Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Picasso Fontenelle invited to speak at International Student Day 2012

One of our students, Picasso Fontenelle, was recently invited to speak in front of 1600 international students at Auckland Town Hall as a guest of the Auckland Mayor, Len Brown, as part of the annual International Student Welcome.

In his speech he talked about his experiences here in Auckland as an International student and also gave advice to other students.

Picasso with his speech before the event
"Good morning ladies and gentlemen,

My name is Picasso Fontenelle Vieira Rodrigues and I come from Fortaleza, Brazil. First of all, I would like to thank you for the invitation to be here welcoming the new foreign students in Auckland, New Zealand.

I have been living here in Auckland since July last year, that's about 8 months. In my country I am
in my third year at university studying nutrition. I was born in a small town, called Camocim, with
approximately 70 thousand inhabitants, and when I was fourteen years old I was sent by my parents

from my hometown to live with my aunty and my uncle in Fortaleza, the capital of my state, a place
with more opportunities and better schools.

That was the first big change in my life. At fourteen years old all I thought about was having fun,
being with friends and enjoying life as much as possible. With this change came new responsibilities
and more homework to do. I was in a school four times bigger than the one where I used to study.
I also had to manage the money my parents sent to me (which had to last for one month). There
was also the cultural impact of moving from a city with 70 thousand people to one with 2.5 million
people, and obviously much busier, more congested and also more violent. This was one of the
things that particularly worried my folks.

Picasso on stage
At first I thought that I wouldn’t have freedom living in Fortaleza. I thought that it would be the worst time of my life, but I soon realised that discovering other places is almost always exciting and rewarding! Not only was I studying, but I was also having new experiences and getting to know new

Like Auckland, Fortaleza is a coastal city with harbours and bathed by the ocean. The difference between the two places is the weather. In Fortaleza we have a real sunny summer, in Auckland we have to be ready for the four seasons in one day. It’s not a bad thing for me, though. I actually found it refreshing to be in a place with such unpredictable days. After getting used to it, I discovered that is what makes New Zealand an untypical, magical and special place.

The crazy weather, the new school environment, the new food and the new people are all things that may scare overseas students, but they have all, in my case been pleasant surprises. Compared with Brazil, schools are definitely different. It’s not common at all to see foreign students in schools in my country; we don't have people coming to schools in Brazil to learn Portuguese. Our diet is very unlike the diet here. We don't eat things such as lamb and potatoes every day. It takes some adjusting to. I know. Never before had I seen someone who can eat a bag of potatoes per week. But stay open and you will see that every day the potato or whatever you eat will have a different flavour.

Of course you will have to process a lot of different reactions while you're adjusting to a new culture
and environment. But take it day by day. Forget the distance between you and your home country.
Use your imagination and you will realise that the strange food you are eating is not only "normal",
but it's a piece of a new culture that is going into your mouth, becoming part of you.

I recommend you to get to know about the history of New Zealand. Ask your teachers about it. Get
to know the European “kiwis” and Maori. Get to know about how these two distinct cultures made
this unique country.

When I arrived here, my first impression wasn’t the best. My flight was delayed and instead of
arriving at 7 o’clock in the morning in Auckland I arrived at midnight. Transfer was ok, friendly and
brought me where it was supposed to. However, finding the homestay house was a problem - and
midnight is not the best time to arrive in a stranger’s home. I felt a bit rude, but it wasn’t my fault.
My homestay mother gave me a drink, showed me the house and my room and went to sleep.
This made me think that I wouldn’t like the place and the people... but, I was completely wrong.
Considering that we, Brazilians, are known as friendly and fun-loving people, something made me
think that I wouldn’t find these qualities elsewhere. But with the time, I realised that there wasn’t
a better place I could be. I discovered new things, new food, new culture, new people, the kiwi
lifestyle, having fun... And unexpectedly, I got a mum, a dad, a brother and a sister (I’ve never had
a brother and sister before!), aunties, uncles, cousins who now are part of my mind and my heart.
People who will be hard to say goodbye to and whom I will never forget. What I got from them was
a lot more that I could hope for. They are unique, awesome. Love, this is the word I can define what
I feel for them. If you are lucky, you can get the same. There are lots of nice families with big open

A captive audience at the Auckland Town Hall
So it’s people that have been the highlight of my trip, the great people I’ve met here. This includes
friends. You might think that the friends you make here aren’t forever, mainly when this friend comes from another country far away from where you come from. But that’s not true. You will meet
people here that will make a mark in your heart, people who you will rely on and who will make you suffer when you have to part. Because, to tell the truth, it’s impossible to say when will be the next time you are going to see each other again. That’s the tough part of the trip. Great when you make a bond with someone and deeply sad when you see him or her go. But that’s the life, that’s how it works.

For you who have just arrived, never allow yourself to feel bored. New Zealand is a country with
a lot to see. Beautiful cities around with impressive scenery. Towns like Taupo, Coromandel and
Paihia are must-see places to go. But even if you are only in Auckland, there is a lot to see as well.
Entertainment, walking, places and good scenery you will find here. Enjoy your time. But if your
purpose is merely to study, you will find it easy do so here. There is always someone who can help
you with your difficulties in the language. Just look for someone and you will find help. Of course,
nothing in life is easy. But difficulties are here to challenge and teach you, and you have to face
them and win the “battle”, an everyday battle that in the end will make you a winner. There are
no barriers between us. We are students from different countries who came to New Zealand to
learn one language which can help us to communicate with each other. We are all humans, able to
communicate independent of origin.

I would like to finish with one final piece of advice. No matter how basic your English is, if you want
to say something, say it. Just try. Don’t be shy or afraid about saying something badly. You are here
to learn and people will respect you for making the effort. Go ahead; there will be a time when you
all will be able to understand each other in any situation. What makes us understand each other
eventually is the human interaction that we can’t avoid. The language barrier is nothing compared
to the things we can do. Be patient, take it easy and keep your mind clear. Everything comes in the
right time.

Thank you."

We congratulate Picasso on his efforts and wish him the very best with his future.

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