Brazilian Exchange Student Adapts to Foreign School System


Photo by: Josh Armstrong

Ana Sofia Ottani Pavao, class of 2023

Drew Gentile and Zach Kramp

It is safe to say that Ana Sofia Ottani Pavão is aproveitando a oportunidade de uma vida. The Brazilian native of the city Piracicaba is thousands of miles from home, but flourishing in a foreign culture.

Pavão’s willingness to branch out leaves her situated in Neenah, as a student of NHS. Lodging with single-mother Tammy Edwards, and her daughter Isabella, Ana Sofia finds herself more than 5,000 miles from home.

When the opportunity to share her story presents itself, Pavão seizes it. She happily and confidently answers questions regarding school, extracurricular activities, entertainment and food in both America and Brazil. In an American classroom, Pavão is no outlier. Her crewnecks with American college logos and Converse sneakers allign with American fasion trends. Pavão’s choice of clothing and outgoing social characteristics have her well integrated into her classes at NHS.

Pavão hoped for a destination vastly different from her hometown Piracicaba, São Paulo, and that is what she has. Neenah and Piracicaba are like night and day.

Coming from Sao Paulo, the largest state in Brazil, Pavão is accustomed to a large population, with Piracicaba being home to more than 400,000 people according to Britannica. Despite the number, Pavão says that Piracicaba is not considered a big city in Brazil. This is part of the reason why the move to Neenah, a city with a population just under 26,000, has been a major transition. Despite Piracicaba being larger than Neenah, the student body at her school in Brazil does not compare with that of NHS. Her entire class was around 100 people in Brazil, with a student body totaling around 500, she says.

Albeit different, Pavão enjoys the larger student body. “Since my school was only 500 kids total, there was not as good of a community or school spirit.”   

While school spirit has highlighted Pavão’s time abroad thus far, her American classes walk on a different path than her classes at home. Per the Brazil Education System, the school year starts in January. As a junior currently, Pavão will graduate in October of 2023. In addition to the timing of the school year, Neenah’s block scheduling is unusual for Pavão. She is enjoying the limited homework assignments, but opposes the 95 minute class periods. The academic difference Pavão is enjoying most is the ability to choose her own classes.

Despite her academic focus, she is getting the full American experience. Apple picking, a baseball game, school football games, and Culver’s Cheese Curds highlight her stay so far. The always consistent Wisconsin weather is not on par with the beaches and warmth of Brazil, but it is a unique experience for Pavão. 

As the fall season comes to a close, Pavão has dabbled in various Wisconsin activities. The upcoming Wisconsin winter, however, will open her eyes to new elements of the American experience: sub-zero temperatures, the holiday season and snow. Pavão has enjoyed the fall season, but looks forward to winter.

Pavão recognizes that her foreign exchange period has only just begun. While being grateful for her journey thus far, she is opportunistic. The American experience has more to offer, and she is open-minded with intentions to make the most of her time in Neenah.