In a year of uncertainty, and fear one could argue, “it is okay to postpone your plans.” “Nothing is happening anyway.” “It’s okay. Things will happen when they happen.” And I agree with those statements. However, while many segments of our lives are on hold (leases are not getting increased, student loans are frozen, etc.), many are still running, just like my student visa deadline.
I went home to Brazil almost one year ago, on March 7th, 2020. It was my spring break, and I was supposed to only spend one week at home. I ended up staying for 10 months. Universities closed their campuses and went virtual. My other international friends had to leave the country. Everyone knows it was a weird time. However, I am very grateful to have been safe with my family, at the comfort of my home.
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(Father’s Day in Brazil with my family)
My summer internship was canceled, and I could just have stayed lying on my couch and watching Netflix for the whole Summer vacation (in my case, it was Winter). But it would be such a waste of time. This opportunity with BroadwayWorld came so unexpectedly, and it soon became my passion project. A week later, I was helping a friend with a go-to-market strategy for her new startup. And I also did a consulting marketing project for the Dobama Theatre in Cleveland. All virtual, from another country.
In the Fall (or Spring for me), things were still very uncertain. Our campus reopened for in-person classes, but no one knew how things would work. The US also imposed a travel ban on Brazil that would make my return to the country a little harder. That was supposed to be my last semester of undergrad. My first choice was to take the semester off and return in the Spring. But then I wouldn’t be eligible for the Optional Practical Training, which gives international students the right to work for one year with a student visa after we graduate. So should I take my last semester online, graduate amidst the worst crisis in the live entertainment industry, and try to get a job and work for one year with my student visa? Not. A. Chance.
Therefore, I decided to extend my program (taking fewer classes and spare some credits for the in-person Spring semester). I took my courses online from Brazil. I had the opportunity to still take the classes I used to take before leaving for the US, like violin lessons with my Grandma, dance with my friends in our dance studio, and take French classes once again. All that while still taking classes from BW, being on the marketing team for the virtual production of Spring Awakening, writing for BroadwayWorld, leading a project in the Digital Marketing Clinic, choreographing and organizing practices for the BW Dance Team as the Vice-Captain. Sometimes it takes us writing all that we did to realize how much we’ve accomplished (I encourage you to do that!).
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(Shooting a video clip for my dance studio in a helipad)
Because of the travel ban on Brazil, if I were to return to the US, I would have to quarantine for 14 days in a country that accepts Brazilians, and coming from that country, I could enter the US. There weren’t many options, but Mexico was my family’s choice (nice weather, half-way to the US, relatively cheap). My Dad organized a family trip for the three of us. We would stay together for 14 days, and they would return to Brazil as I would go to the US. Everything was organized: plane tickets, hotel, and Airbnb reservations. We chose to stay in a more secluded area to have the least contact with others as possible. After all, we’re still in a pandemic.
We were supposed to leave on December 23rd. We were very conscious of the precautions we would have to take while traveling internationally. But at that point, we were hearing from so many people getting the virus in Brazil, and the news in Mexico and the US was concerning. Three days before our trip, my parents and I brainstormed so many options of what to do: I could travel only with my Mom; postpone my return to February hoping that the number of cases would drop a little; take online classes again, to name a few. Those were probably the most stressful days of my life so far, but I knew I had to make yet another hard decision in 2020, which was to return by myself.
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(Saying goodbye to my parents at the airport)
It has been more than one month now since I left Brazil. I quarantined for 14 days in Puerto Vallarta all by myself. And even after getting a negative result for Covid, I stayed in my dorm room for 7 days without having contact with anyone.
You might be thinking: so many people have done this before! What’s the big deal? The big deal was looking not at what was in front of me but to the long term. I decided to return to the States to be present when opportunities arise, create more connections that might help me in the future, be eligible for OPT, and, most importantly, follow my dream. Cliché? Yes, I know. But I’m a true believer in doing everything that’s in your reach to achieve what you want.
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(Back in the cold Ohio winter)
I am beyond thankful for my family for always supporting me (even when that includes changing reservations and getting new last-minute plane tickets). I am beyond grateful to study at a university where EVERYONE welcomed me back. I am beyond grateful for the opportunities I already had to connect with companies and people since I arrived. And I am beyond grateful to be writing about what I did for love in this blog. Love for my family and wanting them to be safe. Love for my school and friends and wanting to be back. Love for this industry that I can’t wait to come back to life. And you can bet I will be here when it happens.