Down the Hall: Learning curve from Sao Paulo to Pelham

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 16, 2008

By RENAN MINGANTI / Guest Columnist

Comparing places like Alabama to my home of S&045;o Paulo, Brazil is a difficult task for me. One important issue to realize is I have not been here long enough to really know how to be an “Alabama teenager.”

It may sound surprising, but there are actually many things where I live that are very similar to here. For example, we have a lot of American stores like Wal-Mart and McDonalds. We also have much of the American culture (movies, music, food … ).

However, unfortunately, many other aspects of American life are impossible, thanks to very high taxes in Brazil. Here in the United States, you can buy a new car for around $10,000. In my country, you would have to pay close to twice as much for the same car. Here, you can get a Playstation 3 for about $600 or less, where in my country it can be found for $800, or more.

Something else that is evidently better in the U.S. are the school systems. While the teachers are comparable, the organization inside the schools, as well as the building itself, are better in the U.S.

I am not saying all our public schools in Brazil are bad, since you can find a good situation, but few people have access to it and there is major competition. I must confess that I don’t understand why students here have so many problems keeping good grades, because it’s much easier to learn in the U.S. public school systems.

I have also noticed that American food tends to be unhealthy. Many exchange students from Brazil are much “heavier” when they leave from the U.S.

There are also many family value differences. I notice that many families here are “broken” and people don’t worry about their relatives as much as in my country.

It’s also harder to make friends, maybe because each class period I have different classmates, so I don’t get to spend much time with the same people and get to know them better.

Traveling is also difficult here because there is no public transportation system, and, because I can only drive at the age of 18 in my country, it leaves me with the only option of catching a ride with someone.

It’s really evident how people can be alike no mater where you are. The differences are everywhere, as well as the similarities. Sometimes when you watch a movie or see a article about another country, you will think that’s how that country is like, but this experience showed me that you can only really know once you’re there.

Renan Minganti is in the 11th grade at Pelham High School