Potluck of Cultures

Denise

This is Denise. She is from Brazil. “I think you can live anywhere, as long as you have good friends and good people by your side!”

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15823294_710023999146063_3285591719215026025_nAlmost 2 years ago, the city of Atlanta welcomed Denise and her husband Asteroide as two of its newest inhabitants. For Denise, who had always wanted the experience of living in a foreign country, moving to the United States was like a dream come true. Her adventure, however, suffered a bit of a rough start as Denise struggled to figure out the rules of her new home and her place in it. Not only did Denise miss her job as a hairstylist and make-up artist, the fact that she was not allowed to work in the United States made her question whether they had made the right decision. “I love my job! I worked a lot in Brazil, almost 12 hours every day; to me, it was not that difficult, because I really enjoy it… Not having anything to do here, that was the biggest challenge.” She feels disappointed by Federal Regulations which allow talented men and women to join their spouse, but at the same time prohibit them from applying to jobs or even enrolling as students. “In Brazil, they say that the United States is liberty and freedom, but when I arrived here I realized that this is not true. I know I can’t work, but I’m surprised they don’t allow me to study either. I realized there are a lot of women in the same situation as me and a lot of them are actually very professional and good at their job: we have a dentist, designers, even some doctors!”

Another challenge Denise faced was learning to speak English, as she had no knowledge of the language before moving to the United States. Taking advantage of the time she now had, Denise threw herself into her studies and after a while, she managed to master the English language, which in turn allowed her to meet and communicate with new friends. “Going to the English classes in the Language Institute and the meetings organized by the International Spouse Group at Georgia Tech was really good. In the beginning it was very difficult, because I didn’t understand what they said… This made me very sad and I almost gave up a few times, but always I told myself: I should try again and keep learning English. I am happy I did it, because now I have good friends in both groups.” In Denise’s experience, initiatives like the Georgia Tech International Spouse Group are paramount when moving to a new country, not only because they provide a much needed support network for newcomers, but because they are a great place to meet and befriend a diverse group of people who all share the same experience of moving abroad. “Now I can say I have close friends from different cultures. This is really amazing; they have become friends for life!”

15894422_710023995812730_7753256851807868803_nFor Denise, having good friends in Atlanta has definitely changed her life for the better. Still, she admits that she misses her family in Brazil a lot, especially now that she and her husband have welcomed their beautiful baby girl Sophia into their life 10 months ago. “I didn’t know I could love another person so much! I love my husband very much, but babies are so small and they catch your love so easily.” She tells us that while raising a child without close family nearby can be very hard, having good friends who are willing to help has made it a little easier.  “I can’t say it is easy, but you can do it. In the beginning, you should really have someone to help, someone you can call. The friends I have made here have really helped me a lot!” While she cherishes the time she is able to spend with her daughter Sophia, Denise still made time to create a unique look for each girl in this series of portraits based on their personalities and wishes. Because leaving the job she loved so much was so difficult, being able to do what she loves as part of this project has meant a great deal to her and she has loved every minute of it. “It doesn’t matter where you are from, what matters is what you do for people.”

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Luckily, Denise’s initial hesitation about life in the United States has long been forgotten. From the happiness she finds in spending time with Sophia and her friends to the abundance of green in the city of Atlanta and the people she meets on the street who stop her to praise her daughter and give her advice on how to raise her; she has come to enjoy all the aspects of her new life in the Unites States. If it were possible though, Denise would pick up her new town and move it closer to the ocean. “I miss living near the beach… It is interesting how in the United States they say: 5 hours is near, but to me it really is not! (laughs) Now, if I move somewhere, I will make sure there is a beach!” Denise and her family already know that they will move back to Brazil after Asteroide finishes his PhD. Even though she will miss her life and friends in Atlanta, she is happy knowing that she will move back eventually. “I know Brazil is not that good economically speaking and people tell us that we are crazy to go back, but I still really want to. I am also open to go to another country or another city in Brazil, etc. … You never know what life has in store for you!”

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Interview and writing by Tineke Van Varenberg

Make up by Denise Batista

Interview and Photography by Sonal Sukheeja

 

 

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