Source: Sherman Publications

Connected from Portugal
Martian exchange student adjusts to snow, American food

by David Fleet

March 20, 2013

Ines Figueira watches the snow fall outside the classroom window.

“It’s too cold here,” she said. “It’s been cold for so long—I had no idea about that when I came here to Goodrich.”

Figueira’s disdain for frigid Michigan winters is about the only problem the Goodrich High School senior has encountered since arriving in August as an exchange student from the Portuguese capital of Lisbon.

She admits the Mediterranean climate, which averages about 60 degrees during the winter months, is noticeably missed.

“My family lives on the seventh floor in downtown Lisbon,” she said. “My mother is a physician and my dad an engineer. I have an older brother and younger sister. It’s difficult to get into the United States as a student; many want to come here. When I left from the airport everyone from my family was crying except me—I was not sad. I know I will see my family again. I will feel worse when I leave the United States because I may not be back here.”

Figueira lives with the Schall family in Goodrich until this summer, when she’ll return for another year of high school at D. Filip.De Lencastre.

“Classes here at Goodrich are way easier. I’m a ‘B’ student here, in Lisbon, I get ‘Cs’,” she said. “I like the ability to select what classes you want to take. Teachers really don’t care about you in Lisbon like they do here in Goodrich. It’s really fun to come to school here. You can eat in class in America, too. However, I’m not liking getting up so early for school—the 7:30 a.m. start time is a real struggle for me,” she laughed. “At home my first class is 1:45 p.m.”

At an early age, Figueira learned a variety of languages. Today she is fluent in French, Spanish, Portuguese and English. She also plays the violin, soccer and basketball back in Lisbon.

“I can drive, too,” she said. “Except I can’t here in America, but I’d really like to. You have to drive everywhere here.”

Figueira hopes to return after high school.

“I’ve had several opportunities to visit Michigan State University and I have already applied,” she said. “I’d really like to be a Spartan and live here in America.”

Figueira is also a fan of American food.

“I gained 20 pounds since I came here,” she said. “No wonder the food here is (fattening)—everything is cheese, noodles or pizza—there’s a lot of it and it’s cheap. If I was home we’d eat more salads, soups and bread.”