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New England Winter Spotlight: Diego Souza

As a Community Coordinator with CHI, we communicate with hundreds of international students each season. While we get the opportunity to meet a lot of them, most of our correspondence is limited to email and phone conversations. I knew from this initial correspondence that Diego Souza, a Production Engineering student from Brazil, was going to be special.  New England Winter Spotlight: Diego Souza 1

Before Diego even arrived from Brazil he was sending the sweetest emails. He was thanking me for my introductory messages and not complaining about the fact we still didn’t have his housing finalized until oh, about 2 weeks before his arrival! His interview sheet was also glowing. It characterized him as an “outgoing leader with a positive attitude who enjoys traveling and helping others.”  

Diego’s job offer was with Shaws in Waterbury, Vermont, a long-time employer with CHI. Shaws is a grocery store where he would soon work as a grocery clerk for the Winter “Work and Travel” season. I explained to Diego that he didn’t have his Welcome Letter yet because we didn’t have his housing arranged, as the lodging we previously used was unavailable. “No problem. It’s OK, I trust you, Niki. Let me know when it’s arranged,” was Diego’s response. Finally, Kristina, our New England ESM found a lovely woman in Waterbury named Mrs. Cote who frequently rented out rooms in her house to law school and international students. Perfect. 

I checked on Diego a few weeks into the program as I try to do with all the students. He apologized for not writing me sooner. (Again, I said to myself “How thoughtful,” – Certainly no requirement to check in with me. Normally it’s a “no news is good news” scenario for the Coordinators. When we don’t hear from the students it means all is well. They are busy at work and enjoying their time in the U.S.)  Diego said work with Shaws was going well, but hours were up and down. He told me he was looking for a second job and New England Winter Spotlight: Diego Souza 2asked if I knew of anyone else hiring in Waterbury. I didn’t, but I started making some calls. 

Gigi’s Cleaning Company in Waterbury was hiring, and after speaking to Frederic at Gigi’s and explaining how cleaning positions work well in the “Work and Travel program, he was interested in hiring Diego and even discussing the opportunity to hire students in the summer from CHI. Diego would be a test-run to see if our program worked well with his company. I was confident that Diego would be a shining star and make me proud! 

After just a few weeks, Frederic wrote me that Diego was doing a great job. We asked if they wanted some spring students to cover the gap when Diego left until the summer students arrived. Frederic said yes, that Gigi’s would welcome two of our students from Thailand.   

Next thought comes to mind: housing. Housing was tough to find in Waterbury, let’s see if Mrs. Cote will want to host spring students in her house. Fingers crossed.  

“Everything has been great with Diego here. He has, in my opinion, utilized this program to its fullest and is an exceptional young man who pitched in and exceeded his agreement and obligations. I’d be happy to host more CHI students,” she said.  Mrs. Cote added that Diego had arrived to Waterbury just before Christmas and pitched right in with community activities. “He helped decorate the church for holiday festivities which we all appreciated.  Diego has even invited us to his graduation in Brazil; which would be fun to attend and see his city and meet his family. Our positive experience has paved the way to welcome other CHI students into our home and community.” New England Winter Spotlight: Diego Souza 3

I asked Diego how he could summarize his experience on the “Work & Travel” program. Diego said, “Being in Vermont this winter was an amazing experience. Not only is the place beautiful, but the people here are awesome. There are many great places to see, many customs to learn about, and – the best part – different people to get to know! It’s really nice to make new friends, to know about the way people live here; every single thing has been fantastic. It is impossible to explain how it is here to those who didn’t come, but – for me – it’s well worth it!”  

While I didn’t get the chance to meet Diego in person, I’m happy knowing he not only enjoyed his time in New England, but everyone who had the opportunity to meet him shared my same sentiments about how special he is. ‘Obrigado’, Diego, for being such a considerate and hard-working “Work and Travel” participant. And congratulations on being chosen the CHI New England’s Spotlight Student of Winter 2009-2010. We are sure you have a bright future ahead of you!

– Niki Woodall, W&T

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