my field because I'm studying IR," Amaral said. "While some people study abroad for a semester, I'm here studying abroad for four years, so I'm really lucky. It gives you a different perspective. In the beginning I thought everything was really different but now I don't even know what's my Brazilian part, what's my American part and things like that."

Even though Amaral has been here for so long that it's hard for her to discern the differences in cultures, there are a few distinguishing features between the two; the game of soccer being one of them.

"I watch soccer back at home, once a week," Amaral said. "We have season passes so we go to every home game. Soccer is big, especially in my hometown because there are two teams so they're rivals and you have to either be on one side or the other, you cannot really be in the middle so it's a lot of fun."

Amaral added that Brazilians are very friendly people with positive attitudes. "There is a lot of diversity throughout the country in racial and economic terms," she said. "People do enjoy soccer, samba and beaches, but there is a lot more to Brazil than that."

Although Amaral assimilated easily to the Geneseo way of life, she said she still misses home - especially the food - and her friends and family.

Some of her favorite dishes include pão de queijo, which is the equivalent of cheesy bread, and a black bean dish known as feijoada, Brazil's national dish. "I don't cook so I don't get to eat Brazilian food when I'm not there," she said.

While she loves her Brazilian food, Amaral has also taken a liking to some American delicacies. "I absolutely love cheesecake," she said.

Due to the campus' welcoming climate, Amaral said she fits right in. "I feel that everyone in Geneseo is welcome to new cultures and to get to know their international students," Amaral said. "I think that people are interested in learning more about other countries and how everything works - that's really neat."

Amaral adds that the people are extremely friendly and the professors are tremendously approachable. "They're willing to help you," she said. "That's the best part of Geneseo for sure."