International Spotlight: Learn about Brazil beyond the stereotypes.

Everyone knows that Brazil is the land of beaches, Carnival, and soccer players who are known by one name. Right? Yes, but Alexandre (Alex) Ferreira, a junior at St. Thomas from Brazil, will tell you that there is a whole lot more to Brazil beyond the stereotypes.

“There are many things I would like to teach people about Brazil, Ferreira remarked. "First, we do not speak Spanish – we speak Portuguese. Second, there are so many more things back home than the stereotypes. Brazil is more than the beach, Carnival, soccer, samba and the rain forest. We have a much richer culture than people imagine.”

Alex Ferreira

Alex Ferreira

Ferreira is a junior, majoring in English – writing emphasis. He works at the library and is a volunteer at ELS and with the International Student Ambassador program at St. Thomas. He was born in Espirito Santo do Pinhal, Brazil, which is about 120 miles from Sao Paulo.

After graduating from high school, he moved to Porto Alegre and took a course to become a member of the Brazilian Air Force; he served as a sergeant for five years. He worked inside planes and airports (mainly in communications), then began working with administration and computers. Ferreira then started his own computer company, which develops data base systems for companies, in 1995.  After learning about Minnesota and St. Paul from four Minnesotans who were visiting Brazil, he decided to make the trek and study here.

“I knew nothing about the Midwest and Minnesota before coming. I was considering going to England to study English, but I was convinced that St. Paul was the right place,” Ferreira said. 

He came to Minnesota in April 2009 and began taking classes at the ELS Language Center on the university's St. Paul campus.  He had taught himself some English by translating English computer manuals with a Portuguese dictionary, but needed to improve his speaking and writing abilities. In August 2009 he began taking classes at Inver Hills Community College. He became a full-time student at St. Thomas this fall.

“I felt at home on the St. Thomas campus ever since I was an ELS student. I like that the classes are small and the professors know you. It is a warm environment with many resources available for students. And I love St. Paul, how it is a healthy city full of walking and biking. Even though I doubted myself at first with my ability as a college student, I am really happy,” he remarked

Along the way, there have been some surprises, and he has found similarities between Brazil and the United States. “There are more different fruits and foods in Brazil," he said. "Minnesota is much better than I imagined: the look, food and the people. We both have similar behaviors and have friendly cultures.”

Ferreira invites Brazilians and international students from around the world to study at St. Thomas. “To the Brazilians, the undergraduate system is very interesting and you will like it. You can study the classes that you want to study and have many options. To all prospective international students, Minnesotans are very nice, the Twin Cities is the best place to live, and St. Thomas is great. You can survive the cold because it is warm inside. I was initially really afraid of the winter, but it is not as difficult as I thought it would be,” he said.

Although his plans are not set, Ferreira knows he wants to live his life as a writer. After graduation, he may continue on to graduate school here at St. Thomas, work for a few years, then return to Brazil. “But, things may change. All I want is to live my life as a writer,” Ferreira said.

To learn more about Brazil and Ferreira, the university community is  invited to attend a CultureLink Tea presentation at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 17, in Room 155, Murray-Herrick Campus Center. Tea and Brazilian treats will be served.