If it weren’t for how much she misses her family, 26-year-old Marie Florence Thélusma would be able to say that she is completely happy in Brazil. A stubborn woman, she is realizing her dream of studying Economic Sciences in the Universidade Federal Fluminense (UFF) in Niterói. In addition, she is going to do a complementary course in Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the same university, “to help my country,” she plans.
When she left Port-au-Prince and the house where she lived with her parents and her eight siblings, she had already begun a preparatory course for university. She finished secondary school in 2008, and while she was preparing herself for the next step, she found out from a cousin about an exchange program in Brazil . “I always wanted to study abroad, like my sisters did.”
Before the earthquake, at the end of 2009, she had already begun taking care of the paperwork. When the tragic accident struck Port-au-Prince she was on the terrace of her house, with five of her siblings. They witnessed a series of collapses before the tremors came close. They still had time to run outside, although their house only suffered cracks. “I lost a cousin, who was thirty years old at the time. She died at her workplace, her body was never found,” she laments.
With the help of a Haitian NGO, she caught a plane to Rio de Janeiro in February of 2010 with ten other students. Upon arrival, they stayed at a hotel in Gloria, in the South Zone of the city, and shortly afterwards she began a seven-month Portuguese course in the Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ) (Federal University of Rio de Janeiro). “I really enjoy studying,” says Marie Florence, whose favorite pastime is reading books on technology and current events. “I also like documentaries and movies,” she adds.
What she most values about Brazil is the hospitality and happiness of the people, and she considers the violence to be the worst defect. “I was already mugged once in Niterói. They took my wallet, with my CPF, my cards and 200 reais, although that was a while ago,” she explains.
To all appearances, she is what cariocas (natives of Rio de Janeiro) would good-humoredly call a “CDF” (an acronym meaning “nerd” or literally “iron backside,” in the sense of someone who sits all day to study). She should finish university in 2016, and in March of 2015 she starts the supplementary course. She still does not have a boyfriend, which is not surprising for someone who rarely goes to parties. “My friends don’t even call me anymore,” she jokes. She was, by the way, able to gain entrance to the UFF thanks to her excellent academic records.
Before returning to Haiti definitively, Marie Florence wants to visit her family “to catch up” and in the meantime to continue dedicating herself as much as she can to her studies. “I want to help make a difference when I go back once and for all,” she dreams.
Text: Celina Côrtes