Graduation: Beatrice Bento – Year in America was a good one
By Sara Gregory
Beatrice Bento’s yearbook is full of good wishes from friends.
And their addresses.
After Bento graduates from West Rowan High School this week, the foreign exchange student will have to keep up with her new friends from a distance.
“I wish some people I met here can come visit me in Brazil,” Bento says, adding that she will miss the friends she’s made when she returns home.
And there will be many friends to keep up with: Lydia Bouk, Bento’s teacher and host mother, says the outgoing 18-year-old from Fortaleza, Brazil, jumped right in.
“She’s open to all of it,” Bouk said. “She hasn’t just sat in the corner.”
Since arriving in August, Bento has lived the typical American high school life.”Sometimes I feel like I’m in a movie ó the football games, the halls with lockers,” she says.
At West Rowan, Bento played tennis, ran track and cross country and joined the swim team. She hangs out with friends, scrapbooks and helps Bouk around the house.
“I try to do a lot of stuff,” Bento says. “I try to do something every day.”
And in the process she’s learned a new language. When she started the year, the native Portuguese speaker says she couldn’t say anything more than “hi,” “bye” or “help” in English.
Her biggest fear was that she wouldn’t learn the language and would waste the investment her parents put into her study abroad.
“(English) is not hard,” Bento says. “If you want to learn it, you will.”
Her year here hasn’t been without some glitches. Bouk is her third host, meaning Bento’s had to move around.
The first family she stayed with had another exchange student as well, and then she went to stay with relatives of the first family.
But their home in Mooresville made it difficult to get Bento to school. After the end of her first semester, Bento either had to change schools or change families.
Bouk, who didn’t know Bento well but had extra room in her Cleveland home, agreed to host her.
“She’s great. She’s just blended into the family really well,” Bouk says. “It’s been sort of natural.”
Bento, the third of four siblings, keeps in touch with her family in Brazil. Her older brother and sister also studied abroad in high school, and she wants her younger sister to do so as well.”I learned a lot,” Bento said. “You grow inside when you do something like this.”