Before he left, Handy was studying in his third term at the University of Business Administration. He lived with his mother, Marie Anne, a teacher, and with his 35-year-old sister Ludgie. In accordance with the terms of his exchange agreement, he submitted his secondary school documents, his certificates of health and his proof of family income, since he would have to be financially supported during the exchange as he would not be able to work. Although he lost his father at three years old, his mother and his sister were able to meet the requirements.
“When I arrived, in February of 2013, I was very warmly welcomed by the people here,” remembers Handy, who started out living with a cousin and a Brazilian who helped him to find his way in Portuguese. He found it easier because of the common Latin root with French, which he speaks in his country. What really opened the doors to the new language, however, was the sixth-month course at the UFRJ (Federal University of Rio de Janeiro). “It didn’t take long to get the hang of it, after five months I was already able to communicate,” he remembers.
The difficulties of his program, which he is studying in the Faculdade Rural (Rural University) until 2018, are the result of not having time to study as he would like. “The structure of the classes is not very different from in Haiti, but the pace of learning here is much faster,” he says.
Other than that, he has no complaints. “I’m already used to life here in Rio de Janeiro,” says Handy, who when he went to study at Rural shared an apartment with a Brazilian classmate in Nova Iguaçu. In his downtime, he loves playing football and there is no shortage of cultural festivals to enjoy. He just hasn’t yet found a girlfriend. “Sometimes I miss my family,” he acknowledges, although he is certain that he is going to stay in Brazil until he finishes his program. Meanwhile, he is happy living together with his cousins in Rio, although he is sure that he will return to Haiti. “My country needs people. I intend to go back in order to complete the experience which I am living here,” he affirms.
Text: Celina Côrtes