Brazilian athletes find home at NMU

David Pleyel

There are so many people from foreign nations who may never be met by people from the U.S. Their cultures, food, entertainment, and just simply their way of life may never become more than a few pages read from a textbook or a few clips of video footage from a documentary.

That’s not the case for three young, aspiring volleyball players at NMU. Ana (Lina) Lopes, Ellen Lemos, and Daniela (Dani) Branco, all from Belo Horizonte, Brazil, consider NMU to be their, “Casa Longe De Casa,” (home away from home, in Portuguese).

The adjustments and familiarity to their new surroundings were a little intimidating at first, but intimidation was soon replaced by excitement as the opportunity to be at NMU became a reality.

“The biggest obstacles are not only being far away from my family and friends, but far away from the place I am so familiar with,” Lopes said. “Imagine all of that gone and then suddenly trying to learn a new culture, people, and different places. It was tough.”

Fellow athletes Branco and Lemos agree that the transition was difficult for them as well, as they express similar feelings to being home sick.

“Even though I have been here a year and consider myself adapted, I still miss my family and friends, especially when the school year gets tougher,” Branco said. “The thing that I am not quite yet adjusted to is the cold. Our winter back home, it would get down to maybe 45 degrees, so it’s a huge adjustment.”

Lemos said the worst part for her was being so far from home, but she overcame it. The cold weather, however, is a different story.

“I am not sure if I will ever adjust to the cold weather, but I think I can deal with it,” Lemos said.

While all three athletes share a common interest in volleyball and the fact it was the main reason all three attended NMU, all three responded to it in a different light. Their inspiration and view of the game all mean something different, and something special to them.

“I started to play volleyball when I was 11 and my dad and sister had a really big influence on me,” Lopes said. “They influenced me in a way that I just didn’t want to stop playing the game. I love the way I can just forget about everything else while I’m playing volleyball. I love to compete and just do my best.”

For Branco, it was her mother who convinced her to try the sport.

“I started when I was 12 and took a couple of classes and was hooked almost immediately,” Branco said. “I can’t really tell you what I love about volleyball specifically, but that’s probably because I love the sport in general and just competing.”

Lemos said her mother also influenced her to join and that she loves the sport for the in-depth teamwork required to succeed.

“My mother used to play for a volleyball club when I was growing up, and ever since then I wanted to play,” Lemos said. “It always involves what you have to do in order to help your team succeed, as well as your team making you successful.”

Even though volleyball takes up a big portion of their lives, they still have other aspiring goals they would like to achieve while at Northern.

Lopes is majoring in International Relations, and has shown some interest in going pro in the sport one day, but she stressed she only lives for one day at a time and that is a ways down the road.

Lemos is working towards an Art and Design degree and would love to get a job as a web designer, start working with photography as a hobby and live in New York one day.

Branco is also not sure what her future holds, but she feels that whatever comes her way and whatever she ends up doing, she would just like to have a peaceful and stable life that will allow her to enjoy her job and free time with family and friends.

These aspiring athletes have traveled a great distance in search of a dream. While their culture and ways of life may be different from this area, there still is a common goal among each other; to follow their dreams to the end and to make life the way they want it to be.