Ivan Hunnicutt had a different image of America before he came as an exchange student from Brazil.
It is an image that most Midwestern citizens may not recognize, either.
“I always grew up watching 90210 and that kind of thing,” Hunnicutt said. “I always had a picture in my mind about how the education was different and how you would live in a different way. I got used to the culture from TV. I never had a chance to live it unless I came here, which is what I’m trying to do.”
Hunnicutt is one of 10 students at Pittsburg State from his home country of Brazil. More than 40 international countries are represented at Pittsburg State.
Brazil is not exactly a small country by any means. In fact, it is the fifth largest country in the world, behind only Canada, the United States, China and Russia.
As for population, it’s got that, too, coming at fifth on that scale, as well. However, this time it is behind China, India, the United States and Indonesia.
And to keep up with the theme of “fifth”, Ivan hails from the fifth largest city in the world, Sao Paulo. Only Tokyo, Mexico City, Seoul and New York are bigger in population, according to one atlas.
Ivan said that brought its own challenges and hardships.
“It was just so monstrous of a city,” he said. “It was so big compared to this place. There, it’s just busy because it’s busy. The city itself takes a lot of time. Sometimes it’s a waste of a lot of time in traffic.”
Brazil, like America, is very different from one side of the country to another. With a country spanning so much land as Brazil, it’s no wonder.
“It’s just like America,” Hunnicutt said. “The North of the U.S. is different from the South U.S., so it’s hard to generalize about anything when you talk about the country. People from big cities like mine are very hasty and busy. People from small cities are very polite. It could be a mirror of the U.S.: New York City is busy and impolite, but a small town like Pittsburg is helpful.”
Page 2 of 3 -
Ivan said that despite being from a big city such as Sao Paulo and moving to Pittsburg, he made the transition quickly.
“I actually adjusted very, very fast,” he said. “I made friends very quickly. I met a lot of people. PSU has an international orientation week, which is great for international students. They help us out and show us around campus. Most of my friends are from that week.”
While Ivan misses his friends and family the most, he also misses the flavor and fellowship found around Brazilian meals.
“Nothing against the Dining Hall food, but it’s a little greasy. We like fresh fruits and meats in Brazil,” he said. “We also have a dish called feijoada, which is made of black beans. It is a customary plate from Brazil that is very famous.
“When people have feijoada, it is like a big party. In my family, I came to Florida for winter break. My uncle had feijoada, and it was a big party. It was so great. It was a very nice feeling. Even while I’m in America, we’re eating a Brazilian dish. It was very special.”
Hunnicutt’s name may sound English, and that is because his last name is. Hunnicutt’s great-grandfather was a missionary to Brazil from America.
Ivan is working on an information systems degree through the exchange program linking Pittsburg State to what is known in English as Mackenzie Presbyterian University.
When he gets done, he said he plans to return to America.
“I want to try for my master’s in America,” Ivan said. “Tuition is really expensive, but I really want to come back here for my master’s.”
However, Hunnicutt’s best memories of America may come from what Pittsburg State is best known for — football.
“We don’t have football in Brazil. When I came here, I wanted to know the rules and I wanted to see the games,” he said. “The first time I went to a game, it was raining like hell. I couldn’t stop cheering. I went to all the home games. It’s pretty cool. I don’t like American football, per se. I like PSU football. It’s a feeling of belonging to a place, not just to represent it.”
Page 3 of 3 -
Andrew Nash can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 231-2600 ext. 132.