Part 2

(The Adventures of 2 Brazilian Students at American Universities)

“A Good Traveler Has No Fixed Plans And Is Not Intent on Arriving”-Lao Tzu (Chinese philosopher, 570-490 B.C.)

In part one, we met Solange and Fernando, two Brazilian university students who have been living and studying in Princeton, New Jersey for five years. It has been a real challenge. Their experiences have been mostly good, but some of the things they faced were difficult. In addition to the language problems, they had never lived through the freezing cold winters in this part of the United States. American food took some getting used to. Solange and Fernando will share their adventures with us in a continuing series. A cautionary tale for Brazilian students thinking of studying in the United States, or an incentive to go study there? Maybe a bit of both.

August 4th, 2001 was their first day in the United States. “We were so excited on the plane when we were landing in New York. Our noses were glued to the windows because we wanted to see the great New York skyline and the Statue of Liberty that we had only seen in movies. We couldn‘t wait to get there already after such a long flight from Sao Paulo”, Solange remembered. But what they didn‘t know is that it would take them almost as long to get from the airport to their hotel in Princeton! A trip that should normally take one hour took much longer.

Princeton is a historic town with a famous university. Located 55 miles from New York City, it played an important part in the American revolution in the 18th century. For four months, in 1783, Princeton was the capital of the newly formed United States. The university, chartered in 1746 is one of the oldest in the country. Many famous people have lived, studied, and worked here. The actress, Brooke Shields, graduated from Princeton University in 1987. But, perhaps the most famous of all was Albert Einstein who lived in Princeton from 1933 to 1955. He was affiliated with the Institute for Advanced Study and lectured at the university.

It was heady stuff coming to study here. “This was a dream come true”, said Fernando ” I had wanted to come and do my graduate work in Princeton for a long time. But we were beginning to think we‘d never get there”

When they got off the plane, they had a long wait for their ride. The driver from the shuttle company arrived panting and out of breath! He had gone to the wrong plane! A short, dark haired, smiling man, he apologized profusely. Then it was time to settle into the shuttle and get going. Finally they were on their way to Princeton. They thought…

There are many towns in New Jersey that end in “ton.” There are about ten actually, with Princeton being only one of them. Solange remembers that the driver, whom they named Eddie Murphy because he was so funny and had such a big smile, took them to a town that ended with a “ton” in its name, but unfortunately it wasn‘t Princeton.! She can‘t remember what town it was. Eddie wanted to drop them off there and started taking their bags out of the car. “NO, PRINCETON, PRINCETON, THAT‘S WHERE WE WANT TO GO” they kept yelling. “But this is where the company said to take you. I have it written down right here” he argued. Finally he agreed that the company probably made a mistake and said he‘d take them to Princeton.

Ah! But how to get to Princeton? That was the question because Eddie drove around for a long time tying to find the road to Princeton. “I was getting scared that we‘d soon wind up in another “ton” town which again wouldn‘t be Princeton”, remembers Fernando. But finally they were on the right road, and before long, the beautiful gothic buildings of Princeton University started to appear. Oh, what a relief. They would be at their hotel soon. “Now” , said Solange, “a big uncertainty was tipping. Should we tip Eddie? If so, how much, $5?, $10?” Fernando paid him and told him to keep the change, but Eddie said that‘s not the way it‘s done here. “He insisted on giving us the change , and then we gave it back to him”, said Fernando.

“So, this is the all powerful efficient United States of America”, thought Fernando.

More Adventures with Solange and Fernando soon.

View this article as originally published