Student Government (SG) President Cesar Esmeraldi moved to the U.S. with his family in 2015 from Bauru, São Paulo, Brazil. At the time, he didn’t speak any English.
Throughout his years at Celebration High School in Orlando, however, Esmeraldi learned English and Spanish, which to him was “life changing.”
Having no idea whether or not he would like being so far from home, Esmeraldi said what got him through the hardships of change was surrendering to the challenges that came with moving to a new country.
“Something I learned in my life is to embrace change and embrace prosperity. So when I moved to America, I had the ‘Let’s do this,’ ‘You got it’ mindset,” he said.
Esmeraldi said he found himself in the basketball court, looking for that prosperity. His family always told him to get out of his comfort zone, so Esmeraldi tried out for his high school basketball team.
“I played basketball my whole life and I also got to play basketball in America, and because of sports and the leadership positions I got I was able to form relationships that changed my life,” he said.
Esmeraldi and João Victor Guedes met when they were in high school, and have been friends ever since. At USF, they became roommates, and seeing Esmeraldi’s experience with SG made Guedes seek a role in government.
“I would have never joined if it wasn’t for him. I only joined because he made it seem like such a good experience,” he said. “And now that I’m in it, I can 100% say that I should have joined earlier. Cesar was crucial.”
During his freshman year as a health sciences major with a minor in legal studies, Esmeraldi became an orientation leader, and quickly adapted to leadership roles.
“I decided to join SG without really understanding how many doors it was going to open for me or how many great people I was going to meet,” he said.
When political science graduate Vittoria Patti started working as senator, she said she didn’t know much about the job. Patti said Esmeraldi, who had been in office for a few months, was eager to help her from the beginning.
“I feel like he always finds a way to relate to people and be respectful of differences and learn about others and actually be interested in what they want,” Patti said.
Guedes said Esmeraldi even offered to stay behind when he found out he might not be able to go on a planned trip.
“We went on a cruise trip the summer before last, and I had a little problem with my passport,” Guedes said. “He was the first one to say ‘Well, I wouldn’t go if you wouldn’t’.”
For Esmeraldi, learning and connecting with people are among the main reasons why he has always felt attracted to leadership positions. Equally important, he said, is giving back to the community and to his family.
“I think all the Brazilians here can say they feel blessed to be in America,” he said. “And I’ve always had this in my mind that I want to make it but I want to give back to my family, and to anyone that has helped me on the way”.
Through his position as student body president, Esmeraldi is able to represent the Brazilian community at USF, made up of over 370 enrolled students.
Like most international students living away from home, Esmeraldi said the inspiration to keep going comes from his family and loved ones’ support.
“When you move away, sometimes you feel like you’re missing out on a lot of things. You miss Christmas, birthdays, you miss a lot of things,” he said. “But I know for a fact that succeeding and going forward in life will have a greater meaning and it will make my family proud. They keep me going.”