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Student Voice

10 April 2020

Maria Da Silva: The Little Sister of Tauranga's Brazilian Community

Maria Da Silva: The Little Sister of Tauranga's Brazilian Community

Arriving in New Zealand at only 18 years old, many of Maria Da Silva’s fellow Brazilians have taken on big brother and sister roles, always checking in and looking out for their younger friend.

This ‘little sister’ of the Brazilian community is loved by all who meet her. She is open-minded, kind and bubbly. She’s endlessly optimistic, always seeing the bright side of life. It's hard not to smile when you're in her midst.

Maria first moved to Auckland to study English, but this short six-month trip was quickly extended and she relocated to Tauranga to enjoy a smaller, seaside city while furthering her studies at Aspire2 International.

Here is Maria’s story as an international student in New Zealand.

Growing up in Brazil

Maria is from Porto Alegre, a city of 1.5 million people in southern Brazil. With five much older siblings, Maria grew up living just with her father until a new baby joined the clan two years ago. While she loves her whole family, this upbringing and her father's 'teach a man to fish' parenting style has made the pair exceptionally close.  

Maria describes Brazil as a happy country where social interaction is integral to life with large families and groups of friends always banding together and sharing a meal.

“Even within liberal Brazil, Porto Alegra has a reputation of being very open-minded.” – Maria

Sadly, a constant in Maria’s life has been the increasingly dangerous situation of her home country. She grew up street savvy in the face of Brazil’s growing crime problem, taking off jewellery before going out in public and always keenly aware of her surroundings.

In search of a safer life, upon graduating from high school, Maria moved to New Zealand to study English. 

Moving to New Zealand

Maria arrived in Auckland in April 2018, set to study English for six months at New Zealand Language Centres. Committed to studying the local language and culture, she opted to flat with Kiwis rather than live with some of the city’s many Brazilians.

“It was scary when I first arrived, not being able to say what I want, not knowing if people could understand me.”

Maria’s English progressed quickly and time flew by. Realising that six months was too short of a trip, she applied to study a business diploma at Tauranga’s Aspire2 International.

“I did some travelling while I lived in Auckland and loved Tauranga right away. It has friendly people and a beautiful environment. Coming from a big city, Tauranga is a nice change.”

Studying Business at Aspire2 International

Unsure exactly what industry she’d like to work in, Maria decided a Diploma in Business level 6 would give her the well-rounded experience and knowledge she needed to begin her career.

With multicultural classrooms, Aspire2 International has exposed Maria to many cultures and people used to vastly different ways of life than the one Maria grew up in.

“It’s really eye opening to meet people from such diverse walks of life. I am learning to communicate with people who see the world differently to me.”

While she has a particular interest in her marketing and communications papers, Maria’s favourite part of school is her teachers.

“They are so welcoming and friendly. You can talk to them about anything. They’re from overseas as well, so they understand what you are going through if you feel homesick or need some support.”

Maria started her part-time studies in December 2018 with the goal of completing them by June 2020.

Bar Manager at Barrio Brothers

When Maria isn’t studying, she can often be found working at Tauranga’s popular Mexican restaurant The Barrio Brothers.

“It’s such a fun environment and I get to learn about Mexican culture and meet new people every day.”

Maria, who quickly worked her way up from waitstaff to floor supervisor to bar manager, loves the social side of her job, constantly interacting with colleagues and customers.

In her role as manager, she also gets to utilise her business training, often finding parallels between management theory she has just learnt in the classroom and the real-life situations playing out in front of her.

Maria’s Future Plans

After graduating later this year, Maria plans to stay in New Zealand to work. Her two-year working visa following her studies should give her ample time to find her passion and begin her career.

Just as Maria did with her hospitality job, she is happy to start at the bottom and work her way up in the corporate world.

“My future plans are not to work in hospitality, but I’ve learnt so many lessons from my job. It’s a challenging but fun phase of life I’m in and I can’t wait to see what the future holds.”

Tauranga’s Brazilian Community

Tauranga has a strong Brazilian community and Maria was quickly welcomed into this warm and social group.

“We are all there for each other, sell Brazilian food amongst one another and help each other out when someone is feeling homesick. After speaking English all day, it’s nice to be able to relax in Portuguese with friends.”

There’s always something to do, from spending a day at the beach to exploring other parts of the country, going out for a meal to enjoying a relaxed evening together at somebody’s home.

How Brazil Compares to New Zealand

Brazilians have a very social culture, but Maria has discovered that Kiwis can be just as social – you just have to get to know them first.

“I live with Kiwis and I feel like I’ve rubbed off on them! At first they were quiet, I had to get to know them, but now they’re loud, they listen to Brazilian music with me and they are always happy and optimistic.”

Of course, Maria misses her family, especially her dad, as well as Brazilian staples she can’t find anywhere in New Zealand, like barbequed pineapple sprinkled with cinnamon. But she is quick to point out how lucky we are to live in New Zealand.

“Everything is perfect here. It’s beautiful, safe and there’s a great environment.”


Join us on Facebook and contact Regional Relationship Manager Melissa Gillingham for more information:

Melissa Gillingham

 Regional Relationship Manager

 Education Tauranga

 Tel: +64 7 571 1401 ext. 707 | Mob: +64 21 724 272    
 Address: Private Bag 13057, Tauranga 3141, New Zealand  
 Email me