Mariana S Brito
“The more you dream, the bigger is your world”




One evening, Mariana was sitting in her bedroom wondering about the exact distance between Washington DC- USA and Tres Pontas, the town in Brazil's southeast, where she was born and grew up,. The distance between these two places, she realized, cannot be measured in kilometers or miles alone, but through the choices she had made and the journey she had traveled to be sitting right there. And what a long way she came … As an au pair for a friendly, Jewish host family, she has been living in the USA for over a year, and so far has enjoyed her time. At the age of 26, studying, working, having fun and full of dreams, for now Mariana is traveling in her mind back to her home country.




The city of Tres Pontas is located in the south of Minas Gerais, and is considered rural state in Brazil. With a population of around 60,000, coffee crops are the most important economic activity. The economy during Mariana's childhood was fragile, since the country had just ended a period of military dictatorship that lasted 21 years (1964-1985), and had soon after impeached a president for corruption.

Mariana was raised by her mother, as her parents divorced when she was really young. Her mother, a hard working and caring woman, always tried her best to give Mariana a better childhood than she had had herself, but times were difficult nevertheless. Mariana grew up without siblings, and because of that, she developed an amazing imagination. With her imaginary friends she could travel all over the world, and live in golden castles.

Time passed, and Mariana kept dreaming, but now about different things. As a teenager she was always the best student in her class and started making plans for her future. She wanted to see the world beyond this place where people were judged by how wealthy their families were.

She knew her mom couldn't afford to pay for her studies and expenses in other city, since her hometown didn't have any college. The Brazilian education system works wonderfully in theory, but reality is something else. Brazil has a network of federal universities, where students don't have to pay a dollar to graduate no matter what major or career they choose. They must just take a qualifying exam, with admission granted to those with the highest marks. In this way, education could be spread all over the huge country. But since these institutions rank better than private colleges, students who attend private high schools started competing with the students from public schools, making the dream of a higher education more distant for graduates of public schools. (Unlike in the United States, loans are not readily available to help pay for college.)

So at 17 years old, Mariana decided that no matter what, she would win a slot at one of those Federal Universities. And she made her way. After a short day of school (public schools in Brazil work from 7:00 to 11:00) she created her own routine for studying. She spent whole days in the library- the only one in the city- finding a way to learn on her own everything the teachers didn't have time to teach at school. She spent hours on the Internet researching the best Universities, and using her friends' books from private schools to check what they were learning against what she was teaching herself. In this way, she made sure she was heading in the right direction.

At the age of 18, Mariana earned the 22nd position of 90 at the Federal University of Juiz de Fora, top 5 in the country according to the national Department of Education. By the way, none of her classmates came from public school.


Professional Challenges


Mariana majored in Tourism at College, and after graduation came new challenges. She had to leave Juiz de Fora; even though she loved the city, it wasn't the best place to launch her career. Most places required experience, but none would give her the chance to get started. So she chose a famous beach city called Buzios as her new home, but the first job she got was as a waitress in a Sushi Bar. Mariana didn't give up, and after three months she landed a job in her area: as a receptionist at a popular resort.

Even being promoted quickly, she didn't feel happy working at that place, and she didn't think twice before looking for her happiness. And the name of her happiness was Rio de Janeiro. Mariana got a ride in her friends' rock'n'roll band bus and with money for one month of living expenses, she went to the "Marvelous City." In two weeks, she was working in the travel agency where she had a chance to see even more of this world than she had ever dreamed about when she was a child. In 2008, she guided a group of teenagers to a summer camp in Whistler, Canada for 21 days, and after this trip, she knew something had changed. She had something new to dream about.


Personal Challenges


Working for the travel agency was a great experience for Mariana, but she felt somehow she was ready for a new challenge. As a professional of tourism, the realized she needed fluent English, but more than that, she decided that living abroad would add so much to her personal life. With the world economic crisis, it seemed a good time to take a break in her career, and invest in a year for herself. That she did. She signed up to become an au pair--working with kids and studying in the USA- just perfect for her. The price of it was fair and she could afford it. In 2009, she moved to D.C.

As an easygoing person, her adaptation was easy, and her English has improved every day. She fell in love with the country and decided to extend her journey here for 9 more months. Nowadays, Mariana is a student in a short-term course called Women Business Leadership at George Washington University and for sure, she is still full of dreams. New ones.

As John Lennon famously sang, "You may say that I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one…"