You’re in For(eign) a Treat – Brazil


Maria Eliza Rodrigues Santos is a 17 year old from Sào Paulo, Brazil. She is staying with the Andersons, a couple who live in the Prior Lake/Savage area and is completing her senior year here at the PLHS.

Maria has been wanting to come to the U.S. for a while now. “When I was young, there was always something nice about watching movies that take place in America.” She also wanted to come here because she loves English and wanted to experience a new culture.

When Santos found out she was coming to Minnesota, she was not all smiles and wanted to cry. Three years ago, Maria’s brother came to Minnesota as a foreign exchange student and stayed with a family in Burnsville. The only thing she knew about Minnesota was that it was “fricken cold.”

Santos was hoping to go to a warmer state, like Arizona. After seeing Arizona’s weather when she first got to the US in August, she realized it would not have been the place for her. “I think it would be WAY too hot there!”

At first Maria struggled with leaving her family for a year. “It’s sad in beginning, but it’s a nice experience because you learn how to be independent. You know that you’re doing something to help yourself and you can learn a lot and you know you’ll get to see them soon.”

Maria said traveling here by herself was kind of weird claiming it was strange not being in her home country. Another thing that was a bit different was the English. She had learned English before coming here, but everyone spoke it so fast that it caught her off guard.

When Maria first landed here she thought it was really pretty! She loved it because it’s such a big city and it was nice that we have very little traffic.

When Santos saw snow for the first time, she claims she “wasn’t thinking and just touched it. It was so cold, but it was absolutely gorgeous!”

Maria has enjoyed American high school culture and activities such as Homecoming and Halloween.  For Halloween she dressed up as a cop and went to a Halloween party at her host mom’s daughter’s house. Maria is looking forward to senior lock-in and prom!

When I asked Maria what was different between the school systems, she said “EVERYTHING!” Just like in many other countries, in Brazil, the teachers come to the students. The grading scale there goes from 0 to 10. They have 6 classes and school starts at 7 a.m. and ends at 12 p.m. Since their schools end early, they don’t have a designated lunch time. Instead, they have a snack time. Their school year starts in February and goes until July. Then they have a month long break until beginning of August. Then, from August to the end of November they have school. From December to February they have a break, and the cycle starts again.

Maria competed this year on the Prior Lake Speech Team. She was in the category of Humorous Interpretation with her piece about a married couple that does not want to do anything together.

Santos thought life here would be WAY different, believing it would be just like a movie. “I thought so many things like I would be a cheerleader who dates a football player and that we would sing like High School Musical, but it’s nothing like this. I figured out it’s normal life, in a different way.”

Maria has loved being in Minnesota! Let’s give her the most amazing senior year a girl could ask for!