By Paulina Jedrzejowski –
Every time I open my laptop to conduct a Global Citizen Year interview, my mind travels back to the place I called home for eight months of my life. I often wonder how those eight months continue to influence my interests.
My last week in Brazil was one of the most difficult weeks in my life. Suddenly, when everything had fallen into place, it was time to leave.
One night, I came back to my host parents’ house after spending time with a friend. I started crying because I knew such friendships would not be the same after I left. My host sister assured me that the way I was feeling was understandable and made me tea. She told me that even though such friendships would change, they would not end.
These emotions continued throughout the week. Strangely, when I boarded the plane to the United States, I was not upset. I was thinking of coming home. But as soon as I took the first step onto U.S. soil, I wanted to turn back. Even the unlimited access to LTE internet did not make me want to stay in the United States. I knew that I could not express these emotions to anyone in my family because they would not understand. At the time, they had not seen me for eight months. The last thing they wanted to hear was that I did not want to be home.
I had to find a way to channel these emotions without going back to Brazil. When I arrived at Tufts, I did that by pursuing a Portuguese minor.
During orientation week, I took the Portuguese placement test. When I walked into the testing room, my heart suddenly stopped. The professor’s language sounded like music to my ears. I had not heard such beautiful sounds since the time I took a step onto U.S. soil.
I placed into Portuguese 3 because although I had learned so many things, I did not yet understand Portuguese grammar. The following semester, I was placed into Portuguese 21. As part of this class, I had the chance to interview Brazilian immigrants who lived in Somerville. The story of a woman from Bahia who crossed through Mexico to come to the United States impacted me the most.
The following semester, I interned with a Portuguese Program at the Somerville City Hall. I learned a lot about Brazilian immigrants and what surprised me the most was the racial re-identification within the Brazilian community. It was obvious, Brazilians did not clearly fit into any of the “racial” or “ethnic” categories established by the United States. Sometimes they re-identified themselves, while other times they had to check the “other” box on forms and write Brazilian. This behavior intrigued me to the extent that today I am planning to write my senior thesis about the re-identification of Brazilian immigrants upon their arrival in the United States.
About Paulina Jedrzejowski
A first-generation college student, Paulina Jedrzejowski is a junior at Tufts University, triple majoring in international relations (concentration in Latin America), economics, and Portuguese. Born into a Polish immigrant family from New York City, she continues to have a very strong connection to her roots. Paulina is involved in multiple activities on campus. Her passion for sustainable development has been shaped by her gap year with Global Citizen Year.
Paulina enjoys working with non-governmental organizations to implement community development projects that improve people’s living conditions. She is also very passionate about human and immigrant rights. Paulina is planning to write her senior thesis about the re-identification of Brazilian immigrants in the United States and how this is an effect of racial institutionalization in both countries. In the future, she would like to work on international economic development at United States think tanks. During her free time, Paulina likes to travel, explore museums, and take walks.