An American School in Brazil


As a Brazilian, who comes from an entirely Brazilian family, it is sometimes hard to maneuver the reality of the place that is Graded. Students speak a mixture of languages that are almost a dialect of its own. Various nationalities and cultures make up our classes. São Paulo and its reality seem completely distant.  From the outside, it is a strongly international school, where the whole world comes together to form a joint environment. However there are certain phenomenona that are unique to this campus.

Although the campus is situated in Brazil, sometimes that fact seems to be forgotten. Students are constantly listening to music from the United States and are active members of American political discussions. When it comes to São Paulo, it seems to live in the sidelines of conversations. It is like the city is simply the host to a American on an exchange program.

It is a complex relationship. We forget the reality outside the red bricked walls, however adapt our Graded culture to so many Brazilian aspects. A conversation switches between Portuguese and English about five times in one sentence in the most natural way. Rice and beans are served every day in the cafeteria. We can even be seen adapting slang words in one language into the other.

Identifying so greatly with national culture, yet studying in an institution where it is sometimes so ignored can be a challenge. Portuguese flows through my tongue with an incredible ease, being spoken at home and with my friends. However here is my article, written in English. It feels like almost a betrayal.

Graded is an institution that strongly emphasizes giving students the opportunity to apply to an American college. Although this isn’t posted in every classroom, I think  it is clear that this is what differentiates this school from traditional Brazilian ones. The entry to Brazilian colleges is rarely seen as an option and receives very little consideration and support. This is understandable, as there is a clearer focus, being an American school, on colleges in North America.

I study in a school that is benefitting from all the positive aspects of Brazil; its people, climate, food, and culture. I am constantly involved in situations that are relevant to my home country, and realize the reality that surrounds me. However, I feel like I am betraying it by targeting my education towards leaving.

This is a dilemma, an identity crisis. We live in limbo where we can’t identify who we are and what our connection is to our country. We seem completely different from students in Portuguese-speaking schools. Their social scenes and way thinking seem foreign. At the same time, we are also not like teenagers from the US, for we have a whole other reality and experience.

Graded is its own little world. Not only do we isolate ourselves from other teenagers our age, but from the reality of our country. We have no diversity in race and class. Our realities are practically all the same. In a way, it makes Graded students so incredibly similar.

To me, there are very few people I can identify with other than some of my Graded peers. It is a constant struggle of defining an identity amidst various different aspects of my upbringing. It is a debate that goes beyond whether I choose to apply to university here in Brazil or a foreign country. It is about who I am.

I know my roots. I am proud of the struggle of my country throughout its history. My parents have never lived anywhere other than this city. No one from my family has ever left. Yet my school, my choice of entertainment, my friends have created another dimension to my personality that is conflicting because I cannot fully admit it. It feels wrong to give up my country. I feels imperialist and elitist, and it bothers me in my core. But I cannot master it. I cannot control my deep desire to experience American college life, even if it scares me. I cannot control that I was not raised the way my friends from other schools were. Graded has empowered me in many ways, but it has also created a whole new identity, not purely American, not wholly Brazilian, that I don’t know how to place.