Adjusting To a New Reality: Meet Gabriela Townsend

Gabriela Townsend moved to the U.S. at the age of 13 and had to leave the only home she’d ever know, but soon enough she found her place in her new environment.

Her Campus (HC): How old were you when you first moved to the U.S. and what was your reaction to it?

Gabriela Townsend (GT): I was 13 when I first moved to the U.S.—so just about seven years ago. I remember being told that we were moving and having an overwhelming mixture of feelings. I had been to Florida before, so I knew what it was like and I was excited but also extremely nervous to leave the only home I had ever known. I was lucky enough to have a great support system and moving here with my twin brother made things a lot easier because I knew I wasn’t alone in the way I was feeling.

united states open passport with stamps Photo by ConvertKit from Unsplash HC: What was the most difficult part adapting to life in the U.S.?

GT: It was a lot harder to adjust to the social scene than I thought it would be! Making friends and being the “new kid” at times did not come easily. Especially moving here at such an already developed age. I had already established a foundation in Brazil and moving to a different country was really overwhelming. It took me a couple years to fully adapt, I didn’t know anyone here so starting freshman year trying to understand the education system and making friends was a lot to deal with at once. Don’t get me wrong, I felt very fortunate to obtain the opportunity to move to the U.S. It was just a lot to take in at such an awkward age. Luckily, though, by the time I got to my Junior year of high school I managed to create a solid group of friends I still get along with to this day.

HC: Was adjusting to the language and American society harder than you thought it would be?

GT: I actually had already been learning English for a couple of years. Even though my first language is Portuguese, my dad was American, so he always made an effort to ensure that me and my brother received an English education. Even though I had a pretty good grasp on the English language, it was really different speaking it in an environment where the people around spoke English with their parents at home. The slang was a bit harder to pick up on than I thought it would be but after a year or two of being here, English became so natural that now I feel more comfortable speaking English than Portuguese!

HC: What’s one difference you could identify between the education in the U.S. versus the education in Brazil?

GT: I feel like the education in Brazil was a lot more rigorous than that in the U.S. As a middle schooler, I was learning 13 subjects at once. I was studying three different languages at once, I was receiving history, math, geography and biology all at the same time. I was very fortunate to be able to attend a private school in Brazil because the difference between private and public was bigger than you would think. That was another thing that shocked me about the U.S.—the difference in the quality of education between public and private was not as drastic as I had grown up thinking. Getting an education in the U.S. was a lot more laid-back than I thought and I noticed that the education here tends to focus more on America than the rest of the world.

HC: What would you say is your favorite part about living here, and your favorite part about living in Brazil?

GT: My favorite thing about living here is definitely both the opportunities I have as well as the safe environment that surrounds me. The quality of life here is better than I would’ve had if I stayed in Brazil. My favorite thing about Brazil is the people. Everyone there is very warm and welcoming, the environment is always happy and the people always have a positive energy that I really enjoy.

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