Mariana Cavalcanti de Castro always knew she would take part in an exchange program. The junior from Minas Gerais, Brazil, wanted to follow in the footsteps of her two older siblings, who both studied in the U.S.
Last December, Mariana began asking her mother where she would study. Because she has a cousin, Alex Fruth, who lives in Richmond and happens to be married to Cougar alum Alice Fruth ‘97, Mariana applied to Collegiate School. She was accepted and arrived in August.
Mariana jumped right into Collegiate life. A self-proclaimed introvert, she gave herself a pep talk about how she would approach her new adventure as a Cougar.
“I told myself I was not going to be shy,” she said. “If I needed to ask someone something, I would just ask.”
At the start of school, Mariana would approach relative strangers in the Sharp Academic Commons to see if she could have lunch with them. Now, she confidently pulls up a chair every day to eat with her new friends.
“All the students are so welcoming with me,” she said. “I feel like everyone here is willing to help me and to make me part of something.”
As far as her studies, Mariana says she enjoys all of her classes at Collegiate, which she describes as different from her school in Brazil.
“I love the fact here that I can choose seven subjects,” she said. “I’m taking the subjects I don’t have the opportunity to have in Brazil. It has been really fun.”
She particularly likes forensics, U.S. history and her “Writing for Publications” class with Upper School English teacher Vlastic Svab. For the latter class, Mariana has written for Collegiate’s newspaper, “The Match,” on a variety of subjects from the Summer Olympics in her home country, to a visit to Henricus Historical Park to a story about John Dau, Collegiate’s Global Scholar-in-Residence. Mr. Svab calls her diversity of topics impressive, especially since English is her second language, and says her presence benefits his class.
“It’s really interesting to have an international perspective, on topics both serious and cultural,” he said. “I hope Mariana has gotten a wider view of the U.S. and our community through her experiences, and I'm hoping she keeps in touch (and maybe writes some more?) from back home in Brazil next semester.”
Mariana heads home in December. While she’s excited to see her friends, family and her four dogs, her departure will be bittersweet.
“I am not excited to leave Collegiate,” she said. “I wish I could keep studying here because we have so much fun. Any week is not like the other. There’s always something different. So I love it. I feel like I’ve grown so much.”
To read some of Mariana’s work for Collegiate’s newspaper, visit The Match.