I believe that beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, when I look at myself in the mirror every morning I see a beautiful, intelligent and warm person. But I guess people don’t see me that way. When I first came to the United States, I felt different and wondered whether people were always looking at me wherever I go. I am a curious mix of three races – black, white and Indian that made it difficult for people to decide who I was and where I came from. I speak Portuguese and when I speak in English, most people cannot recognize my accent.
It’s difficult to want to feel that I belong here because of my passion for learning the English language and at the same time realize that I am quite different. I have tried to be like any college freshman and I guess I have been successful at it. I dress like any ordinary girl in jeans and shirts, and this probably is an unconscious effort in my part to want to be enmeshed in this culture. I have curly hair and stands at five feet and six inches. I am not that tall or that short to stand out in the crowd and I dress simply because for fear of being scrutinized.
Jeans and shirts are safe and I need not go out of my way to be different because in reality I already am. In public, I am this smiling, amiable colored girl that is eager to please and converse in English. But inwardly, I am just this shy little girl from Rio de Janeiro and I am out to prove myself in this crazy world. I have an ounce of foolish bone in me too what with being a teenager in a very colorful and artistic country like Brazil, I had my belly button pierced and I wear three earnings in each ear.
This is a normal practice form where I came from and is accepted by everyone. The other girls at school always look at my ears and maybe I make them feel uncomfortable because they have a preconceived notion of people who have body piercing. I don’t really know, but for sure, I know where I came from and what I value most. I am here in the United States to pursue my dream in becoming a nurse and for someone like me that would be a bumpy journey. My dream started to become a reality when I studied English.
I have learned the English language on my own and I think that it has given me a sense of accomplishment that makes me feel proud and makes me walk with a little gait and bounce and my head held up high. In Brazil, I have helped many of my classmates with their English homework and I felt liberated and excited to be able to speak and write in English well. I began to reach out to people and befriend them because I could communicate in a language that is understood by many.
It made me become more confident, more sure of myself that when given the opportunity to study in this country, I immediately said yes and committed myself to it. I have had my share of mishaps with regards to my appearance and how people respond to me. There was one time; someone came up to me speaking in some language I did not understand because she thought I was from where she came from. Or the time when I had to produce my documents as a foreign student because half of the class thought I lived in the states all my life.
This experience has made my stay more colorful and vibrant and also tells me that sometimes people just look at your appearance and then judge you accordingly. And it is up to me to choose how to react and feel about it. At first I felt uncomfortable being different but as time has passed by, I came to realize that being different is really not that bad. I see myself as a beautiful person, someone who values herself and her accomplishments. The opportunity given to me to realize my dreams is a greater blessing that I can take it in stride if people treat me differently.
I have learned also to accept that people see me as exotic, one that is different and yet appreciated for one’s worth. I have made it on my own in this country and so far everything has been worth it. Sometimes I get people who look at me with funny faces and there are those who do not even look at me. But at the same time, I know that my appearance is a reflection of my real self, if I fail to celebrate my uniqueness in my appearance then people just have to discover the beauty within me.